Recently I’ve been finding myself wanting to write more, and then consequently wondering why? What is it about writing that’s captivating or helpful or even sometimes life changing?

It’s an interesting question to ask, and one perhaps best explored through writing itself. Which is to say that hopefully through the process of writing this post, I will be able to both better understand and convey what makes (or can make) writing magical.

Noticing

There is so much that happens through and because of writing that it’s hard to decide where to start, like going into a new bookstore or pulling out my old vinyl records. Perhaps the place we almost have to start, though, is writing’s ability to inspire us to see things we might not otherwise see. Or put even simpler, the ability to notice.

According to Anne Lamott:

writing motivates us to look closely at life, as it lurks around and tranches by.

According to the legendary poet and author Mary Oliver:

this is the first, the wildest and the wisest thing I know: that the soul exists and is built entirely out of attentiveness.

Processing

If writing is first about noticing, then I suppose it is secondly about distilling what is noticed. Learning to sit with the experiences of the day and trying to make sense of them, to organize them, to understand what it is that life is trying to teach us. And perhaps even more importantly, to try to understand ourselves, our thoughts, feelings, struggles, trajectories.

Mohsin Hamid, perhaps the most well known writer in present day Lahore, shared in his latest book that he wrote his first two novels to help him understand his split self and his split worlds.

And Mary Karr — in her incredible conversation with Krista Tippett — claims that writing helped her “get closer to who I really was.”

If it’s true that “the unexamined life is one not worth living,” then perhaps writing is a way to make our lives matter.

Remembering

And if writing is firstly about noticing and then about processing, it is also about remembering what has been noticed and processed.

If we can barely remember what we ate last night for dinner, then imagine how easy it is to fly through life and forget the lessons we’ve learned, the beauty we’ve seen, even the struggles we’ve been able to overcome.

As the 60 year-old widow writes in a letter to his unlikely pen pal in the The Lunchbox:

perhaps we forget our stories if we have no one to tell them to.

I suppose one of the reasons I have kept journals and diaries is this desire to gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing would be lost.

I suppose even this post is an attempt at getting down how I feel about writing right now, so that one day if I forget or if I stop writing or feel discouraged, I can come back to it.

Recreating

Perhaps in its final stage, writing can also be about helping create the world that we want to live in.

A few years ago I wrote about an idea from Mohsin Hamid, who said that:

art is dealing with the cracks, the unwillingness to accept the way things are.

I suppose my personal need to write fiction comes from my inability entirely to accept our world as it is. When I write a novel, I am disappearing into another world, one of my own devising.

But I don’t desire to remain there, alone, apart, forever. I want to bring my imagined world back into our world, to share it, to have a reader enter it and shape it, to open a space for experimentation and imagination that crosses the boundaries of the self, of the real, of time.

Or as George Orwell describes it in Why I Write:

it’s the desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after.

“it is common to take a dog for a walk, it is less common to take a dream for a walk” || @amalacademy + @understory cofounder | nature novel in progress

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store