This morning’s Write on Wednesday prompt appeared only hours after I had a really intense and wonderful conversation about writing with two colleagues and friends of mine. Over a beer and burgers (mine was a veggie) on Fat Tuesday evening, the three of us tried to hash out what keeps us writing – publicity, striving toward publication, practice, determination, all of the above? And so Becca’s prompt falls right into line. She asks:
How about you? How do you find positive things to write about in these troubled times? Do you think the written word has the power to effect positive change?
She’s asking a slightly different question than we were. We were trying to parse out how to still value our own work in the face of other (perhaps better?) works by other writers. Becca is asking us why we write in the first place. But for me, these things are absolutely connected. I write – most days – with the hope that what I write makes a difference. I don’t write exclusively to get published, although that’s nice; I don’t write because I think my words will overthrow dictators; I write because, first, writing changes me.
As I told my friends last night, I’m not a good person when I’m not writing (or when I’m not listening to God). Writing is what I was made to do, and when I deny that, my entire humanity suffers. I’m grumpy and edgy and, truly, unpleasant to be around.
But, and this goes more directly to what Becca is asking, I also write because I believe, as she does, that writing changes things. It probably doesn’t end corporate oppression or bring racial equality – at least one piece of writing doesn’t do that on its own. But writing does change the people who read it. I know because the things I’ve read have radically changed me. And if individual people can change, then so can the world.
That’s why I blog, why I write essays (and why I teach) – because I believe if I am living more fully into the person I am made to be, if I am working to do my best with honesty and awareness, if I simply write, sometimes – on those rare days when the sun is so bright you think it’s 72 degrees when it’s only 19 – someone is changed by it. And in that, my friends, I take great hope. More hope than I have in publication or fame. Just the hope that change can happen simply because I do what I’m supposed to do. I can rest in that.