Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why I Write

Welcome to the first blog entry for The Scholarly Scribe. My name is David Wiley and I've been a reader all my life, a writer since high school, and a journalism student for the past year. I am 27 years old and I currently attend Simpson College's Evening and Weekend program in West Des Moines. I am considered as a junior at this point in time, with the goal of graduating next spring with a Bachelor's Degree in English and a minor in Multimedia Journalism. I work full-time during the day and I take full-time credits each term, which makes for a busy life. Add in planning a wedding and it would seem there should be no free time for me to do something ambitious like start a blog.

I welcome you to join me and spread the word to others about this blog. I plan on sharing some of my personal writing, sharing my thoughts on writing and journalism topics, introduce you to great pieces of literature that I think everyone should read, and sometimes just write for no apparent reason.

And I want you to link this to everyone you know. Not because I want exposure to become rich or famous, but because I feel my talent as a writer was given to me so that it can be shared with others.

For my first blog I am going to share with you something I wrote a few months ago. I sat down and wrote about why I should choose to write, and I think it is a proper thing to share for my first blog (Warning, this is 2,081 words long. If you are intimidated by lots of text, this may not be the post for you to read). Come back tomorrow for a poem about why I like to read!


Why Write?

            The act of writing is a lonely craft. It means hours spent in isolation from the world around you, as you hammer out words and phrases with meticulous care. It means those awkward pauses when you introduce yourself to someone new and they hesitate about how to react to the news that you are a writer. It means countless piles of rejection letters (emails, in today’s world) that are in endless supply. In a profession where failure appears to be the norm and where most writers work another full-time job out of necessity in order to pay bills, why on earth would anyone want to write?

            In this modern age, we all participate in writing in some sense. From the tweets that you Twitter to the statuses and notes you post on your Facebook page, you write most every day. It is part of our accepted culture to write, albeit neither proficiently nor grammatically correct at times. So many things in the world around us are going digital and it is hard to believe that there will not be a place for writers amongst all this technological revolution. Yet the reality remains that the notion of seeing my works in print, filling a shelf on a book shelf, may be nothing more than a pipe dream anymore because everything is trending to go digital in time.

            I have reached a crossroads in my career as a writer, if I may be so bold as to call myself that. Yet why, in the midst of all of this writing, do I hesitate to name myself a writer? If we look to dictionary.com for the definition of a writer, we would find that it defines a writer as the following:

1.      A person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.

2.      A clerk, scribe, or the like.

3.      A person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc., to writing.

4.      (In a piece of writing) the author (used as a circumlocution for “I”, “me”, “my”, etc.)

5.      A person who writes or is able to write.

Am I a person who is engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc.? I am certainly not busy, occupied, or involved with the act of writing on a monthly basis, much less a daily basis at this point in my life. Sadly, an activity that I once took great pride and pleasure with has fallen to the wayside as an afterthought. I could not tell you the last time I wrote something to completion beyond some sort of Facebook status. It has been months since my last poem and perhaps nearly a year since my last story. I certainly do not qualify as a writer under this first definition.

      I am unable to consider myself either a clerk or a scribe, although in some sense I suppose I could now be defined as a clerk. I do handle data entry at my job, and spend hours keying in addresses, item descriptions and specifications, and emails to customers informing them that we have processed their order. This mode of writing lacks creativity, innovation, and the potential for growth. This writing churns out no story, book, poem, or article in the process. This is merely repetitious entry of hard data. This does not make me qualified to consider myself a writer.

      The third definition is a person who commits his or her thoughts, ideas, etc. to writing. You may pause for a moment to throw the argument in my face that I am doing exactly that at this moment in time. With every word of this document, I am fulfilling my definition of being a writer. Yet I am unable to cease my reflection of the past months and see how much I have failed to succeed at even this simple aspect of being a writer. If I truly loved writing as much as I have led myself, and others, to believe, then why have I not been indulging in the act of writing until now? Why did I need to reach a crossroads of confusion and doubt in order for the words to finally spring forth from my fingertips? If I was truly a writer, this would be a constant, continuous act for me. It would become routine and second-nature.

      I could argue that I feel like I do not have the time in my busy day to write. I could formulate magnificent defenses to plead my case as to why I simply could not have been expected to write any more than I have. I could cloud myself amidst the delusional depths of excuses, but the light of reality can easily dissipate this shroud. You are too busy to write each day? Yet you find the time to check Facebook every day! You find time to check the NFL website every day for updates on football! You find time to scroll through the news articles on Yahoo almost every day! You have times where you sit in boredom, indecisive about what you want to do at the moment! YOU HAVE TIME TO WRITE IF YOU CHOOSE TO USE IT TOWARD THAT PURPOSE! My choice to use this time for different matters, every single day, disqualifies my argument and thus disqualifies me from this definition of a writer.

      The fourth definition is quite conditional. As the author to this article, as well as my past poems and stories, I could be referred to as the writer of these. It would certainly be true. I was the writer of those, and when you are reading this article I will once again be a writer in the past tense. If I desire to be a writer in the present and future tenses, I have a need to write on a more frequent basis. Until I can accomplish that, I can only be a writer in my past.

      The final definition is the one that catches my interest the most. A person who writes or is capable of writing is a writer? Having the ability to write is all it takes to qualify? I am surrounded by writers everywhere I turn! My beautiful fiancée is a writer. I am a writer. You, dear reader, are a writer. We all have that potential to be writers because we certainly have the ability to become writers. We can qualify as writers through four of these five definitions of the word if we simply choose to write!

      Why would a person choose to write? What possesses a person to sit down and place thoughts, ideas, stories, or facts onto paper? Is it because they want to become rich and famous? There are numerous articles and books out there about writing that brace you for the reality of writing: the huge successes of the writing world are few and far between. For every Stephen King, who does not need to work elsewhere to support his writing, there are thousands of other authors who need to work a full-time job to pay the bills. The reality is that writing is too inconsistent of a source for income, and the odds that you’ll become that next breakthrough novelist are probably worse than the odds of being struck by lightning.  If you are looking to get rich, look somewhere else.

      Perhaps a person chooses to write because they want to see their creations get accepted by an outside source and published into print. They want to get that golden ticket which invites them into the league of exclusivity known as published writers. They want to call their families and friends with an excited tone in their voice and breathlessly revel in the joy of finally holding that acceptance letter. They burst with joy as they send out copies to everyone they know, parading their success as a published writer around to everyone. After months and months of awaiting a reply, they finally had to wait more months to see this story published in some obscure magazine that five hundred people hold a subscription to and that, of those, only a handful may read the story. And they will take immense pride in that accomplishment.

      That used to be my dream and my motivation as a writer. I have sent out stories to magazines, marking down the date four or six months later when I could expect to hear back a response. In the meantime I sat back and did various things, such as creating websites to champion the reading of poetry, teasing my few readers with samples of my own poetry that I had no intention of ever trying to send out for publication. Let me emphasize that for you: I had no intention of ever trying to send out for publication. Translation: I shared what I felt was less than my best work. It would be like sharing an apple core and saving the rest of the apple for my own enjoyment. I did this because I was blinded by the pipe dream of publication.

      I have thought, like many others before me, that I needed acceptance and confirmation from a “definitive source” that my writing was good. I wanted to know that my poem or story was good enough for them to publish, thus receiving justification that my writing is good. So I sat on my trove of treasured works, hording them for my eyes only until they saw the light of publication. I felt like I needed an outside source to grant justification that my writing was good enough to be shared with others.

      I look at that now, and see the foolishness contained within. Who cares if I am never published by some big publishing company, or even by some miniscule magazine that no one has ever heard of? If I am a writer, and I truly take joy in my craft as a writer, then simply writing should be the reward in itself. I do not need a big contract for the next hot book series to make me enjoy writing. I do not need to be heralded as the next big writer in order to write something worth sharing. In the end, it comes down to the want to share what I write.

      I can see that clearly, as I wind down to my conclusion of this article. When I was at the peak of my writing, I was sharing it with a few others who I considered to be my “writing friends”. Even then, I sought acceptance and reveled in their praise, but I was still driven to write even when they didn’t give any feedback. It pushed me to write more because I wanted to give these readers more to read for their own pleasure. I took the best of what I shared with them and sent it off for publication, but I was at least writing. I wrote a lot in my Creative Writing class over a year ago because I knew others might be able to read it. It fueled my creative output, so to speak.

We are all capable of being writers. We are capable of being whatever we set out to become. I truly believe in that statement, that life is what you make it out to be. The naysayers, who stand in our way, saying we can’t be something, should only fuel us to push even harder to prove them wrong. In recent months I have not been a writer. I have come up with dozens of ideas, and read many books that have given me source for ideas, but I have not been a writer. That changed today, when I woke up this morning and sat down with a mission: to discover why I want to write. I want to write in order to share my poems and stories with others. With that in mind, I will begin to approach my writing career from a new direction.

      I will no longer horde my best work, saving it to send off time and time again in the rejection cycle that most writers choose to undergo. I will no longer sit idle with my writing progress, allowing my creative process to stagnate.  I am reclaiming my title of writer with a new attitude and a new perspective. And I hope that you will join me as I write new stories, revise old ones, and continue to grow and develop into a better writer.

1 comment:

  1. David;
    Very good article. as a on and off writer for many year I understand about not doing the writing (or anything else you really want to do) because Real Life gets in the way. I have been writing on and off since High School, many moons ago. Theses days I concentrate on my blog. The Lawson Report.
    What is it, essentially what they used to call editorial comments, Usually long winded ones.
    I to tend to get long winded, usually 1000-1500 words although I've done 2,000 words. I know that a lot of words and will scare most people off. When you get around to looking at my blog, you will find on the right my "Mission Statement" which is essentially what you have done here. I too suffer from "real Life getting in the way", If I'm lucky I get a article done once a month or so. I cover media, tech and whatever catches my attention at the time.
    I have you enjoy reading my qriting and feel free to either comment there or email me directly if you want.
    Ken Lawson