It occurred to me the other day that writing is not like anything else, ever.
It’s like nothing else we’ve ever encountered as a species, and yet it’s the culmination of everything we’ve ever done, thought, accomplished, spanning all of human history.
Writing, in one sense, is a skill. It’s the shape that many stories arrive as, packaged in punctuation and paragraphs and perspective. There are rules to it, grammatical ones and structural ones, ones that differ from language to language, ones that are bent into arcs and acts and acknowledgements.
Writing, in another sense, is a medium of communication. The body language of the brain. It can say the same things that a mere smile can say, but it can also capture all of time and space and keep it alive, when those who first wrote the words no longer are. We do it daily, in text messages and love letters, on receipts and bathroom stalls. Shopping lists and TV guides and road signs and allergy information. Writing is speech, if the sound was turned off.
Writing is also a release. It’s the bridge between the inner and the outer, the thought and the action, the now and the then. It’s a train of thought delivering information from one station to another, carrying passengers of innovation and idea and introspection. Writing in a journal, a diary, as a memoir or a guide, writing is way of releasing our soul so that another might capture it — might learn from or be inspired by it.
Writing, in every way, is immortalisation. Documentation. Preservation. It immortalises the very moment we’re writing in, it preserves whatever it might be that we’re writing in that moment and it documents exactly who we were and how we were in that moment, too. Writing is immortality for us mere mortals.
Which is why we, as writers, are the gatekeepers of the human experience
Technically, all human beings are writers. Within all those day-to-day instances across all those common and universal mediums — we’re all turning lines and swirls of ink into something with meaning, each and every day of our lives, all over the world!
Everybody, in some variation, writes. Birthday cards, emails, Etsy order personalisation requests. Everybody speaks words into existence when they chat with the checkout bloke. When they thank the bus driver. When they console themselves in the mirror. Words are our thumbprint on this plane of existence, they mark every stage of our timeline, and they are the traces of us left behind in our wake.
But what we writers are attempting to do is create lives, build worlds, conserve time with every stroke and press of ink. We’re bringing new timelines entirely to life, fingerprints belonging to people from faraway lands. We’re distorting humanity to make it thrilling. We’re darkening it, to make it raw. We’re enchanting it, to make it hopeful. Writers take the world we know — and make 17 others we don’t.
Whilst everybody, at some point, dabbles in the surface layer of writing — us lot are at the epicentre of the onion, having written on every other layer of it until we’re right down to the core, the soul of it. We want to personify the onion. Give it a character, a plot, an arc, a story. The onion cries, too, if we have any say in the matter.
Writers, storytellers, we’re in the very trade that has made humanity what it is — so of course it’s going to be tough from time to time. We’re archiving existence.
Writing is not like finance, or sailing, or architecture
It’s not like learning about these things, experiencing them and honing them. Even rocket science is a realm behind. Because writing is both the science and the rocket. It’s the what, the how and the why. It’s the vessel that takes you to these new worlds, and it’s the logistics that allowed you to arrive there in the first place. It’s the medium and the message. The place, the person, the plot. And even rocket scientists have to write notes, you know? It infused into every endeavour, and then some.
Writing is convoluted and complicated and complex — and completely worth it.
As a writer, we’re representing all the derivations of human life, we’re capturing the very essence of what it means to be alive. It’s a great responsibility — and an even greater power (Aunty Ben, in Man-Spider, 2002).
Sometimes we need to remember that. Many times, actually. When we’re caught up in the “why? Why am I doing this? What have I got to say that’s worth reading?” when we’re trapped in the cycle of imposter syndrome and self doubt, when we’re re-evaluating our niches and writing off our opinions — we need to remind ourselves of why we write at all.
Because we’re human, and telling stories is what we do.
We need to strip back to the bare bones of the matter. Write because it’s a skill, it’s communication, it’s release, it’s escape, it’s immortalisation, it’s experience, it’s adventure, it’s connection and it’s oh so so beautifully human. It’s the flesh and blood of our very being.
So let’s write — not for the reviews, or the signings, or the royalties. Let’s write because we are the narrators of our journey on this Earth, of our imaginations, of our infinite possibilities.
Let’s write, so that the universe knows we were here.
About the Creator
I’m a writer, a storyteller, a lunatic. I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer, turning moments into multiverses and making homes out of them.