On December 1, 2020, like other days, I wake up with a desire to write, to unfurl my heart’s longings into a book. I feel a sense a duty, an obligation, an ache that won’t be fulfilled till I get to write.
As I go about my activities after writing, a question lingers on my mind and I ask to no one in particular “What is the writer’s debt to the world, why does he/she write?”
Writing is almost as old as the earth. It was and still being used to tell stories, preserve history and information.
The place of writers most times is seen as a sacrosanct one and one that is extolled. Sometimes metaphorical expressions are used to describe writers, words like “a prophet and a custodian”
On this, Pritchard, a novelist and storyteller writes “Great writers are witnesses to the spirit of their age. They need not be accepted by their times; they rarely are. Speaking truth, they may go unheard, be misunderstood or criticized. Later posthumously, it is said they were ahead of their time”
There is no doubt that writers are revered somewhat, but we also know how the world sometimes treat their works with cold indifference, heavy criticism and neglect.
I’m curious as to why writers write.
What is this imaginable duty they carry?
Prictchard asks this same question, in his words “Why write? Why add to the tumult of the world? Your competition is fierce …from television, film, video”
As a writer with a goal and what I call a vision to make the creative process of writing simpler, the question hits me directly and I answer.
I see it as a calling, a divine duty imposed by God himself, maybe it is indeed as people have described it “beyond the recognition that comes with it”, and because it is “absolutely necessary”
Because not everyone wakes up with a desire to tell a story, to teach and if you are among these persons, then it is sufficient reason to write.
The reason writers write doesn’t have to be complicated, it is just as simple as the answer “because they want to” and because they feel they have to.
Writing is true in its mission to touch hearts and affect lives. It is in it that we find the power of storytelling- the spirit that makes people identify with something, the emotion that makes people say “That story touched me; it is exactly how I feel”
This is why writers write.
When Pritchard describes our works and expression as sacraments, as visible blessings– it may be indeed be one of the profound descriptions ever given about writing.
He goes ahead to say “Art is a form of active prayer”.
That prayer is the strength behind the tenacity and consistency of writers amidst rejections, to push even at the face of indifference and downright negativism maybe because we have found wisdom in these timeless words “Try to free yourself from attachment to results, to awards, publications, praise, to indifference, rejection and misunderstanding…”
Indeed, the honour of writing is in the work itself.
Many authors and writers have aired their opinions about the work of a writer and his responsibility.
Do writers have a duty?
Rather strikingly, E.B White shared his opinion about the duty of a writer. He said “.. a writer has a duty to be good, not lousy; true, no false; lively; not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life”
E.B white shared this timeless perspective in 1969, today, in the online world where the news has become easier, accessible, fluidic and dynamic, has the duty of the writer changed?
The place of a writers and his importance is one that has been largely unchanged.
E.B White in his interview echoes this when confronted with this question, he says“The writers role is what it has always been; he is a custodian, a secretary. Science and technology have perhaps deepened his responsibility but has not changed it”
In all these, I remember the words of Susan Suntang speaking to writers “Love words, agonize over sentences and pay attention to the world” “Be serious” she adds finally.
This is the duty of a writer.
Susan Sutang, E.B White, William Faulkner, all share similar opinions that writing and the responsibility of a writer transcends the mere writing of words, that it moves into more weightier obligation, a sort of spiritual purpose.
I believe it to be so.
A writer when handling words should be aware that he is telling a story and that he has a duty to tell it truthfully.
He has a duty to educate the society with better judgment, to tell the experiences of people, to speak of his experiences too. He has a duty to be serious.
He helps our imaginations, he creates vision, and he makes us see. He has a responsibility to speak truthfully about the society that he lives in. It is the duty of a writer to communicate, to raise an alarm, to sing a song that though not duly recognized immediately is essential to reflect and interpret messages to his society.
On December 2, 2020, I am filled again by a desire to write and I accept it more than ever before with a heavy consciousnesses that I have a duty- perhaps the most important one on earth.