What Writing Is


I’ve set my timer for two hours. That’s how long I’ve given myself to write and edit this first post. If it doesn’t make it out the gate by then it’s gone. So if you’re reading this, I’ve succeeded.

So with the clock ticking down, let’s talk about writing.

For starters, writing is fun. Hence why I’m doing it in the first place.

Or, at least, it has the potential to be fun. I’ll admit to having procrastinated or re-shuffled my priorities or went crashing around the internet because I was dreading going back to the Word processor. But eventually I came to my senses, opened up Word 2013 (or Kingsoft Office, if I’m on my tablet), and put my fingers to the keyboard. The fun part comes after you’ve started on the gas, gradually building up acceleration like a heavy-weight driver in Mario Kart (Donkey Kong, Wario or Bowser, your pick), and then you hit it, your top speed. You’re unstoppable. You’re fingers are flying at the speed of thought, ideas are racing through your head so fast you can barely keep up with them, and you go crashing through the barriers and the mental roadblocks you’ve put up for yourself. And then you hit a boost, a power-up, a shiny gold star. And, my God, that’s when writing becomes something more than fun; it becomes a spectacle. It’s the moment when a character does something unexpected, or a revelation surprises even you, or the plot suddenly goes off the route you intended for it. It’s that moment where you’re not just a storyteller, you are an adventurer. You are there, right there, with your characters in the muck of it all, feeling what they feel, seeing what they are seeing. It’s like an artistic high without substance abuse.

But then comes the crash. Or the blue shell, if you’re still following the Mario Kart analogy.

Because writing is also work. Hence the clock and the countdown.

When I first started this blog, I had to pause for a moment as I was about to save the Photoshop file for my banner. I would have to create a folder for my blog, and where would that folder go? Would I file it under my “WRITING” folder (in all caps, signifying its importance to me, right beside the folder labeled “ISLAM”), or would I file it under my “Work” folder? In the end, I decided to file it under “Work”, only to discover I’d already created a folder in there beforehand.

The harsh, brazen truth of it all is that writing is a job. There’s nothing glamorous or romantic about it at all. There’s just you, a deadline, and a computer or a pad of paper.  Writing is needy, it demands commitment and time. It prods at you for attention when you’d rather be watching the next season of Sherlock or playing Borderlands 2 or even eating. Courting this fussy beauty is like taming a beast. You have to know what it likes (attention/work), how to nourish it (reading), patch it up every now and then (editing) and how to let the world know its yours (publishing). Then you have to dedicate a bit of yourself to it every day, for the rest of your life. Whether it’s 500 words a day or 2 hours a day, you have to make writing a part of your life. And you can’t expect any reward in return. And despite that you have to hold on to it, keep it dear to you, and don’t neglect it. Because if you neglect it, it will leave you like the beauty, or rip you apart like the beast, and  it’ll take even more hard work to get it back and mend its heart (and your own).

Finally, writing is important.

If it weren’t for writing, we’d have no knowledge, no ideas, no clue where we’ve come from or what the world is. Perhaps we’d all just be walking calculators, thinking in numbers. Because writing is more than just sequential words on a page. Writing is communication. And through communication we express ourselves, our humanity, now today more than ever. Anyone who has ever sent a text or scribbled a note on a sticky pad or wrote “Back in 10 mins” so they can rush to the washroom knows the importance of communication, if only on a subconscious surface level. But go deeper and you’ll find that communication is integral to the world around us. Books are the most obvious examples, but what about other things? Film, television, art, even architecture, all of them are expressions—communications— of the soul. And not only that, but if we bring it back to writing, what about the power, the impact of a single sentence—a single word, even—can have on a life? Whether it’s an aphorism by William “Live,love,and let be” Shakespeare, or that splendid four letter word, “love” (which one were you thinking?), the power of the written word is nothing short of transformative.

And so why do I write?

The short answer is because I can. As Stephen King wrote in his fantastic book, On Writing, “If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it?” Ever since I was in Elementary School I was writing (thanks partially to a near-obsessively overactive imagination). And when I realized that what I write are stories, stories that could make people laugh and cry and think, that’s when I wanted to be a writer. And that leads into the long answer.

The long answer is this:

Sumus nostris verbis.

We are our words.

What we write defines us. Our words are our hopes, fears, desires, hatreds, everything. When we write, we impart a piece of ourselves onto the paper or on the screen in the hopes that it will change the world— or at least a person, or even a thought in that world.

And if you understand why this, despite being a shorter paragraph, is the long answer, then perhaps you also are a writer.

And so the clock tells me I have 25 minutes left. Not bad. I’ve given my attention to writing for the day, satiated its niggling prodding. In a way I kind of miss it. But I know that it’ll be back tomorrow, coaxing me to the keyboard.

3 thoughts on “What Writing Is

  1. Pingback: Rhhetoric in Moshun | Muslisms

  2. Pingback: The Mirror of Words | Muslisms

  3. Pingback: Reflections on Burnout | Muslisms

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