(Editor’s note: Writer Isaac Peterson shares his personal philosophy on the why behind his own writing. Isaac has shared other articles on writing exploration, tips and more. For inspired writing, click here. For super writing tips, click here and here.
To see the full catalog of Isaac’s articles, click here.
In the meantime, for those who are thinking about writing your personal stories and sharing your thoughts, I hope you find some inspiration from Isaac to begin. That’s the most important thing about writing: beginning. Enjoy! K.T. )
You know, looking back, although I never set out to be a writer, I’ve been one for almost 20 years.Not once in all those years did I ever really ask myself why I do it.
But Isaac–one time when you wrote about writing you said writers should ask themselves why they wanted to write. How come you didn’t do it yourself if you think it’s so important?
Okay, okay, I’ll ask myself about why I write, right out here in the open where you can see it. Maybe it will provide some sort of insight to people who tell me they want to be writers.
Why do I write? The quick and simple answer is that I do it because I keep getting asked to. Here are the three phases of my writing career: political opinion columnist, investigative journalist and brain injury blogger. All these writing projects all happened because I was asked and prodded into doing it.
Another really good reason to write? My relative success as a writer makes my mother really happy and proud.
One thing that I know writing isn’t: writing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, so there must be something else that makes me keep writing.
So, why do I write?
I guess one reason is that it’s an activity that always spurs me to try to constantly get better. People have told me all along they think I’m a natural. Part of the reason I keep doing it is that maybe eventually I’ll convince myself they were right. There must be some personal benefits to writing, because it’s certainly not all swimming pools and movie stars.
Writing is a great way to discover myself and make meaning out of my experience and the world in general. It makes me have to look deeply inward, especially in those times when I’m having trouble coming up with something to write. Pretty much everything I’ve written in this space came from discovering something about myself, including the kind of thinking I’m having to do so I can make this very essay happen.
I can go on a journey of self-discovery and share what I find with my readers. As I wrote last time in the essay, Be True to Yourself: writing has been a very good way for me to know myself.
When I write, it jump starts my creativity in some really useful ways. I like using and playing with words, and writing leads me to come up with creative ways to use them. It makes me think of creative forms of style and the way I organize my thoughts. It’s a way to learn more about how to be me, a unique individual (I hope). And I want to master words and not let them master me.
My readers learn more about me as I learn more about myself. Writing is an outlet and a means I can use to celebrate life as well as some of its more unpleasant parts.
I’ve been told that my blog writing has been an inspiration to others as I learn how to navigate the new world I find myself in with a traumatic brain injury. That’s a great reward right there; it reassures me I can still be useful and make a positive contribution to others. Isn’t that one thing we all want and need? It’s not an ego thing or approval seeking; it’s more like validation of my worth in the world, and that does give a great boost to my self esteem.
Since I started writing I’ve gained new insight into the way others put words together and how they express themselves. I’ve got heightened appreciation of the value and power of words, especially of those who speak and write well. It has its downsides sometimes, like when I tried to watch a particular television drama some friends were urging me to watch. I didn’t like it–the dialog sounded forced and it didn’t ring true to my ears. From my days as a practicing journalist, I learned more about how real people speak. From the many, many interviews I did with regular people, politicians and public figures, I learned more about the way people actually verbally communicate than I learned earning my communications degree.
And speaking of communication, writing forces me to be very careful with the way I use words. In order to communicate, it’s crucial that the words I use accurately describe the picture I have in my head so that others form that same picture in their heads. How many misunderstandings are due mostly to bad communication?
I also feel that I should try to be interesting when I write. Why would somebody voluntarily read uninteresting writing? I always try to write things I would want to read. Whether it’s interesting to someone else though, I really can’t say until it’s published and I get feedback from people out there, people I don’t already know. So I also have to find ways to express myself in ways that might have a broad appeal.
Apart from self-discovery, for me writing opens a door to the outside world. In order to write about topics outside my own self, I have to have a good understanding of that topic and then express it in a way readers can understand and is more interesting than a technical manual. So writing helps me focus on not just my own understanding of the world, but also the reader’s understanding.
I wrote here once that good writing is clear thinking made visible.
The only way most people can gain any understanding of who I am and what I’m about is through my written words. The written word is a representation of those things. People can’t see me, my mannerisms or the way I dress, so the written word has to convey as much of me as possible.
Before I end, let me point out that what you just read is self-discovery in action. Some of what I just wrote are things I didn’t realize about myself until I sat down to write.
I hope I’ve given aspiring writers some good insights. I encourage you to start on your own journey of self-discovery. Just jump right in–you never know where it could lead. Just drive carefully on the way there and stay hydrated.
Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.