Why We Write

Vintage typewriter with a white blank page

Bill Russell regularly threw up from nervousness before playing Celtics basketball at the Boston Garden. He said he knew it was time to hang up his size-18 court shoes when he no longer barfed before games. Apparently, he needed that anxious “edge.”

Later, when coaching the Seattle Supersonics, Russell had a regular opinion column in The Seattle Times.  He once wrote about his writing process, describing the blank page affixed to his typewriter as the most frightening challenge of his life.

Writing can do that. For sure. Writing can be scary. Daunting. Mysterious.  Writing can flummox and disturb.

So why write?

When we acquire language, we expand our understanding of the world.  The more precise the usage, the greater the clarity.  It is intrinsically human, this yearning for language. Language brings meaning.  We use language to order our world. Writing advantages the civilization project.

We write to give life meaning. We also write to delight. We play, amuse, and inform ourselves by writing. We are often surprised, even amazed and awed by what emerges from our fingers.  Where did that come from, we ask ourselves? We are blind to our insights, until we write them down out of apparent nothingness.

So why share our writing with others?

Writing is, of course, an imperfect communication tool. Lots of reasons for that. Surely though, we share our writings on the lucky chance that, from time to time, we might feel a little less alone in this short, fabulous moment that we call our lives. No barfing required.

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