Ten Reasons to Write Regularly

In “Why I Continue To Write: Thirty-five years after Last Exit to Brooklyn,” Hubert Selby Jr. says of his youth,

I went into the hospital in 1946, with advanced tuberculosis, and altogether I spent three and a half years in the hospital. By the time I got out I had had 10 ribs removed, one lung collapsed, a piece of the other one removed, and there were some severe complications from an experimental drug that was used to keep me alive. During these years I was given up for dead several times. . . . Anyway, I was sitting at home and had a profound experience. I experienced, in all of my Being, that someday I was going to die, and it wouldn’t be like it had been happening, almost dying but somehow staying alive, but I would just die! And two things would happen right before I died: I would regret my entire life; I would want to live it over again. This terrified me. The thought that I would live my entire life, look at it and realize I blew it forced me to do something with my life. This did not make me a writer, but provided the incentive to discover that I am a writer.

Selby is now remembered as one of the most impactful American authors of the 20th century, due largely to his insatiable desire to accomplish something of significance and leave a legacy worth remembering. Writing came to define him, and as a result, he helped define American culture by painting a sobering picture of the human condition. Here are ten reasons to write regularly.

  1. When you write regularly, your mind commits to making work matter. As a result, you’re less afraid to write when it comes to larger challenges (like a proposal, school paper, legal report, letter of recommendation, or detailed email asking for a raise).
  2. Writing refines your sense of audience and purpose. Many experienced writers will tell you they didn’t have a clearly developed notion of audience until they took the writing process seriously. As a result, they started perceiving relationships and social interactions more perceptively and maturely, and they could then guide their intentions more effectively. Writing is cyclical and reciprocal. We generate a concept, write it down, and recreate meaning from the words that talk back to us from the page, all of which hones our ability to understand our intentions.
  3. Writing allows you to chronicle your experience. Revisiting text you generated many years ago reminds you of who you were at the time, how you’ve changed, for better or worse, and how you now relate to your current identity.
  4. Since writing is introspective, it’s interesting. Regardless of the mode or genre you use when generating text, your logic, emotion, comprehension, and style are on display with every word. Your writing is at least a meta-reflection of your identity, or at most a revealing mirror into someone you need to get to know a little better.
  5. You can channel your emotions through writing. Doing so is cathartic, comparatively safe, and sometimes even a form of sublimation. You can rage, despair, or stand bewildered or in awe of the universe in few or many words. In the process, you actualize your greatest passions and purge your inner demons. Articulating your darker thoughts often turns them into something intriguing and beautiful.
  6. Through writing, you can articulate concepts that matter to a world in need of intelligent analysis. How often have you gotten fed up with empty, crude online or hard-copy communication that passes for discourse these days? We can wage war against ignorance by sharing thoughtful reflections that matter to us and, therefore, might matter to others who are familiar with similar experiences.
  7. Writing enables you to toy with multiple perceptions. For instance, visionary science fiction writing becomes science fact because writing frees the mind to envision alternative realities not easily perceived by the five senses. Bringing subconscious experience into the light of the conscious world through writing spells innovation and redefinition.
  8. Over the years, it can be gratifying to see your body of work build into something impressive. In certain moments, you realize that writing transported you across a liminal province separating cultural imposition from self-assertion and autonomous definition. Engaging the endless supply of quicksilver thoughts racing through your neural pathways defines you as someone with a rich inner life. There’s no point in suffering through an emotionally and intellectually bankrupt life by choice.
  9. Writing creates private time in an unrelenting world. How can we even attempt to understand ourselves when we spend little time making the effort to do so?
  10. Writing keeps the computer warm for the cat.

(Credit: Wikimedia Commons)