“We do not write to be understood. We write in order to understand.” C.S. Lewis
What wisdom there is in these words! While many of us do, in fact, write to be understood—to share who we are and what we know—in the end, all good writing is a voyage of discovery. One of the greatest gifts writing gives us—and our readers—is the gift of getting to the heart of things, of understanding.
When you think about it, writing is more than just explaining or describing. As Dinty Moore says so well in “The Mindful Writer,“
“To write requires learning, discovering, examining, interrogating. Writing is the process of putting down words, then stepping back, considering those words, trying to understand them.
“What have you written? What does it say? What does it fail to say? Do you even agree with what you have written?”
So often, our writing surprises us, doesn’t it? Once we set something down on paper, we see that it’s not set in stone. It may be true or not true. It may be only half true and need to be added to. Writing is above all else, an act of discovery:
We discover that our first idea needs changing or fine-tuning.
We discover that our characters are not who we think they are.
We discover that an idea doesn’t really reflect where we are now.
We discover that there’s much more to say and understand.
Wonderful isn’t it? To think that our words take us to hidden and exciting places in our own minds? That they free us to explore and grow and change—and to share what we’ve learned with readers?
In the end, I think writing dangerously is more expansive than our friend C.S. Lewis suggests. I believe that often we write to be understood and to understand. How about you? Write on!
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