Weekend Edition – Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

free diverSometimes, the gravity of real life threatens to pull me out of my creative orbit. The inescapable responsibility of being human weighs heavily – the “Real World” of work, relationships, and surviving on this fragile planet crushing in on me like pressure on an ascending deep sea diver. The closer I get to daylight, the further I am from the intimate, interior depths of my creative endeavors. That inner life disappears into the darkness below as I’m drawn toward the surface, my tenuous connection lost until I dive again.

Above the waves, my belief in the importance of the world below fades.  Submerged in the process, my work felt real and worthwhile. But, now, back in the real world where there is a mortgage to pay, a hot water heater to be fixed, and the intricacy of a sixth grader’s social life to untangle, my conviction wavers. Is writing really that important? Am I crazy to spend as much time as I do stitching sentences together, one word at a time? What good am I actually doing? Does any of this really matter?

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The Real World is a big, noisy, chaotic place. It is full of life and adventure and the joy of discovery, but it is also full of responsibilities, demands, and a constant push to go faster and farther – to do more and be more. Most days, we are so busy that we don’t even have time to think about what we’re doing. Sometimes, that feels like a blessing. We keep moving to survive. Don’t question; just do. We’re like Lucy in the candy factory episode – a human cog in the machine, desperately trying to stay ahead of the conveyer belt as it spits out an unending stream of chocolate-covered tasks and obligations: get to work, feed the cat, take mom to the doctor, attend the PTA meeting, pay the bills, schedule the oil change, file the report, make the deadline, cook dinner, hit the gym, soothe the sick kid, apologize, mediate, walk the dog, balance the checkbook, and so on.

I’m not saying that there isn’t value (of course there is) and even joy (all the time!) in our day-to-day tasks and activities. Being active and productive, even in the most mundane of ways, can be very rewarding and is a necessary part of being a functioning member of human society. BUT, I have to believe that there’s more to life than just being a “functioning member of human society.”

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Why is writing important? Writing is important because it plucks us off this hamster wheel we call life. It lifts us up, our legs kicking in the air at nothing, and makes us slow down so we can breathe and think clearly. It’s like a forced mental health break. Interestingly, reading offers a similar respite and safe haven, so whether you are creating a story or consuming one, you are giving yourself a chance to pull back the curtain and experience the “something more” we’re all searching for.

Writing Makes You Slow Down

In the world of incessant multi-tasking, time and attention are our most valuable assets. One of the things that makes “escaping into a good book” so appealing is the way reading  – when it’s done right – slams the brakes on everything else in our lives. Reading forces your monkey mind to sit in the corner. Silently. Sinking into a good story is like slipping through a secret door into another dimension where the chaos of life is tamed by neat and orderly rows of words and the simple act of turning pages. Sure, you might lose hours in this other world, but those hours are spent blissfully engrossed in a single task, and that’s good for you.

Writing is important because it demands focus. It requires that we temporarily shut out the Real World in order to build the world of our story. It makes us set all our other concerns aside and give ourselves wholly to the task at hand. When you are writing, it’s like downshifting to a lower gear that gives you better traction with your brain – no more skidding back and forth between rogue thoughts or going into tailspins that take you nowhere.

Writing creates a state of dynamic stillness in which you are centered and grounded, but active. It’s like the eye of the storm – a pocket of calm surrounded by wild winds. When you sit down with pen or keyboard, you give yourself the power to step out of the maelstrom and into a bubble of protected space where you can slow time down through the simple but magical act of putting down one word after another.

Writing Gives You Time Alone

“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~ Picasso

Though you may write in a busy cafe or even in the company of other writers, once you are fully engaged with the words, you are alone. Solitude is the sacred realm of both reader and writer. When you are reading or writing, you are free from the weight and influence of any other presence. You exist on your own, between worlds.

Writing is important because it enables you to temporarily extract yourself from your other lives. When you are writing, you are not the employee, the spouse, the parent, or the child. You are not the volunteer, the friend, the neighbor, or the caretaker. You are neither villain nor hero, neither victim nor savior. You are the writer. You are the story.

And in your solitude, you get to know yourself better and learn to enjoy your own company. Being comfortably alone is a dying art. In a world where technology keeps you constantly plugged in, connected, and on display, it’s hard to cultivate a sense of ease and wellbeing on your own. But this is a critical skill. If you don’t spend time alone, you might forget who you truly are. You might be fooled into believing that you are only what appears on the outside. You might become a mirror that only reflects back what other people expect to see.

Time alone reading or writing allows us to unplug from the rest of the world so we can reconnect with our true selves. It lets us relax into being who we really are – no facades or personas necessary. It lets us come home.

Writing Is Where You Think – Really Think

Writing slows the world down and invites us to come home to ourselves. Here, in the quiet solitude, we can finally hear our own thoughts – not the shallow, surface-dwelling ones that flash in the sun for all to see, but the more elusive and complex thoughts that illuminate our inner depths with a light all their own. Whether we’re reading or writing, story is the tool that lets us explore our thoughts. Story asks the hard questions. It provokes us. By inviting us to step outside ourselves, it opens up a door into who we really are. Story challenges our assumptions and beliefs. It plays with our senses, drawing us into alternate realities and then posing the question, “What would you do?”

Putting words down is taxing work that is not to be undertaken lightly. Writing makes us think hard about who we are, our place in the world, and what we care about most. At the least, writing requires us to bear witness. At most, it requires that we render a verdict. It demands that we refine our ideas – a painful process of exposure and selection. We have to choose what to say and what not to say. We draw a line in the sand with our words, and sometimes we dare the world to cross it.

Writing is important because it makes us do this work. It refuses to let us sleepwalk through our lives, muttering incoherently under our breath.

··• )o( •··

We may read and write in a space that is separate from the Real World, but the stories we consume and tell are the heart of the human experience. Reading and writing are how we process the world, how we explore, discover, define, and share what it is to be human. Stories give us the means to share our perspectives and ideas, our thoughts and dreams. They challenge us to think more thoroughly and deeply about our existence, beliefs, and purpose.

Writing is important. It isn’t more or less important than what we do in the “real” world. Living our lives and writing our lives are not mutually exclusive practices. In fact, for the writer, they are inextricably linked. So, when Real Life pulls me away from my writing and makes me question my path and purpose (not to mention my sanity), I try to remember that – for the writer – living is writing and writing is living. We live in the Real World just like everyone else, but we also dive beneath the surface to plumb the depths for the insights that help us better understand the world above the waves.

Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

60 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion)

  1. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion) | benmacnair

    • Thank you, Mridul. I’d love to hear more about how you feel the ideas in this post connect with your procrastination. I also battle my own procrastination, so I’m always eager to hear how other people are dealing with that particular challenge. 😉

  2. Hey, awesome post. While I am passionate about writing and ideas come easily most of the time, the actual act of sitting to get it all out of me is tough. You hit the nail on the head when you said that writing is an act of focus. My monkey-mind has mutated into King Kong after a river-sized Espresso (I think I am trying to say it’s all over the place and doesn’t have the presence to settle on one thing for long enough to complete it).

    When I’ve been more into meditation and yoga than I have been lately, King Kong has slowed down and become manageable. I suppose that is kind of a given, but I am over here having realizations, and it is thanks to being inspired by your piece. So, thanks a lot.

    I’ll get back into the habit of meditating after waking up and see what happens. 🙂 Take care, Jamie.

    • “My monkey-mind has mutated into King Kong after a river-sized Espresso…” <— best line about monkey mind ever. Love it!

      I have also found some success with yoga and meditation. I mostly try to practice in the morning after my daughter is on her way to school. I've also found it helpful to do a midday, spur-of-the-moment practice The app Buddhify is great for that, if you like guided meditations.

      Good luck & thanks for coming by, Andrew. 🙂

  3. Great post.
    What good am I actually doing? Does any of this really matter? < the great existential question. The way I see it, while writing can seem like a senseless purposelss activity, to non-writers its amazing, the same way a painting is amazing to me, a writer. Ultimately, what is anyone doing? Writing is no less significant than anything else people hold dear. If anything writing pushes the world forwards and unites us all through the simple medium of some joined together text, pretty magical really.

    • I love the feeling in your comment – that idea of connecting through words and story, and it being magical. I agree. I guess that sometimes I get fooled into thinking that only the Things That Make Big Money matter. Mostly, I fall into that trap when I am feeling discouraged or afraid. This is why I have to really sit down and think about/justify (to myself!) what I’m doing spending all this time at the keyboard. It all really boils down to a pep talk I’m giving myself.

      Thanks for being here & contributing to the conversation.

      PS – Great play on words with your user name. 😉

      • Thanks! I don’t know where the inspiration came from but I like the name too 🙂
        As for the writing vs money: that’s the real battle. It’s hard to get paid let alone make a living, but I’m going to persevere, naively or not.

    • You’re always so kind, Linda. I love seeing your smiling face in the comments section!

      Thanks for the comment and for letting me know I’m not alone in what I’m feeling. Always good to know.

  4. Excellent post. I am blogging this on my Routine Matters blog.
    If you have a minute to spare have a look at the post about Bernard Malamud as he talks about finding the time to write and the consequences of not doing so. All the best. Kris.

      • Jamie, thank you for this wonderful piece. I have sometimes asked myself whether there is need of spending time to read and write,but from your article that soft small voice that force me to go back again and again has now been reaffirmed by reading through this fantastic and invigorating article. thank you again Jamie for taking your time to do this for me.

      • Small voices are so important to listen to, Shadrack. I’m glad if this post helped you hear yours a little more clearly. Happy writing!

    • Thanks so much for reblogging, Kris, and for pointing me to your post on Malamud. I love reading about other writers’ creative philosophies and routines. I find it inspiring, if somewhat humbling.

      Hope you have a great writing week!

  5. Hi Jamie
    Thanks for yet another enjoyable post, so eloquently written. I look forward to settling down with your weekly blogs that seem to speak from the heart. You masterfully weave the words together that both inspire and instil admiration.
    Thanks again

    • Thanks so much, Angelique. I so enjoy working on these posts. They are an excuse for me to ask questions of myself and confront my own roadblocks and demons. I’m just so grateful that I also get to share those conversations with everyone here. 🙂

  6. “Writing creates a state of dynamic stillness in which you are centered and grounded, but active. It’s like the eye of the storm – a pocket of calm surrounded by wild winds. When you sit down with pen or keyboard, you give yourself the power to step out of the maelstrom and into a bubble of protected space where you can slow time down through the simple but magical act of putting down one word after another.

    Writing Gives You Time Alone
    “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” ~ Picasso” Thank you for this insightful piece which is inspiring me to write more intentionally again!

    • You’re very welcome. Thanks for being here and for taking the time to let me know you enjoyed the post. 🙂

    • I love when that happens – perfect timing, that is. It makes me feel like the Universe is looking after me somehow. Glad to be part of your serendipitous moment. 🙂

    • Love when that happens and delighted to be the “messenger” for this particular bit of something you needed to hear. 🙂 Thanks for coming by!

  7. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Why Writing Matters (How to Justify Your Passion) | strainmybrain

  8. Great advice! You never know who your writing will impact. I may never be published, but I have 2 kids, and they both are writers. One is working on her 2nd fan fiction novel. She’s learning to edit and rewrite. If nothing else comes out of my writing, at least I know it’s having a positive impact on the little people in my life.

    • What a lovely observation. You remind me that my daughter also models the writing she sees me doing. I rarely think about my own writing influencing her to set her own stories down, but that’s SUCH an important part of what we can do as writers, isn’t it?

      Thank you for that. 🙂

  9. Excellent post. I just did my own post about why I write. Your piece here goes deeper, in a more eloquent way, but I think all writers now and then have to visit that question–why write, and sometimes more importantly, why keep writing? Clearly, lots of reasons!

    • Enjoyed your post, Tina. I especially like #’s 7, 8, and 9. I’m totally with you there. ; )

      And – yes – I also agree that this question of why we write is one that must be revisited. I wish I had enough conviction to simply write and not think too hard about why I do it, but I’m afraid I haven’t yet reached that stage of my writer’s “evolution.” So, for now, I must once in a while step back and reassure myself that I am NOT crazy or wasting my time or anything like that.

      Glad to be in the company of others who do the same thing!

  10. Thank you. Great expression of writing. I have recently had to face up to the responsibilities of life and writing that’s why I have a new website where I asked the question WHO AM I? and spelt it out. http://www.fayeroots.com You are welcome to look. People want to file me personally in a category. Like what you have expressed no one is uncomplicated. I write because I breathe. But for me PRAYER connects the whole of the journey.

    • Yes, each of us has our own reasons for writing – a layer of personal ones that blend with the universal ones. Sometimes it’s the past, other times it’s a dream of the future. Whatever it is, it’s part of who we are – through and through.

      Thanks, as always, for being here. 🙂

  11. I share so many of these thoughts. Thank you for writing them in a concise and convicting manner. I’m motivated to leave the Real World more often😉 thank you for the encouragement!

    • Thanks. I love the idea of “leaving” the Real World in order to go exploring and bring back treasures in the form of stories and insights. I’m going to keep that in mind as I write!

  12. Very inspirational article. I enjoy writing either through typing or freehand. Sometimes I write to just to write, as an form to expression or to calm the mind. Other times, when the inner inspiration prefers to express something.

    • “Sometimes I write just to write…”
      There is something calming about writing by hand, isn’t there? Sometimes I don’t even care what words I’m putting down – I just like to shape the letters and see what happens. Interestingly, even that kind of random exercise usually leads to some of my more insightful writing. 😉

  13. “Reading – when it’s done right – slams the brakes on everything else in our lives. Reading forces your monkey mind to sit in the corner. Silently. Sinking into a good story is like slipping through a secret door into another dimension where the chaos of life is tamed by neat and orderly rows of words and the simple act of turning pages. ” I mean, Wow! My personal favourite.
    I am going to write it down and pin it. Thank you for writing this post Jamie. Helps a lot while battling the devils of procrastination.

    • Always my pleasure, Pretam. I’m honored that you’d like to “pin” this piece and delighted if it helps you slay the monster of procrastination. Good luck!

  14. Thanks Jamie. Great post! For the past couple of weeks, I had been mulling over whether I should discontinue my blog. But you have helped me to clear some of the cobwebs in my mind. Your line “for the writer, living is writing and writing is living” gave me a jolt and reminded me why I started the blog in the first place. See, my blog’s name is “Living The Writing”.

    • I am glad to help clear out cobwebs, Russ. That’s always a good thing. 🙂
      When the going gets tough, we can easily start to lose our conviction about our writing. We start to doubt ourselves and our purpose (or, maybe more to the point, our worthiness and qualifications). That’s when it’s important to go back to the beginning, as you have, and remember what got us started on this path in the first place.

      Here’s to “Living the Writing!”

  15. Pingback: Writing through Pain and Confusion Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links | Live to Write – Write to Live

  16. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – A Crisis of [Writing] Faith | Live to Write – Write to Live

  17. This post is thoroughly provoking to me. I stated in a previous comment on one of your other posts that I have had some the darts of life thrown at me and it has been to say the least, chaotic. However, I am inspired to quit letting these deter me. I made a commitment in January and need to get back to it, no matter what. Thanks again. Writing is very important to me, I love it as well as reading. Reading inspirational and motivational content is significant. You are on my list of significant.

  18. Pingback: Top 5 Writer’s Weekend Edition Posts of 2016 | Live to Write – Write to Live

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