I have the privilege this fall semester of studying at Oxford University. Oxford is a magnificent and storied city admired by many. 19th century poet Matthew Arnold described it as “the city of dreaming spires.” And rightly so – it has fed the imaginations of many great literary minds, such as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In fact, Oxford has a rich literary history, and I thought it would be an appropriate setting to write about a particular passion of mine: writing! More specifically, I’d like to answer the question: What good is writing? I think it’s only appropriate to answer this question from a personal perspective. People write for a variety of reasons; the reasons I list here are not necessarily the best or most common.
As far as fiction-writing goes, there’s an exciting kind of freedom involved. With a few strokes of the pen I can write new worlds into existence. I can populate these worlds with characters of all flavors, and place them toe-to-toe with whatever scenarios I can wonder into existence. Nothing is beyond a writer’s grasp in his fictional universe, and that’s just so exciting. Especially because you get to explore the stories you create. I can board a spaceship and wander the cosmos. I can watch medieval kings war over powerful artifacts. I can write my own laws of nature and just see what happens. You can’t consider the inexhaustible possibilities of your own imagination without getting a little jazzed.
And this unbridled creative potential has further implications. Fiction writing allows me to invent quandaries through which ideas of philosophy, ethics, religion, and more can be explored. It’s for this reason that I love science fiction; fantastical settings can lay the groundwork for some very interesting questions. In “Author, Author“, an episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the ship’s holographic doctor has written his own “holonovel.” The Doctor finds his legal rights called into question when his publisher argues that since he is not a person he has no rights as an author. During the resulting tribunal, the arbitrator muses that “The Doctor exhibits many of the traits we associate with a person … but are these traits real or is The Doctor merely programmed to simulate them? To be honest, I don’t know.” I like his honesty. Sometimes, the questions that come up can be too confusing, nebulous, or just plain weird to make any sense of. And many times, I don’t know what to think. I’m left feeling baffled, but intrigued.
Which brings me to my next point: putting my thoughts and emotions into writing helps me to better understand them. This is actually why I blog: to explore and hopefully refine my undeveloped thoughts about the world. And it’s been working, at least so far! As I write, I can chisel my roughshod ideas into shape. I sometimes discover new dimensions to an issue that I hadn’t previously considered. Other times, I chip off pieces that don’t seem to contribute well or make all that much sense. It can be a fun process, and I usually feel accomplished by the end of it.
And hopefully, writing about my thoughts can help create what I personally believe is the best product of writing: discussion. Good writing should inspire readers to develop and present their own thoughts. When this happens, it creates a dialogue of sorts. I can only get so far exploring my own mind. I find much deeper fulfillment and learning when I’m allowed into the minds of others. Discussion is the gateway to new understandings, perspectives, and discoveries.
So tell me, why do you write?
Some friends of mine have written responses, which you can find below!
“on writing: a response” by Christopher Kendall
“Why to Write” by Kelly Cannon
“Turning Blood Into Ink” by Alexis Ancona
“A Reason for Writing” by Selina Gonzalez
“It All Begins With A Map” by Jared Umberger