Sounds. Syllables. Words. Sentences. Paragraphs. Pages. Stories. Lives.
I’ve been a reader ever since I can remember. Aside from a moment of panic in the bathtub when I was four bemoaning the fact that I would never get this reading thing down, I’ve always loved books, and in turn, words. It’s not surprising to me then that my love of writing came from this early passion for words (bathtub panic attacks not withstanding).
Words are exciting to me. They birth whole worlds, entire universes inside my mind as my eyes move down a page or my fingers fly across a keyboard.
When I was little I remember writing “books” comprised of computer paper and colored pencil drawings, simple sentences scrawled on each page recounting trips to the pool with my brothers or the adventures of imaginary princesses. Elementary school brought essay prompts answered in rambling detail, while in high school I discovered this thing called journalism via a bi-monthly newspaper and a passionate teacher.
College only solidified my desire to write, stretching and nurturing this fledgling talent I held onto tightly as a freshman and transforming it into something completely independent of myself by the time I walked out of the English and journalism hallway as a senior.
Words, sentences, stories were no longer about me, instead they were about the student with special needs, the girl who wears a hijab, or the young man growing up in Haiti. These were not my stories, but theirs, not personal but collective.
And I loved it. I thrived within this type of storytelling.
But lately I’ve been embarking upon a different king of storytelling, a different type of writing, and I can’t help but wonder if it’s selfish.
Sure, I write about feelings, ideas, and seasons of life that most people feel, think, and experience. Maybe. But I’m no longer telling the stories of others on a weekly, if not daily, basis like I was a year ago. I’m no longer writing to inform, I’m writing about me.
But maybe not.
I once heard that the more intimate and personal a piece of writing is, the more relatable it can be. I don’t know if this is always true (I don’t even remember where I heard it), but I, at least, have found it to be the case when reading really good, vulnerable writing.
Vulnerability in writing invites connection. It’s a moment of “oh that happened to you? Me too.” An instance of “other people besides me have felt this way? Now I’m not alone.”
I write not to express what I think, but to discover what I think. Not to have my voice heard, but to hear the voice that all too often gets turned down in favor of the more immediate voices vying for my attention. It’s vulnerable. It’s personal. But it’s in those moments that I feel the most connected to the person of Jesus I’m striving to understand more and more each day. It’s when I turn down the voices in my head fighting for control that I can let Him come out in the words I put on the page.
Because really, that’s why at the end of a long work day I sit down with my laptop and try to put together some coherent sentences: It makes me feel closer to Him. I feel like I’m doing what little I can to serve the God who gave me these words, sentences, and stories.
Maybe it’s not as selfless as writing about the latest student issue on campus or furiously scribbling down the life story of a person in a third-world country, but it’s still a story. My story. And I can only hope it’s somewhat similar to yours, too.
words by Kaylyn Deiter and photo by Corrie Mahr