I thought it was rather appropriate that my first college writing assignment was, "Do you think writing is important?" I figured I'd share it here.
Three weeks ago, I sat alone in the parking lot of my home church at 5 o’clock in the morning. I hadn’t slept in at least 19 hours, and yet somehow I couldn’t bring myself to go home and collapse into bed. My mind was racing; after an incredible weekend of music and ministry with some of my closest friends, reality was beginning to sink in and I started coming to terms with the fact that I was moving away from everything I loved within ten days. I began crying out to God in my mind; in actuality, it felt like screaming. I needed to make sense of what was going on. Within moments of those initial prayers, I opened my backpack, pulled out my laptop, and began doing the only thing that made sense to me in such a time as this: I started writing. 1,310 words was all that it took to bring stability to my fragile soul and peace to a very troubled heart.
To me, writing is one of the most important things I think I can do as a person. Writing gives legitimacy to the thoughts that beg to escape from an author’s crowded mind. I believe I was in 6th grade when I stumbled across what I believed to be the best idea ever: “Hey! Maybe I should write a book!” Seven months later, I learned my first important lesson in writing: if you’re going to write a book using a word processor, don’t save your only copy to a flash drive. You’ll probably lose it; or, in my case, you’ll probably have it in your pocket when you’re thrown into a swimming pool. I was so furious when this happened to me. Seven months of hard work, gone forever. As an 11-year-old kid, this was practically traumatizing. However, shortly after this prepubescent tragedy, a new medium began to bloom right before my eyes: blogging.
For the last ten years, I’ve written online in some form or another. My earlier writings seemed incredibly primitive; almost all of my work in the first eight years was primarily autobiographical in nature. This writing was probably the least artistic as well, mostly involving lists of things I had done and how I felt about said achievements (much like this current essay.) In the last two years, this began to shift for me. As a musician, I’ve always been envious of my favorite songwriters for being able to put poetry to music. It was disheartening to me in a way, because I never felt like I could achieve anything remotely close to this. The inability to write music was a strong point of contention within my own internal narrative; I felt inadequate both as a musician and as a writer, which brought me to the verge of giving up creative endeavors altogether. A close mentor of mine soon convinced me that this would be a terrible idea. I began embracing the poetry that had been spilling from my mind onto paper and screen for years, and stopped discarding these writings despite my needless perfectionism and anxiety. I made a pact with myself and my mentor to publish every piece of writing that came to mind, no matter how imperfect or flawed I felt it might be. Out of this newfound motivation, something unexpected happened in my own mind. I began discovering how cathartic this writing was to my soul. It was a taming of my own inner demons, a reflection of the chaos that had been controlling me and a confessional of the burdens that had held me back. Writing to me has become the primary method in which I communicate with God, and reflects the words of comfort, healing, and love spoken back from a creator who chooses to also be our sustainer.
I have always had mixed thoughts about taking a composition class, because I’ve worried that conventional writing styles often get in the way of poetry. My writing rarely lives in complex, complete sentences; I swim in a sea of ellipses and fragments and disjointed thoughts and too many used of the word “and” because it tends to be a reflection of my own mind – abbreviated and disjointed and free-flowing. But maybe this isn’t supposed to be the way it is; at least, not the only way. Composition classes have their own inherent value in the same way that a music class has inherent value. If you do not know how to compose, this can serve as a springboard for composing. Of course, there is also a necessary practicality for teaching the masses how to adhere to a prescribed form: where there is no order, there can only be chaos. In academia, this is especially important. One can only imagine a world in which all conventions of proper grammar and form are thrown out the window; a world in which all information and richness of language is boiled down to 140 characters or less. There is a time and place for poetry, and composing a term paper is rarely that time or place. My only hope is that academic writing can be seen as a springboard for narrative and creative composition. Where there are 1,000 rules, there are 5,000 ways to break them. Perhaps this class can teach us when to break them, and when to maintain harmony within the English language.
Writing in a parking lot at 5 o’clock in the morning isn’t ideal for academia. Writing in a classroom at 2 o’clock in the afternoon isn’t ideal for art. Perhaps these two worlds don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Perhaps both forms serve the same purpose: to express thoughts, emotions, and concepts that are just begging to be released from the confines of our walled minds. Each platform can worship the God who gives us these words to begin with.
Where there is chaos, let writing seek to bring clarity.