Writing has been one of the most important facets of my life. It has been joyous, agonising, cathartic, and pure torment – at times all at once.
On any street or in any crowded room are closet writers struggling with a great fiction work of the 21st century; we know someone who writes or wishes they could write. They are people whose minds and hearts and souls have already been touched by some great novel or philosophical work.
What is it about the act of creation in this particular form that people seem to claim so freely, and that utterly claims those who practice what has been identified equally as craft, art, and skill?
Those suffering PTSD, in particular war veterans, are increasingly advised to turn to writing in order to exorcise those demons coiled in the depths of their consciousness. After spending much time researching the Vietnam War era and reading the multitude of stories posted online, it has been surprising to read about how many of those vets saw relief from their symptoms for the first time in 40 years only after they began to write their stories. Writing seems to have allowed them to objectify their pain, and to untangle it from the pleats of their brains once the unspeakable has finally been voiced.
What’s interesting, though, is that for the first time in history these narratives can bypass the publishing world and still have an audience, and the generations of an entire era have been embracing the technology that allows it to happen. Most will only ever occupy one place along the continuum that defines the writer but the common ground is the same: storytelling.
What’s truly amazing is that no matter why the writer gives life to words, and no matter how transformative the practice is personally, it’s what writing does for the reader. That someone else’s expression – and in some cases the simple retelling of an event without deferring to form or style or structure – can, in its plainness and honesty, somehow become equally transformative to the reader is why writing can hold within its power the agency to incite, provoke, stimulate, engross, entertain, madden –
The potential is infinite. No painting ever brought on a revolution. No symphony or concerto ever stopped time in its tracks and restarted the clock at zero.
But writing has.
It’s this possibility, in the smallest and grandest of ways, that makes anyone face the blank space before them and begin the metamorphosis with a single word.