Monday, June 14, 2010

Why I Write, by Bonnie Mansell

I write to remember, to communicate, and to understand. This blog is called, “Write to Remember Your Stories” because I have found writing to be the best tool I have for accessing memories which seem to have long-ago disappeared. I don’t have a razor-sharp memory. I am always so impressed when someone starts talking about something that happened (whether it was yesterday or 50 years ago) and they can remember details which I probably would not have observed in the first place.

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.


  1. Hi Bonnie,
    That was so inspiring. You have given me many new ideas.
    You are far from inadequate and far too modest. All your students would agree with me that you are a wise dispenser of knowledge and we who are privileged to be in your class benefit from it.
    A great picture by the way.

  2. Bonnie thanks for the encouragement and excitement you feel at our attempts to know ourselves better and understand the things we struggle with. We all feel inadequate in our writing but certainly you are far ahead of all of us in persevering. Your example nudges us to keep going and helps us to keep sight of our goals of writing our stories.

  3. Thanks to both of you. My comment that the writing is inadequate wasn't an attempt at self-deprecation, just a recognition that this post barely touches the surface of what writing does for me. Whether or not I express myself as well as I like, the act itself is empowering and satisfying.

  4. I enjoyed your "Why I Write" writing and you certainly inspire all our class "family" to transfer their valued thoughts and memories to paper. I very often write down my musings for my personal well-being. This is especially helpful when analyzing conversations that took place or when important decisions need to be made.

  5. Bonnie, Well written! Without this class and especially you being the teacher I would never have found my niche or let the wind in my sails. I have been a broken person but writing gives me the courage to express just how good God is and how much He's healed my life. Thank you Write on! Bonnie

  6. Dear Bonnie, You inspire me to be a better writer and witness to life. You are more than a teacher to me. You are a life coach. You have impacted my life on many levels and positve way. You have my utmost respect and appreciation.
    Love, Yolanda