Thursday, November 24, 2005

Why Do I Write?

Recently I posted a comment to an excellent article written by a friend on Ergo Sum. What I wrote works well as a standalone thought, so I decided to post it here as well.

Why do I write? One reason is to teach myself.

Whenever I begin to write something — as I have just now done — I rarely know what it is that I want to say, only that I have something to say, and want to let it out. By the time I am finished, I do know what it was that I wanted to say. In the process I have learned something. Because I generally write alone, without the influence of others, except by means of research, it's not unfair to say that I have thereby taught myself something derived from my reasoning and meditation on the topic at hand.

There does not have to be an audience in order for me to write. I am my own primary audience. I will read what I have written and then I will reread it. If I read it again years later and have changed my mind about what I have written, or find that I could have said it better, I will change it, because I am pathologically incapable of reading a sentence under the control of an editor and not editing it. In fact, I'm engaged in that very activity right now!

Our need to teach ourselves reminds me of what the apostle Paul said at Romans 2:21: "Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself?" Most people desire at some level to be teachers when they speak or write, to be conveyors of information in some sense of that expression. In speech we have only the speed of thought's opportunity to edit what we say. Perhaps that is one reason some of the best thinkers also use word whiskers and regressions when they speak — they are searching for les bon mots, and are already revising in their heads their just-made expressions.

Another Bible-related thought that comes to mind is the obligation that Christians acknowledge to be teachers of others, an activity in which I myself happily engage. Many is the time I have experienced, when called on 'to make a defense before others who demand a reason for' the things I know and believe, that upon articulating some matter to another person, I have in turn clarified it in my own mind, strengthening my own understanding, and in turn my faith. (1 Peter 3:15) It is not unusual in such circumstances for me to think to myself afterward: "Zounds! I didn't know I knew that!"

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