Writing as a Path to Honesty

Inspired by a recent post by Jeff Goins, I thought I’d share my reasons for why I write:

One thing of my personal goals is to see the world as clearly as I possibly can. It’s not possible to view the world objectively, of course. I have too much baggage — prejudices, biases, beliefs, and cultural conditioning — to claim that I can do that.

Still, it’s always possible to see the world more clearly. Seeing the world clearly requires challenging our prejudices, biases, beliefs, and cultural conditioning. It requires the ability to say, “I am wrong.” More importantly, it requires changing our beliefs and behavior when proven wrong.

How does writing tie into this?

Good writing challenges us. It makes us rethink how we view ourselves and the world. In good writing — whether fiction, nonfiction, poetry, or some other form — we are forced to look at things through a point of view that is different from our own, sometimes radically so, and when we finish reading it, we can’t just go back to looking at the world the same way we did before. Even if we disagree with it, it nonetheless changes how we view the world, if only in subtle ways.

Reading good writing is a powerful experience, but I believe it is more important to write something powerful. When I write, it is primarily for myself, even if I plan to show it to other people. I usually don’t know what I may learn from any given project. My writing is the teacher and I am the student, in other words. Even a simple short story can teach me something new or profound.

When I write, I try not to let my baggage influence the story’s direction. During the editing phase, I will think deeply about the story’s plot and pacing and will make changes as necessary, but during the writing phase, I try to keep my influence on the story and characters to a bare minimum.

Thus, by taking a mostly hands-off approach to writing, I end up with what I believe is a more honest story. It will not always confirm my own beliefs and prejudices. But it will help me see the world more clearly.

This is why I write. This is why I will always write.

-Tim

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