I remember staring blankly at a white piece of paper as a kid, at loss for words. I always felt a bit too shy to put pen to paper whenever we were tasked with ‘writing a story’. There were words floating around in my head, but there was always time pressure, always a deadline. I worried that whatever I wrote would not be perfect, that I would write something silly or that I would choose the wrong words. So, I would sit there, mulling and marinading, as I attempted to conjure up a masterpiece in my head; a masterpiece which would never come.
I only started to really write when I overcame the fear of making mistakes and allowed words to flow from my heart. Gradually, I found joy in writing. A delightful state of flow that I have since found in few other activities than stringing together some words.
As someone who processes feelings and thoughts inwardly, I always get thrown when asked to think out loud or, worse still, to talk through and dissect what I am about to write. Then as I got older, I learned about another breed of humans that apparently work better when ‘bouncing ideas off each other’. But for me, it has always been easier to write it down. It makes better sense that way. It also feels closer to the truth. This is one failing of modern ‘interactive learning’, where the kids who speak up loudest and quickest are often lauded over the quieter ones. Loud and quick never meant substance. But that’s a topic for another day.
I write because I want to express complex feelings; to choose words that strike a chord, that move and bond. I aspire to be like an artist dabbing her brush in a full spectrum of colours on her palette. A splish, a splash, a blob…a perfect turn of phrase, a richness in brevity and words that dance in harmony.
When I write, I feel as if I am unscrambling a puzzle. You start with an ethereal picture, emotion, idea or message that you want to convey; you see it in your mind and feel it deeply in your heart. But how do you bring it to light with accuracy, pithiness, and grace?
The kind of writing that I always admire and fall in love with are the beautifully fluid pieces that are so simple yet so profound. There is sometimes an illusion that great writing comes with great complexity. I think the best and most effective pieces of writing are always the ones that flow with elegance but gush with depth. It is like a glorious piece of music: with the melody and staccato notes and changes in key and cadences, with the accents and trills and crescendos and chords. And, just like music, writing that doesn’t make you feel anything is not good writing. Writing that doesn’t communicate a message resourcefully is not good writing. The only way to write is to write with raw authenticity. Not with overindulgent embellishments, grandiose sentences, or cumbersome clunky-ness. To write simply is to write well.
At its core, the purpose of writing (and indeed on the flip side, reading) is ultimately for us to feel less alone. A few words that we see strung together on a page can make us feel heard, seen and understood. It can help us realise that our pain and emptiness, our awkwardness and weirdness, our beauty and vulnerability are all nestled uncomfortably and assiduously in the human condition. That whatever seemingly peculiar, eccentric, or crushing feeling you are experiencing or enduring will have been expressed somewhere, by someone, on a page. You may just not have come across it yet.
So that is why I write. I write to express intricate ideas and feelings through the weight and beauty of words, I write to capture words which hopefully resonate, provoke and move – and ultimately, I write to feel (and with some luck make others feel) less alone.