Category Archives: Life

Why we write: self-expression

Writing for self-expression, image by Blaise van Hecke
Writing for self-expression, image by Blaise van Hecke

In my last blog, I talked about writing for significance, one of many reasons that people write. Self-expression is probably one of the first reasons that people start to write. And for many writers, the need to write is a compulsion or a way to offload, some feeling wound up if they can’t get back to this form of creating (it may be similar for other art forms).

Have you ever gone through adversity or struggled to come to terms with something but found it too hard to verbalise it to anyone? This is a very common experience. Writing it down can be the bridge between the writer, and a better understanding of a situation. In the act of writing, the problem may solve itself, or the writer may find a way to express it verbally to another person. The writing becomes an avenue of self-expression and therapy – quite a powerful activity and one to have been known to save a person from real pain and depression.

At some point, this act of self-expression may move from scribbling in a journal in private, to further outcomes like short stories, novels, poetry and memoir. This is a natural progression as the writer becomes more confident.

In the act of writing, no matter what genre, the writer gets to express beliefs, values, and ideas in a way that invites the reader to engage with them. It’s like having a private conversation with another person without interruption and fear of rejection. The writer can write his or her own truth and put it out there. It may be received in a positive way, or not, but it allows the writer to have a voice.

So while many people think to be a writer you need to be writing something commercial that earns money, it’s worth looking at the many facets to writing. The end result, where money is made, isn’t the whole story.

Is writing significant?

Significance: image by Kev Howlett
Significance: image by Kev Howlett

There are many reasons why people write. Over the next few blogs, we are going to look at some of those reasons. Is writing significant?

Humans want to feel significant, to have some meaning or reason to be alive on this earth. For many it isn’t enough just to work, raise a family, build a life, retire then die despite the fact that you could argue that is the reason why we exist. Our existence is much more layered than that and we are complex beings consisting of a range of spiritual and emotional depths.

This is where art comes in and why it’s so very important to us. We use art to make sense of our world, our selves and our worth. We want to know why we are here and what impact we have by being here. We don’t like to think that we are just a tiny dot in the history of time (even though we are and it’s humbling to realise this).

Is it ego that drives this need? I’m no psychologist or philosopher, so I can’t really say too much about this but I do understand the driving need to feel significant after working with other writers and from my own writing practice.

So is writing significant, does it leave something significant for when we are dead and gone? I would say it does. For every writer out there toiling over the page, trying to get thoughts and ideas into some kind of shape, they are making sense of the world. It might be in poetry, a novel or a self-help book, even a children’s book. All of these forms have truth and impart the writer’s reality and knowledge. How good or bad the writing is beside the point because the writer is finding ways to express him/herself, looking for meaning in life. This becomes significant in two ways: the writer has created something and the world is given a creation (good or bad).

Of course, we can argue that art needs to be good. What does that mean exactly when art is subjective? Any piece of art can create discussion and relevance in a good or bad way. I agree that we should strive to create something of value in terms of skill and outcome but at the end of the day, who is to say that someone’s poem isn’t worthy of existing if it isn’t deemed perfect in the realms of poetry? Who are these gatekeepers that tell us that a piece of writing isn’t written well so it isn’t worth anything? It becomes about relativity. One person’s writing can have a significant impact on some readers but not others and yet it is significant to the creator.

Blaise the book chick