THE ACTION OF PUTTING WORDS ON PAPER or on a screen really isn’t rocket science – millions of people do it everyday. What’s more curious is why they do it, why they choose to take time out of their busy lives to put thoughts together in hopefully legible form? When Helvy Rosa, the Indonesian playwright, observed that, “You are what you write,” she provided a universal truth. Trolls voice their internal venom; lovers pen their sonnets of romance; researchers must unlock by the use of words the mysteries of scientific reasoning; political pundits enjoy dispensing their seasoned observations. People write the fountains bubbling within them, even when the water is poisoned.
For some of us who write, the greatest creation in all of civilization has not been the wheel, the internal combustion engine, the cure to polio, or the computer, but language. In the end it is our words, written or thought, that make us truly human. It is the sophistication of our language that has helped us to progress and advance through the ages.
But for some, like me, writing is how we grow, how we develop in understanding, or because we either wish to define life, or even improve it. That’s likely what Tennessee Williams meant when stating, “Why did I write? Because I found life unsatisfactory.” This is forever how I feel because there are always those who are marginalized, isolated in poverty or in the struggles of mental illness, whose very struggles in life remind us that we haven’t gotten it right yet. People who feel the need to write about a fairer world understand that the key isn’t writing about good versus evil, but good versus better. If a writer develops a heart for the marginalized, they will never be forgotten, for they have been kept alive through words. As long as they are described in words and phrases, hope remains that efforts to bring them in as full and equal human beings is still possible.
This past year, besides my blog posts and media articles, I have penned three books that attempt to deal with this hope for a better world. One is a novel. One is a commentary on an old literary character who reminds us that sacrifice, whether rewarded or not, is essential to human development and personal growth. And the final book is a collection of my blog posts from the past year. They are gathered with other books on the book page here.
There is something in all of us the moves us towards revealing our inner souls. We all remain “under construction,” and, for some, putting pen to paper, or from a keyboard to a screen, is a way of continuing to pursue personal refinement. We gain courage by the very action of writing and trying to define what we know and believe. Or, as the beautiful poet, Maya Angelou put it:
The written word, when it is really eloquent… when it doesn’t have to be parsed or taken apart… when it speaks from one flame to another, speaks to a dying flame… and re invigorates… that’s when it’s powerful. That’s true of all the passions- be they romantic, patriotic or otherwise…The written word confirms that you really can be more than you feel yourself to be right there, in that moment.