Why I Write

CC Image courtesy of Antonio Litterio on Wikipedia

CC Image courtesy of Antonio Litterio on Wikipedia

A Preliminary Diagnosis

Every time I interact with others I’m tempted to highlight my strengths and minimize my weaknesses. Blogging (and the online world in general) only exacerbates this tendency. A blog post (published after 5 revisions) allows me to always put my best food forward, and so it looks like I’m always on top of my game.

At the root of this tendency is a desire to be accepted into what C.S. Lewis calls “The Inner Ring.” He described this longing as “The lust for the esoteric, the longing to be inside.” Most of us will do anything to be accepted into this pseudo-guild. Lewis certainly was familiar with it. Reflecting on this self-inflicted pang for affirmation, he says, “To a young person, just entering on adult life, the world seems full of ‘Insides,’ full of delightful intimacies and confidentialities, and he desires to enter them. But if he follows that desire he will reach no ‘inside’ that is worth reaching. The true road lies in quite another direction.”

I’m faced with this desire almost every time I write a blog post. I want people to affirm me. I want them to really notice. 

But there is a remedy. There is another way to approach this “morally neutral” thing, as Lewis describes it. And his words have helped me think about a better way to approach this very public form of writing,

The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know.

Read the essay here.

I know that sometimes I write as a way to sneak my way inside The Inner Ring. But my hope is that, more often, I’d write excellent material so as to be a “sound craftsman.” I want my words to sing and soar and pierce.

But crisp sentences – ones that clear away confusion – take time to craft. They come from a steady, seasoned hand that knows the lay of his white-page land.

Conclusion: 2 Reasons I Write

I write because I’m not a natural writer. My thoughts are not “naturally” clear — they’re usually fuzzy and need the focus that reflection brings. To me, this focusing work is worth the effort. It gives me such satisfaction to watch an idea come out of the shadows (where it did exist before, if only veiled) and into the light.

And I write because I love helping other people see the things I see. That’s why this blog isn’t private — it would defeat (part of) the purpose. I want to show others what I’ve seen. In an article over at Desiring God, David Mathis provides a quote from Lewis that captures what I’m hoping for,

The poet is not a man who asks me to look at him; he is a man who says ‘look at that’ and points; the more I follow the pointing of his finger the less I can possibly see of him. . . . To see things as the poet sees them I must share his consciousness and not attend to it; I must look where he looks and not turn round to face him; I must make of him not a spectacle but a pair of spectacles. (The Personal Heresy, 11)

That’s why I write.

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5 comments

  1. A sincere thank you for this post.

    I am a fan of Lewis but had never come across this essay. I find these excerpts, and your own commentary on them, profoundly moving.

    It is so easy, in the desire to have one’s work published and make half a living from it, to focus more on getting it out there and writing in the voice demanded by the publications one wants to woo than on finding what it is one was put into the world to say and saying it in the soundest, most faithful way one can.

    1. I agree. Lewis once said “The way for a person to develop a style is (a) to know exactly what he wants to say, and (b) to be sure he is saying exactly that.”

      I’m persuaded that it really is as simple as Lewis describes.

      Thanks for the link-up!

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