I’ve been writing with some consistency since I was in early High School. Back then a friend of mine pressed me in to writing poetry and I loved it. Though, I still have those poems and they’re pretty embarrassingly awful. Thankfully we get better with practice, of which I’m still in need of a lot.
Writing is fascinating to me because the written word, different from the spoken word, allows for careful contemplation and the ability to arrive more precisely at that which I’m trying to express. I consider myself a relatively well spoken person. And if there is ever a time I feel I don’t express myself well when speaking English, I only have to compare it to my second language speaking to suddenly feel very confident. When speaking English I feel like I have a funnel of words hovering above my head and the ability to think quickly enough to grasp with Swiss-made-watch precision the exact word I want to best express myself. When speaking a second language it’s more like a thin pillar than a big funnel. There may be ten words for thief but I only know 3 of them; or five words for lonely, but I don’t fully understand the nuance of difference between them.
When writing in English I get the luxury of the huge funnel to start, and then I also get to come back and revise to be even more precise.
I imagine it’s something like how I view a master painter. On my very best days I can draw stick figures that look like people. I always am jealous of folks who can paint something which looks exactly how they want. Even if it’s impressionism and not realism, it still blows my mind that an artist can create on a canvas, that which is in their head.
Perhaps better than many, I can express myself in written word precisely in the way I desire. But at the end of the day there is often still some dissonance. Something in my head which still doesn’t come out quite as elegantly on the paper as I would like. Often times I edit something five or six times and still manage to miss a simple spelling error. Or I wrack my brain for days and end up publishing something insufficient because I can’t ever bring from my mind to my fingertips exactly the word or phrase I want.
Literary theory taught that a concept cannot even exist in our minds until we have a word to express it. Once the word is there we can begin to fill it up with meaning. Love has meaning only because there is a word which we associate with that specific feeling. If this is true, and I have no idea if I even believe that it is, then there must be a word already in my head. The idea must exist in there already formed in words. Writing would just be learning to transmit ideas clearly from my head to the page via my fingers.
All of these leads me to wonder if even the master painter is frustrated with the differences in what is in his head and what ends up on the canvas. Or if the composer never fully gets exaclty what’s in his head out on paper.
I hope that’s the case. Because if I’m the only one still needing to work at it, I’m not sure I could handle that.
I write because I have an idea that will never be fully made clear until it’s expressed in this exact medium. Because the written word is the closest I can get to a representation of what’s in my head. Because I think in words, not pictures or music. And I write because I think someday I just might write a piece entirely imperfect, but perfectly expressing my mind’s imperfections.