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Why You Might Write

There are many reasons, and many of them are good.

Elisa Gabbert, in “Why Write?” (The Paris Review, July 6, 2022) lifts from the writings of many authors and pundits to provide us with a catalog of reasons, mostly good, for why anyone might want to write.

For example, Joan Didion wrote “entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means…” That is, writing can help us in sorting out the clutter of our minds and our perceptions of life and the world.

William Faulkner explained that he wrote one of his novels “trying to tell the story, to rid myself of the dream.” In other words, writing can be helpful to clear the mind of persistent thoughts or ideas. Once one puts a nagging idea into print, it seems to depart the attention zone to make room for others.

“Some writers,” Gabbert explains, “write in the name of Art in general”, that is, they believe their writing relieves an aesthetic burden or provides some aesthetic pleasure for readers.

Other reasons to write include just for fun, as an expression of ego, for political or ethical ends, or for money. The Christian writer may identify with several of these purposes for writing, but he or she above all else will want to write for the glory of God, to reach and move people in such a way as that they are ministered to by His grace and return thanks and praise to Him for the value gained from some writing.

Gabbert concludes by explaining, “I think I write to think – not to find out what I think; surely I know what I already think – but to do better thinking. Staring at my laptop screen makes me better at thinking. And when I’m thinking well, I can sometimes write that rare, rare sentence of words and punctuation to express my own thought – the grammar in the thought. That rightness feels so good, like sinking an unlikely pool shot.”

I agree with that and with much more in this fine article. Anyone who’s ever wondered whether writing might have some role in their life or work would benefit from reading this article.


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