My Writing Life (so far)
Maybe you’ve heard rumors. Perhaps you’ve suspected it all along. It would seem the time has come to dispel the mystery with a confession. You might not know this about me, but I’m a writer.
Why I Write
I didn’t know I was a writer until something remarkable happened. It began with my tenth-grade high school English teacher and continued in later years with my college English professor and others. With noticeable regularity, I received unsolicited affirmation of my writing skills and encouragement to continue the craft.
Eventually, I accepted that I could write reasonably well, and not everyone can. I’m not suggesting that I’m better than anyone else. What I’m trying to convey is my brain digests information in ways that resonate with the writing process.
In earnest, writing is not something I’ve always enjoyed. There are plenty of incidents that compelled me to write something I would rather not, particularly in academic contexts or as part of my day-to-day professional work. Were it not for deadlines coupled with costly consequences, most of this compulsory writing would not occur.
Even so, I have an undeniable drive to write, most often in notebooks and journals. I cannot help writing things out, just as some people cannot control the urge to dance in response to good news (or tasty food). For me, writing in solitude is vital to processing new information and clarifying thoughts, feelings, insights, and questions.
I’m a writer because I write out of necessity, not compulsion.
What I Write
1. Daybooks and Notebooks
You’re likely familiar with a notebook, although I suspect some readers are less familiar with the concept of a daybook. I first encountered the idea of keeping a daybook while reading The Essential Don Murray. I keep a couple of daybooks handy most of the time. One of them is a “general purpose” book for capturing a variety of personal & professional notes, ideas, lists, journal entries, and more. I also have a small notebook I keep with me as part of my “every day carry” things (e.g., wallet, keys, pens, flashlight, knife, keys).
The idea is always to have a daybook nearby whether I’m at my desk or out and about. There are few (if any) rules for keeping a daybook other than to use it often and to write as honestly & transparently as possible (it’s exceedingly difficult to deceive your future self). Daybooks are a safe place for experiments, sketches, and mistakes in the pursuit of possibility.
Besides my daybooks, I also have topic-specific notebooks for sermon notes, courses of study, the craft of writing, various sketchbooks, and drawing pads. As I get older, I’ve come to appreciate all the memories, moments, and thoughts represented in each one. Their value is not a byproduct of excellent content but because they portray an integral part of my writing life.
2. Journal Entries
Most of my journaling is introspective, but it’s also an informal personal history. My journal entries’ primary audience is me; I’m not composing them as an autobiography for others to read. Their primary function is to serve as a regular outlet for organizing ideas, thoughts, feelings, notions, insights, questions, and so forth in written form. I often revisit recent entries to recall lines of thought or retrieve a bit of writing as the basis for a published work (like this blog article). Journals are also a relatively safe place for me to do the “bad” writing I don’t intend to publish.
Some of my earliest journal entries date back to the early 1990s. I recall trying to keep a hand-written diary before this. Unfortunately, that little dollar-store diary is long lost. I don’t journal every day, and the volume of journaling varies from year to year. In 2020, I journaled far more often than I have in previous years; I wrote ~260 typed pages, which does not include the hand-written entries in my daybook. On average, I generate about 1-2 typed pages of writing during each journaling session.
Journaling is the most common (and arguably, most important) kind of writing I do; it helps me process and cope with life. I have to live with my thoughts and feelings about all the information and circumstances I encounter each day. Journaling is one of the most effective tools I have to meaningfully reflect and respond to the onslaught of new (or changing) information. Usually, journaling precedes any physical or tangible actions based on conclusions or decisions resulting from these introspective writing sessions.
3. Blog Articles
If you’ve read some of my previous posts, you’re aware of how this site preserves my blog history consolidated from other platforms. I’ve also quit using social networks to host my blog articles. This web site is my self-publishing platform, with a smaller readership (at least for now) compared to papers or reports I’ve published as part of my academic and professional assignments. The beauty of this self-publishing platform is I can write on nearly any topic I wish, and I retain ownership; I’m not donating value to other blogs or social media monetized by corporations or plagued with undesirable advertising. Admittedly, I have not published blog articles nearly as often as I would prefer; I’m still working towards an ideal cadence.
4. Published Works
My published works include any formal writing I’ve done throughout my academic, professional, and ministerial career. It is writing I crafted explicitly for others to read and critique. While I have done a fair amount of academic writing and professional writing, this is not something you’re likely to see in a book or magazine. I have notions of one day writing one or more books, but I have not pursued this venture yet.
Another type of writing I do often is correspondence with family, friends, church members, coworkers, club members, and so forth. Far and away, most of the messages I send are composed and delivered electronically through email, text messages, or text-based collaboration platforms (e.g., Slack, Discord, IRC). One of my writing aspirations is to use analog tools (fountain pens & manual typewriters) more often when corresponding with others. The personal card or letter seems less common in recent years; I find it delightful when something hand-crafted (instead of mass-produced) arrives in the mail.
6. Other Kinds of Writing
While most of my writing fits into one of the categories I’ve described above, I have experimented with freewriting, haiku, poetry, and other creative writing forms. These are usually the byproduct of creative inspiration, not a discipline I practice consistently. I believe they are enjoyable and essential forms of writing, but they fall well outside the typical modus operandi of my writing life.
You Should Write
If you’re not writing, I encourage you to try it. Perhaps you’re a writer, and you don’t know it yet. Regardless of your current proficiency or talent for the craft, there are benefits to writing:
- Writing can boost productivity and happiness
- Writing can help you practice thinking and clarify thought
- Writing can be a therapeutic coping mechanism
The tricky part (at least for me) is getting started; I tend to procrastinate. Fortunately, there are some helpful guides for developing a writing habit.
WARNING: As a writer, I’ve developed an excessive appreciation for (and consequently, a collection of) tools and supplies employed in the craft of writing. These include particular pens and pencils, fountain pens, fancy paper, manual typewriters, old pre-Internet computers & software, and more. I’ll share some of my favorite writing tools some other time. For now, consider yourself warned.
I hope you’ve found this brief glimpse into my writing life helpful, perhaps even a bit encouraging or inspiring. Again, I encourage you to try writing. You may be surprised by all the benefits that emerge from a couple of focused writing sessions.