Monday, July 27, 2015

Why You Should Be Writing

“We read to know we are not alone.” - William Nicholson

Ever thought "I can tell a better story than this" while reading a book, watching a movie, or digging around online? Then you should be writing. The reference department is presenting a new workshop aiming to get you writing with exercises and peer discussion rather than critiques. The next of these workshops will be Wednesday, August 26th at 7:00pm in the Davidson Board Room on the second floor of the Main Branch.

With a title like "You Should Be Writing," there should be some really good reasons for you to be writing, right? Turns out, there's a bunch, and they all reflect the world,your place in it, and how you change as a person.

In a way, every time we talk to each other we are writing. Stories are pretty easy to tell. The simplest expression of a story can be summed up as:

1. A person climbs a tree. (discovery)
2. Something or somebody throws rocks at him. (adversity)
3. The person comes down having changed. (change)

Or as my aunts would tell it "Did y'all hear about Bobby getting up in Mr. Jenkins apple tree? Ole Jenkins got that shotgun of his, and you bet Bobby won't do that again." 

Discovery, adversity, and change. Everybody can tell a story like that, and we do it every day with every conversation and thought. We cast villains and heroes in our own heads and use those stories to change the world. 

When you write down those stories, filled with facts or entirely made up, you contribute to the story of our culture. We know about Greeks and Romans because of all the fancy pots and columns they left, but we know what they cared about because they wrote down stories of their gods and heroes. By writing down what you care about, stories about your heroes or just your every day life, you tell how not only you and your neighbors lived, but how humans of today lived. This is especially true with all the changes in technology in the last century.

Writing is not just about producing short stories, novels, essays, and textbooks. My great-grandfather lived in England and had a passion for trains. Everyday he noted in a journal what trains came in and out and what he saw and felt that day. Did that for decades, through the Great Depression and both world wars. 

That is what I have heard, anyway. After he died, my uncle threw out most of my great-grandfather's journals thinking they were insignificant. Now with everyone of their generation passed away, there is no living memory of that man who loved trains. By writing, collecting thoughts and experiences, you create an impression of you in the world for others to have. Good or bad, boring or interesting, what you do in this world affects others and what you create tells them why you did it. Wouldn't you rather them hear it from you in your own words?

Learning to write in your own words can be difficult. Writing daily is a must, and one good way to get into practice is to keep a journal. After I learned about my great-grandfather's journals, I started keeping one of my own. 

I write, every day I remember to, in that little notebook what happened and how I felt about it. Some days are one sentence, and some days are a couple of pages. When you write something down, you get it out, allow yourself to look at it from outside yourself. You can find perspective. This is especially true when you go back and read it a week or month or even years later. Keeping a journal can give you perspective on yourself, how you change, and how your own story is going. 

So now you know why you should be writing, are you? Not if you are reading this. So close down this website and pick up whatever you use to get out your thoughts. If your thoughts drift off the page to that television show or movie or book that made you think about writing in the first place, remember, you should be writing.

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