Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Only I Can Write

A few nights ago, I was doing what we people with self-esteem issues do when they're hanging around the apartment: I read through some of my old blog posts. My goal is always to make this blog better, thus increasing readership, thus impressing more women with my writing prowess, and thus finding someone with whom use my "Buy One Get One Free" coupon at Qdoba. So as I read through the writings of my younger self, I thought about which posts were good and which ones were bad, which ones I enjoyed and which ones I thought fell flat, which ones received a lot of feedback and which ones didn't.

What I noticed through all of this is that many of my posts that I would consider to be "slightly less dumpy than the others" were the ones that included more of my personal voice than the others. I write several different kinds of posts. Some don't sound much different from an research paper I might turn in for class. I'll write about some thought drawn from my Bible reading or some insight into whatever topic, but I am removed from the picture. It could be written by me, or it could be written by someone else, and you possibly wouldn't be able to know the difference.

In other posts, however, I show through a little more. There are some that I wrote when I myself was going through a season of difficulty, and that struggle colors the words on the screen. These are the posts that could not really be written by anyone other than me, because my personal situations are unique to me, the way I handle those situations is unique to me, and my voice in expressing all of it is unique to me. These are the posts that mean the most to me, and these are typically the ones that have gotten the most feedback.

Through this, I think there is an important lesson in writing to be learned, or an important lesson in communication in general. Effective communication must do more than convey an idea. It must also be structured in the voice of the communicator.

Good writing does more than communicate an idea. It communicates a person.

When I think about some of my favorite writers and favorite books, I think this truth continues to be affirmed. For example, I love everything I've read by C.S. Lewis. Most of his books aren't directly about him or his life (with the exceptions of Surprised by Joy and A Grief Observed, and maybe a few others). And yet, his books are very obviously written by him. He had a unique voice and a unique ability to understand human nature. And because of that, his works are unique, and his works are memorable. I could sit down and try to write a book about the reason evil and pain exists in the world, but I wouldn't be able to produce The Problem of Pain. Why? Because I'm not C.S. Lewis.

As a communicator, sometimes it can be tempting to try to leave yourself out of what you are communicating. And in some mediums, this may be appropriate. But much of the time, a work is enhanced when it is the outflow of one's own experience, viewpoints, and personal struggle. This is true in blog posts, and I think it's also true in sermons, lessons, songs, essays, articles, books, and conversation. You are uniquely you, so communicate as you.

And certainly don't communicate as me. Because then you'll end up having to eat two whole burritos yourself.

As if that were a bad thing.

1 comment:

Jim Landis said...

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and your post