An urge to write, but what to write. I have taken to keeping a diary again, writing roughly once a week. I have been enjoying the experience. It is a good way of putting things in order and reflecting on life. I have enjoyed reading diaries, both real and fictional, together with memoirs and biography. I guess it is the window into other lives, generally of people who are historically or culturally significant for various reasons. Writing my own diary and enjoying those of others, I am conscious that it shouldn’t become driven by some bizarre, competitive comparison exercise. To this end, I have found one of the most enjoyable aspects of keeping a diary playing with language and finding a voice.
Having a voice is important, but the question remains of what to say. Sitting at the laptop to type this, I was wracked by what to write. I have just returned from leading a school trip to Iceland. I’d like to put some words to paper about this, but equally want to look through more of the photos I’ve taken. It was an amazing place and I won’t consign it to a supporting role in this post. I have picked up Tom Hanks’ new collection of short stories. As a number of endorsements on the dust jacket say – how annoying! An incredibly talented actor and an accomplished writer too. I guess both talents are a form of storytelling.
Storytelling is an art which seems central to humanity. Through a Twitter recommendation, I have also got a copy of psychologist Tim O’Brien’s book Inner Story. It could be classed, and by some dismissed, as a self-help book, but just from reading the introduction it stresses the importance of stories in terms of how we act in our daily lives. I can remember reading about the importance of narrative in political campaigning. As a teacher I recognise there is much in common between excellent exposition and storytelling. I have heard it remarked before that there is much in common between teaching and writing. Both crafts try to master the act of transferring ideas from one mind to another. Having a burning urge to write however doesn’t necessarily come along with those ideas, interesting enough to transfer to other minds.
Is it writer’s block if you have nothing to say? And is having nothing to say necessarily a bad thing? Another advantage of a diary, which is quite liberating, is not having to worry about readership. Which isn’t too different from this blog which isn’t exactly like writing for a published magazine. There is still enjoyment to be had though, in the act of writing itself. Part of the challenge is retaining enough motivation to put ideas into writing as I have them, rather than waiting for them to have been forgotten or otherwise gone off the boil. Take Iceland for instance, what will I say and why will it be of interest? Is the latter important? What is the purpose of the writing? To entertain myself? Or maybe in the hope that others will be entertained or informed? Maybe the important thing is just to get on and write.