It may have struck you that I probably do identify as a writer, and that I identify writing as art. I am one of those artists who is committed less to product and more to process, not on one piece but rather on a disciplined creative process which facilitates continuing growth and expression.
Writing, like most art, is about making the invisible visible, about symbolizing and sharing it. It is also the most commercial of the arts, regularly used for everyday functioning, from memos to PowerPoint presentations. Virtually everybody knows how to write, at least on some level, though that doesn’t mean that they are all writers.
I write for so many reasons.
I write to discover what I feel, think and believe, using the power of visibility to help me organize and polish my own understanding and approach to the world.
I write to share myself with the world, opening myself to connection and caring.
I also write as a service. By making what I see visible in the world, I can reveal threads and possibilities that may have stayed hidden in the clutter to other people.
“You write well because you think well,” an old professor once told me. Which comes first, the clarity of thinking that creates expository writing, or the revelations from the process of writing that clarify thinking? The process is a virtuous circle, sharp writing creating sharper thinking which then continue to sharpen each other.
As a writer, I believe that everyone should delight in the process of making the invisible visible, exposing the crocks and jewels, bringing the light and casting out the darkness in a way that lets us get clearer and better.
It may not surprise you to find that I have not always found that to be true. There are many people who like very much to remain hidden and shaded, choosing to surf on top of the chaos to maintain their own comfort rather than allowing the game to be exposed.
I had a boss who believed in the management theory that you should only tell staff what they need to know. When I came along, believing that staff should know everything except what explicitly should be secret and publishing a weekly newsletter to that effect, his world was challenged. Luckily his bosses really liked knowing what was going on, really believed in open information, so he was between me and them.
So many people want to control their image, to only disclose what they think you should know, to not be confronted by their own messy bits. They crave being exposed, but only on their terms and conditions.
This makes the service of writing in creating community a challenging thing. Shiny blurbs or reheated polemics may make people comfortable, but they do not expand the audience, do not keep people engaged. They do not promote growth and healing, only serve the status quo.
I often write as a service, taking what people share with me and making it visible in a well structured, revealing way. While many have been thrilled with seeing their reflection in text, they have also found it makes them a bit queasy. Mirrors are always challenging, which is why we so often seek to break them rather than looking deeply and saying the prayer: “Grant me the strength to change what I can, the serenity to accept what I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
How many organizations think that one of the best things that they can do is to get writers on-board, someone to make them visible in the world? How many organizations resist writers, believing that they are better at only pushing the image that they want to show, only playing the game that they want to play?
I know that there are value clear thinking that exposes the connections that can easily remain invisible. I also know that there are many for whom image management is the goal believing that their hidden manipulation serves them. I always fear writers who feel the need to shout down and shut down critics, revealing a desire to manage exposure rather than commit to it.
How do writers come together to understand not just their own commercial interests, their interest in drawing attention to themselves, but working to use the process and craft of writing to serve community in ways that engage challenge and promote growth and success?
Writing as service is writing for good, even when that good involves both death and nurturing that comes from exposure and accountability. The art is in the heart you smart writing exposes.
Somehow, I think, we need to support each other in doing that work.