Many authors end up writing something about why they write. I thought I would do this relatively early in my writing career. My answer is simple: writing is a means of discovery. If I don’t write, I don’t learn or understand or gain insight and uncover a new perspective on an old issue. In short, if I don’t write, I don’t discover . . . anything.
This is a different view of writing for some people. I’ve talked to others who seem to think writing is the last step in a long and arduous process of research, analysis, introspection, and critical thought. Certainly, it can be! I have experienced writing in that way as well. But what drives me to write is not any of that. It’s the sense of discovery, of new understanding, that pushes me to sit down and begin typing (or scratching down words on paper). When I write, I start moving. Writing, for me, is not a static activity of recording thoughts that are already fully developed. Of course, some thoughts that we write are (and should be) fully developed before anyone else sees them, but that does not comprise the majority of the writing process. I may have ideas that are solidified, like stepping stones that I plan to jump across as I write, but there is water in between the stones.
So, when I hear someone say, “Writing is hard for me because I love being in the research stage,” or “Writing is okay once I get my thoughts organized,” I can sympathize on some level, but my response is terse: “If I don’t write, I don’t learn. I don’t discover.”
My point is that something very special happens in the writing process. When I sit down to externalize what has been internal, it’s not a mere act of recording. There is newness and development that seeps through. Sometimes (oftentimes, actually) I am surprised by what I write. I think, “Where did that come from?” While some might attribute this to subconscious activity, I understand it (with caution) as the Spirit’s presence in me. If God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us” (Eph. 3:20), is it a stretch to assume that he would be working outside the bounds of my thought and imagination while I’m writing? I don’t think so. God is the one who helps me discover. Apart from his work in me, I would find nothing.
Anyway, there you have it. I write because I want to discover. I want the mental expedition, the journey, the travel. I want to seek and find. And if I give that up, if I lose the chance to discover, I feel hollow and purposeless, because writing is my calling. So, I write because I want to discover, but I also write because I need to discover.