This month I am occasionally re-posting a few of the pieces I've written on this blog about writing. Let me know if a post has been helpful for you—or if you have a topic you would like an editor to address. This post first appeared in February 2015, under the title "Discovery through Writing: What Stephen King and Joan Didion Said."
“I write to find out what I think.” —Stephen King
“I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means.
What I want and what I fear.”
Writers enjoy reading quotes from writers about writing. The same way, I imagine, any artist enjoys quotes about their art. Quotes are entertaining, meaningful, inspiring. Sometimes quotes can make you uncomfortable, though.
As a writer—a non-famous, mostly unpublished, but I-love-to-do-it writer—I often read a quote from a writer and wonder, Is that what I believe too? Is that how I feel? Is that what I think?
These quotes from Stephen King and Joan Didion keep coming back to me because, post by post—even sometimes as I write for clients—I have realized how often I am working out what I think, what I believe, as I write. What I think shows up not in just what I say but in how I say it, how I cast the message, with the exact words I choose.
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Not every piece I write has personal gravitas, of course. Do I truly care about how my wardrobe compares to novel characters’ clothing? No. And yet I wrote about that on this blog almost as if I did. Some writing, after all, can be just for fun, or for the discipline, or because some voice inside says, “Go ahead. It's not rocket science or necessarily unique or earthshaking, but write about this.” Today the voice said to write about discovery through writing.
We can all agree that reading shapes what we think, and we can all agree that writers write what they—or at least their characters in fiction—think. But this idea that some writers (or is it all writers?) write to discover what they think as they write is intriguing. And I have decided, yes, for me, this is mostly true.
Sometimes I write about writing and then think, well, yes. Or sometimes I write about spiritual matters and then confirm, well, yes. More new yeses or confirmed yeses have showed up in this decidedly unfocused blog than you might imagine. Sometimes I write what turns out to be a maybe or a no or an I don't know and that writing devolves into taking up space in my "maybe this will see the light of day and maybe it won't" folder. Sometimes, though, the maybe and the no and the I don't know get published for all to see.
All this to say, I appreciate the opportunity to write to find out what I think . . . I think. After all, any reader might hate what I think, disagree with what I think, be bored by what I think.
But what if I, The Writer, in the writing, discover I hate, disagree with, or am bored by what I think? Ah, now there is something to think about. And maybe, someday, to write about.
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I am sure entire books could be written about this idea. Maybe those entire books already exist; I haven't looked. In the meantime, thanks Stephen and Joan, for sparking these thoughts about discovery through writing.
Photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=60692&picture=covered-bridge-in-forest-2; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=60693&picture=covered-bridge-in-forest-1