When we’re writing something, anything from a detailed history essay to a personal reflection, sometimes we end up treating writing just as a mechanical action that consists of typing our thoughts directly into our laptop, as systematically and objectively as a robot would. We don’t think, we do. We don’t consider the real purposes and big pictures that our work could convey to the reader, rather we selfishly pay attention only to ourselves, on what our ideas are and on how to better put them onto paper.
But this is not what writing is all about, especially if we are trying to share our experiences with the world. As Don George writes in his article for National Geographic, “you should strive to give your experience a larger context. Ask yourself: What’s this all about? What’s the meaning here?” Even though he specifically refers to the art of telling a story about different journeys we all undergo in our lives, I believe this concept can be easily linked to any written work we have to produce.
It is true, some may say that when you’re crafting an essay for your literature or history class the only thing you have to worry about is organizing all of your knowledge about the topic into a unified and coherent sequence of paragraphs. But is this really true? Is this what you only have to do? What I just described is the required part, but we all know that excellence doesn’t come from sufficiency. Excellence comes from a binomial component, made up of both a required part and an extra trait that qualifies your work as extraordinary. And this quality is what Don George is trying to define in his article: the passion, the sensations, the feelings and the essence of your work. They are the traits that will personalize your story and, therefore, get stuck in the readers’ mind rather than the knowledge in and of itself, which we know will eventually fade or also disappear anyway.
But how can you grasp the real essence and the sensations that a topic or an experience can give to you? As George states, “You can penetrate and absorb a place only as richly and deeply as you open yourself up to it.” In other words, dive into it. You cannot think that something you write can end up being extremely fascinating and excellent in all of its components if you don’t start from yourself and from the way you decide to orient your attitude about it. It may seem a cliché, but you really have to become part of the topic itself to really start knowing and appreciating it. It may also seem an absurd, abstract concept, but it’s easier than it seems: “diving into it” means trying to acknowledge how we feel about the experience or the topic we are writing about, trying to picture ourselves in its context, so that we will eventually be able to gather the real meaning of it within our own perspective on it.
It is important for any kind of writer to be subjective towards everything, to analyze concepts and reality with a personal point of view, which can only be created if we first open up to it as deeply and as freely as we can. Only in this way can you manage to create something that will make the world more colorful and open-minded.
Storytelling, and more generally writing, is hard. It is not as objective and mechanical as it can seem, but rather is diametrically the opposite of it. It’s all about yourself, yourself as a writer and yourself as an ambassador of culture, who wants to give a personal and relevant morale to the reader in order to make the world a more diverse place. This art doesn’t start from knowledge, it starts from you.