The written word can be a magic carpet that takes us to another world, another time. The landscape is often strange and unfamiliar, and may be fictional or allegorical. When we read the best writers, the journey gives us a glimpse into the minds of the world’s greatest thinkers from any age. We see the writer’s patterns of thinking and uncover his or her assumptions about the world and humankind. Such writings inform us and shape our thinking. These works engage, challenge, and stretch us.
Written language has two noteworthy qualities. First, it allows people to convey ideas. With language, one can describe weather, emotions, triangles, states of consciousness, human virtues, theories of government, and works of art – virtually anything. A writer just needs ideas and the vocabulary to express them. Writing conveys thoughts from one person to another.
Second, written language always produces a record. Theoretically, someone could write a document and then delete it, or write a letter and then burn it. However, words are usually written for the sake of clarifying and recording thoughts. If these words are stored and preserved, they can be shared across oceans and across millennia. Thoughts can be shared across vast time and space. Properly preserved, they can endure forever or at least until the Lord returns.
Reading a good author can take us into her world. Similarly, writing well can take us into others’ worlds. Through the written word, our ideas can go to times and places we have never heard of.
The most enduring legacies of history have not been achieved on the battlefield but on paper. Empires come and go. Political lines are redrawn every year. However, cultures are shaped by those who interpret the events of history, and those who suggest ways of understanding the world. Both accurate and flawed systems of understanding influence nations, cultures, and history.
It seems to me that the written word leaves the most significant and enduring legacy in the world.
That’s one reason I like to write. In journals, in blogs, in articles, I like to write. I also want to write a book some day. I’ve started nonfiction books many times. I have outlines and illustrations. I think that I even have ideas. Somehow, I have to put it all together. I just need to cultivate some of those qualities the ancients wrote about, like perseverance and discipline.