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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Why write?

An acquaintance asked me the other day why I continue to write these posts. It is a valid question and I hope not an editorial comment but I had a ready answer, if not an entirely truthful one. I said I write to keep my sense of language and my mind from decline. As far as it goes, that is entirely the truth but it isn’t the entirety. I have noticed that being alone a good deal much of the day along with the enforced isolation of the past two years has dulled my verbal skills—whether temporarily or forever I cannot say. Writing forces me to marshall my thoughts and affords me the time to go back and clarify—to edit and reason my way to the end. I don’t always know what it is I want to write about when I begin, often it is the slimmest of ideas, a phrase or passing notion that inspires a post, while at other times I have it written in my head long before I sit before the keyboard.

Occasionally a reader will comment but whether anyone reads these modest epistles I do not really write for an audience even if I address my posts to an imagined one. It is a convention, rather than admit I may be talking to myself. Writing for me has always been a tool for introspection, a way of mining what is lodged in my innermost core. During times of trial it has been particularly helpful and I understand why therapists often suggest journaling as a form of self-discovery. But to be honest about it I need to write just as I need to eat, to breathe. That sounds rather dramatic and I cannot say that I am terribly gifted as a writer but I write for me not for acclamation.

I write so that I can find the trail, my words are a path marking where I am, where I have been. I go back from time to time and revisit what I have written. Poems I wrote when I aspired, briefly, to earn a living as an author. Articles and white papers, some rather technical and others of passing interest. These posts more recently, begun originally as an adjunct of a podcast both of which were originally intended to promote a book but long since pressed into another service. When I revisit them I am sometimes surprised by the words, although rarely the thoughts. Occasionally, I am delighted by a turn of phrase I consider well-crafted but in the main my visits to the past are about discovery—reminding myself how I got to wherever it is I am.

The words evoke memories—some rich with relevance, some perhaps less so, but all of them happily discovered blazes showing me the way, where I’ve been and where I seem to be headed. If life is a journey it is useful to keep a map. Not that we may find our way back but to see how far we’ve come. Perhaps there will come a time when the way ahead is narrow and the end close at hand. That is if life plays out without a sudden turn. I cannot know what will come only where I’ve been and if it is given to me then to reflect –not to celebrate any legacy, or indulge any pretense, I hope the words will remind me of things great and small that mattered. That is why I write, to know myself when next we meet.

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