Why do we write? Below are some answers in paraphrase or direct quotation, some with a mix of both:
“. . . to facilitate the enslavement of other human beings. . . .” or to exercise control over them ~ Claude Levi-Strauss
‘Conscientization’ of the oppressed, or liberation from ‘enslavement’ ~ Paulo Freire
Writing is a speech-dependent medium whose sole purpose is to inscribe spoken discourse ~ Ferdinand de Saussure
Writing as a mode of discourse “parallel and comparable to speech” whose purpose is hermeneutical, or directed toward “understanding at and through distance.” ~ Paul Ricoeur
I remember a nice line from the movie “Shadowlands” that said, “I read so I won’t feel alone”. So that’s perhaps why I read a lot, because I enjoy the company of both the living and the dead. But, why do I write?
In my post “On Writing Well”, I realized that I should have reworked my categories. From communicator-writer-blogger to speaker-writer-blogger and communicator should have been the more general category. I preferred to speak more than write, and blogging somehow initiated me more into a kind of writing. But as someone reminded me, writing (and blogging) is communicating, So, why do I write, is not too different from why do I speak, I do both in order to communicate.
But, in recent times, I’m learning more each day that I write because I want to clarify my soul-filled-disembodied thoughts often random, scattered and fragmented. When I write them down by hand, as I still do on and off in my journal, or as I’m doing now through this lovely wire-less keyboard, the thoughts get embodied into words that I can see and not just feel intuitively. The whole process is communicating with myself (and some of you eavesdropping), and in the process clarifying what I intend to communicate, or what I’m simply pondering in my head.
If I had to vote, I cast mine to Ricouer’s notion of ‘writing’ first towards myself, and then what I hope to achieve with others. The link of writing and speech resonated with me tremendously. The implied notions of time and space captured in the word ‘distance’ is also something I wish to overcome, or at least build a bridge to enable us to walk back and forth towards ‘understanding’. Friere’s notion of ‘conscientization’ built into his rationale for writing comes to a close second. Somehow, Saussure’s idea focused on ‘inscribing’ spoken discourse is a little too impersonal for me, while Levi-Strauss’s quote above gives me goose-bumps ethically. Of course, their reasons for writing might be more nuanced that these couple of lines are able to represent.
But, then again, Levi-Strauss’s notion of ‘enslavement’ through writing seems to ring true in a way. As I observe again and again how the mass media often is being manipulated by different actors, the ‘what’ and ‘how’ content is communicated can turn out to be a mass ‘propaganda’ tool used to serve the interests of a few. The more I get a grip of the whole science of ‘discourse analysis’ this becomes clearer and clearer. Words are powerful. Writings – from conception right through the conclusions – are influential either to enslave, or to liberate the readers.
So, Why do I write? I write to communicate, and I’ve learnt how writing helps me to clarify and organize my thoughts. And I should add that I write to ‘create’ or engage in a creative process. I’d like to imagine that when I write I am making a link not only with the present, but also with the future. So, it’s a little different from reading which has a clearer link to the past. In a segment during my Norwegian class last week, when we were learning how to name the time, I was in intrigued by the way time was talked about. For example, for twenty past three, in Norwegian it’s ten minutes to half to four. So, I needed quite some adjustments in the way I think in order to grasp the logic of the whole new way of talking.
A random though arose during the class. While in some cases, we refer to the past to name our present, it’s also possible to refer to the future in most of our presents. Perhaps in a way I can’t fully understand, I hope the writings can create possibilities, connections, and serve as a catalyst for change for the better in this world – both virtual and surely the real too!