Writing can take a lot of effort, commitment, and focus. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the details of day-to-day assignments and forget that writing can actually be a great survival tool. The poet Gregory Orr recently came to give a poetry reading at my college, and one of the things he talked about was the survival value of writing. Writing helps us shape our experience and give it meaning. If you’d like to read more of Gregory Orr’s ideas, here’s a link to an essay he wrote for NPR. This made me think about the ways writing helps me.
Writing helps me emotionally. I think that’s probably a gut response for many writers (particularly the introverted ones). I used to journal all the time because writing helped me clarify my thoughts and work through my emotions. When I need to talk about an important issue but feel like I can’t because it’s too personal, writing gives me a way to express myself. I will often come up with convoluted metaphors to describe situations I am going through. Thinking about these metaphors (and perhaps even writing poems about them) helps me to see my problems in a different way.
This is a valuable function of writing, and I don’t want to minimize it. However, I think another function of writing that is just as important is the way it helps me intellectually. Writing helps me clarify my thoughts and forces me to support my opinions, but writing is also a form of discovery. I find that often, when I am faced with a question I can’t answer, the act of writing is a catalyst which brings my ideas together to form a coherent whole. The very act of articulating myself helps me to see things in new ways and to discover connections I couldn’t see before.
How does writing help you?