Two words: Backspace and Delete.
These vital tools are not available to us when we speak. We all like to express ourselves, but not all of us have the impromptu elegance or instinctively savvy tongue we’d like. Sometimes things come out of our mouths wrong. Often, we’re in a hurry to just get it out, to be heard. We can’t always think clearly or properly before we speak and when we do, we don’t always think right or carefully or all the way through to the conclusion. Emotions get in the way and without the ability to backspace and delete, our words get us in trouble far too often.
Effective communication is only achieved when the one receiving the message understands the meaning of the message the sender intended to send.
Speaking and listening are mankind’s default method of communication. Once we attain a vocabulary and a basic grasp of our native language, we can communicate our intentions with words and phrase and sentences using our ever-ready-to-speak mouths. The ease of using of our mouths to express ourselves has pitfalls, however, because we can’t suck our words back in after they come flying out in rough draft form.
But, when we write, we can backspace and delete to our heart’s content. Only when we push “send” or “print” can our words become weapons that hurt others or ensnare us.
I was mentored early on by a wise and successful writer, Veronica Rossi (www.veronicarossi.com), who taught me the mantra: “writing is revising.” We write because we can think, write, think right, write, rethink, and rewrite. It’s beautiful. It allows free expression without the hazards that accompany free-flowing expression. We don’t get to edit what we accidentally said that was ill-informed, hurtful, or just plain wrong. There’s no delete key connected to our mouth.
Granted, writing isn’t always perfect, either. It’s certainly not as quick and when it is, we sometimes forget to do a quality check before we make our written words public. Sometimes we write strictly with emotion, no constraints, no filters, no spell check, no grammar corrections.
True, writing lacks the vocal inflection speakers are blessed with. Inflection adds color and vibrancy to one’s words and sprinkles one’s message with subtleties unavailable through ink on a page or pixels on a screen. But, with multiple tries – the supernal gift known as editing – we can craft a piece of writing that needs no inflection.
I write because I can. Humans are the only life forms on earth blessed with the ability to write. And because it’s the most readily available forum I have to string together thoughts that matter to me and that might matter to someone else out there in a way that suits me and, hopefully, conveys the meaning I mean to convey. I can tell a story or teach a principle or share a memory, an emotion, or a wish more effectively when given the chance to fix the errors and omissions along the way.
I write because I can’t sing. At least not well enough to solo in public and expect to be taken seriously. Very few audiences would bear through one of my recitals. I couldn’t even bear to listen for long.
I write because I like the idea of sharing a little piece of myself in the hopes that others may benefit, or at least smile, from something I wrote. Hopefully, good writing inspires good thoughts. And good thoughts inspire good actions. And good actions make the world a little bit better for everyone.
That’s why I write.
For more about writing, see: