Monday, June 14, 2010
Why I Write, by Bonnie Mansell
This lack of observation can be embarrassing, especially because I am supposed to be teaching others how to write. So sometimes I sit down with a blank sheet of paper and start writing bits and pieces of disconnected thoughts about a person, a place, or a time in my life. Though I’ve been doing this for ever-so-long, I still lack the confidence that it will come together in a clear story or memory. And, to be honest, it doesn’t always work. But when it does I am still startled by the realization that I remember far more than I thought I could. A word, a name, a color or a fragrance will come drifting back to me, and I know that all is not lost.
I also write to communicate what I have observed about the world. I am like the photographer who takes pictures, not only because the subject of the photograph is beautiful or interesting, but also because she wants to show this beauty to her world: “Look! Isn’t this amazing? Come look at this!” Few of my thoughts are particularly original or creative. I’ve simply noticed something – a breathtaking panorama, broken people making devastating choices, teenagers holding hands in a circle of prayer, or powerfully written-words on a page. I feel compelled to show this to someone, hoping they will see what I have seen: the beauty, the sadness, or the connection with a larger truth. This is certainly the link between my passion for writing and my enthusiasm for teaching.
Finally, but probably most often, I write to understand. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts about a book, a sermon, or a set of circumstances. I write to figure out what is true, what makes sense and what doesn’t. I write to discover what I know or need to know. I write out prayers and scripture verses. I’ll never reach full understanding of many of the things I struggle with, but thinking hard enough to squeeze the thoughts out of my brain, through my fingers, and onto the page, trying to form some sort of coherence on paper, forces me to discern between emotions and truth. Writing helps me to keep a “big picture” perspective on life. In fact, it was the desire to understand my own reason for writing that motivated me to attempt this post. It is woefully inadequate, but the act of writing it out has helped me to get a better grasp on why I write.