Updated: Mar 6, 2020
While trying to figure out what to write about today, I came across three creative writing-related articles:
“Life Sentences – What Creative Writing by Prisoners Tells Us About the Inside” on The Conversation
“How Creative Writing Can Boost Students’ Resilience” – on MSN News
“6 Reasons Why You Never Finish Writing Anything” – from Medium.
I know those titles might seem largely unconnected. But they all actually say the same exact thing in the end: that writing can be an exceptionally powerful way to promote purpose and self-esteem.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re in prison or a college, which can also be very connected. And while I mentioned creative writing specifically at the top, it also doesn’t matter whether you’re composing fiction or nonfiction.
Poetry or prose.
Personal blog posts or academic articles.
That is to say, it might matter in terms of your personality type or how much money you make.
But the other benefits are still the same, and they boil down to this…
You’re making something happen.
While articles #1 and #2 listed above are equally fascinating, the opening to article #3 needs to be mentioned first:
There are only two things you need to do to be a writer. One easy, one hard.
The first is obvious, and it is easy. You need to write. The second is also obvious but more challenging and not given enough attention by fledgling writers.
You need to finish things.
But finishing is easier said than done. Unfinished projects haunt aspiring writers like ghosts in a graveyard.
If you learn how to finish things, like whole books or long-form essays and blog posts, you’ll put yourself in truly elite company. From there, you can plot your approach to superstardom; but first, you have to learn how to finish.
The problem for many of us is that we do things on a daily basis that sabotage our hopes and dreams, and keep us from doing the very thing upon which our success wholly depends.
To me – and I’m guessing to the writer, Tom Belskie, himself – that sounds like a general life issue. If we want something, we’re going to have to work to get it. And when we work to get it, we feel better about ourselves.
We’ve accomplished something. We’ve proven we’ve got what it takes to set a goal and meet it.
As I wrote above, this promote purposes – which is what every single one of us, writer or not, is, was, and forever will be looking for.
I’ve never been in prison before, but I imagine it’s an easy place to lose one’s sense of purpose. (Though, arguably, most people are in prison because they didn’t have one to begin with.)
There’s a limited amount of things to do and paths to pursue. It’s the same thing day in and day out to a large degree, with no real ability to change your scene.
Some of us might think we can relate to that, but at least we have the choice of escape – even if we never take it.
Yet writing fiction or nonfiction gives an immediate distraction from the humdrum results of bad choices. It allows people (prisoners or otherwise) to either travel so far inward or so far outward of their physical surroundings.
Either way, it’s an accomplishment in the making: a reason to ultimately smile just a little bit more, even if that smile is only in one’s mind.
As for students, I wasn’t kidding before when I said an analogy could be made between them and prisoners. Only theirs is a prison of the mind.
In too many cases, higher education (or lower education) isn’t about encouraging critical thinking. It’s about encouraging conformity.
Writing for the sake of writing, however – as in, when there’s no one breathing down your neck saying that you have to – can accomplish the very opposite. Suddenly, you have the chance to think outside of the academic box, challenging yourself to choose the right words, the right sentences, the right paragraphs... not to get a good grade, but to actually say something meaningful.
Again, it really is all about meaning. All about purpose. And if writing can help you find yours, then what are you waiting for?
Start writing and finish it already. It’s well worth the effort.