Here’s a riddle for you: What do you call a writer who doesn’t write?
I’ll get to the answer a bit later. First, some backstory.
Although I’ve only regularly been writing on SoR.Shelter (now Pilgrim Shelter) for the last six months, I’ve had this blog and domain name for more than four years. It was with the best intentions that I came up with the name and went onto WordPress. It was a good start. However, when I sat down to write, there was a problem.
I didn’t really have anything to say.
The pen truly is a mighty weapon, and it should not be used flippantly.
At times in the past, I dabbled with unfinished short stories that weren’t worth reading and ideas that never became anything more. For many writers, the blank page is the most frightening and frustrating obstacle to writing. This was (and still is) certainly the case for me.
For years, I wanted to be a writer. Whenever someone would ask me about my dream job, ‘writer’ was always what first came to mind. Yes, having the freedom to go where I want when I want to, outside of an office, is appealing. If you’ve read anything I’ve written up to this point, you know that I love to travel, and writing could potentially provide the means to do that on a long term basis. However, my longing to be a writer is about much more than just an open schedule and freedom from office walls. It’s about contributing to humanity in the hope that, by some chance, I’ll say something that’s meaningful enough to make a real impact, something that will last.
It’s hard to say exactly when this desire to be a writer was borne in me. My best guess would be when I was 17 years old, in an American literature course in high school. It was in this class that I first read what is now one of my favorite books, The Great Gatsby (seriously, if you’ve never read it, or haven’t read it recently, pick it up. It’s a good story, and to say that Fitzgerald is a master of the English language is a gross understatement). In addition to reading Gatsby, that same class introduced me to a poem called A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There are a few lines from this poem that still pop into my mind on occasion, even after all these years. One of these lines is:
Art is long, and Time is fleeting
In just seven words, Longfellow sums up the profound truth that, even though our lives are relatively short, it is possible to create something that will last beyond our brief existence. That reality lodged itself in my mind, and it’s still there today.
Around this time, I also started to realize that words are powerful. This awareness has intensified in the intervening years. One need only take a cursory glance at history to see the impact that words can have. Words affect ideas and change minds. They can influence for good or for evil. They can bring healing or harm. The pen truly is a mighty weapon, and it should not be used flippantly.
I had to ask myself: Do I really have something to add to the jumbled conversation of this age of technology and instant gratification?
The reality of our world is that there is so much vying for our attention. So many voices are shouting, “Look at me!” The Internet with its limitless content. Hundreds of channels on television, including multiple 24-hour news networks. Sports. Books. Advertisements in various forms. Some of it is valuable, and some is less so.
There is only so much time in a day to absorb all the information and entertainment available, so we need to be cognizant of what we use to fill our time. In writing here, I’m asking you, reader, to take time out of your day to read what I have written, and I’m very appreciative when you do.
This forces me to ask some difficult questions. Why am I writing? Is this worth reading? Is it worth the effort and the hours I spend to write, edit, and post? Will my words bring about good? Do I really have something to add to the jumbled conversation of this age of technology and instant gratification?
This last question was one of my biggest obstacles to writing in the past. Coupled with a fear of rejection and an understanding of the weight of the undertaking, this uncertainty about adding another voice to the chorus kept me from writing for a long time.
It’s only within the past months that I’ve gotten past this obstacle. There are various reasons why I’ve finally put my fear and trepidation behind me. Travel is a muse for me, and my experiences in and thoughts about a new place gave me a lot to say. I’ve also grown more confident in my thoughts and who I am in general. Like each of us, I have a unique outlook on the world that’s shaped by my beliefs, personality, and experiences working in conjunction. A blessing (and a curse) of today’s technology is that everyone with a perspective and a computer can publish his or her thoughts for public consumption. I’ve decided to embrace this, putting my unique perspective out there for all to see.
In About Pilgrim Shelter, I said that some of my readers may be offended by the things I say, but I’ve still tried hard not to offend. This is not to say that I haven’t been true to myself. In fact, I’ve probably been too true to myself because, in my daily life, I genuinely strive not to rock the boat too much. There are, of course, certain topics that ignite a passion in me, and I’ll say what I feel about these without fear. However, if I truly want to write with boldness, as is a stated goal of this blog, I need to lay aside that desire to be universally liked. I want to be true to the title ‘Shelter’ and write as if this is a safe place, a place without judgement, a place where I don’t need to fear. I’m not going to change drastically the course of this blog, nor will I be edgy or controversial for the sake of being edgy or controversial. What I will do is write without undue apprehension. If I want to tackle a topic or tell a story, I will.
The answer to the riddle from earlier is obvious. A writer who doesn’t write isn’t really a writer. And so, putting pen to paper and fingers to keys, I decided to act on my longing to write. The previous posts here and, Lord willing, the future posts, are a testament to that.
I’ve said a lot about writing and the importance of words and wanting to say only that which I think is worth saying. After all of this, I’ll make a promise to you, reader. I will do my best to publish here on a (mostly) weekly basis, but I will only do so if I have something to say. Although everything here might not be directly relevant or meaningful to you, I will strive with everything in me to say only that which will be worth your time. I won’t always succeed, but I’ll try to fail well.
Thanks for reading.