Santa Clarita Signal • Opinion Column • Ethically Speaking • August 17, 2014
Why I Write
David W. Hegg
By my count, this column is #211. Two hundred eleven times I have put my thoughts into writing and offered them up to the public conversation and critique. I must admit, when I first suggested a column on ethics to the leadership of the Signal I never dreamed it would come to this. This column has become part of my weekly routine. More than that it has become a bit of a master. It has me under its thumb, always reminding me another 750 words will be required, and should make at least some sense.
Occasionally I am asked why I continue to do this. Honestly, I don’t have a clever answer. What I do have is a reason to write. More to the point, I find writing to be an amazing discipline, a tremendous challenge, and a life-giving enterprise for my soul. Here’s why:
1. Writing forces me to think: Few things call us to think deeply and coherently like a writing assignment. For those who, like me, wonder if Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are chasing us, writing may be one of the tools that can help us outpace them. To write is to think clearly, organize logically, and express it all in a way that invites engagement, and – hopefully – spurs further thought in the reader. For me, writing is forced cogent thinking squeezed into an ordered sequence, and poured into just the right words and sentences. It all takes a kind of thought process I find nowhere else.
2. Writing forces me to simplify: Abraham Lincoln once apologized for a lengthy letter saying “I didn’t have time to write a shorter one.” Good writing is all about simplicity, being able to bring insight succinctly. A weekly column is an ongoing exercise in taking big things, and putting them into a small package without losing intensity or validity.
3. Writing forces me to comply: There is in all of us a desire to color outside the lines, break the rules, and cut any cords that hold us back. Writing reminds me compliance with rules is absolutely necessary for success. Grammar, logic, readability, coherence, consistency … all of these have rules both written and unstated. As a writer, it is necessary to comply, and in compliance there is a good reminder real freedom is always found within understood parameters.
4. Writing forces me to realize relationship: While writing is a solitary endeavor, no writer is ever independent. I am indebted to you who read this, even those of who just love to trash almost everything I believe and write. You’re still very important to me! I learn from you, and hope our rather weird dialogue is helpful to us both. Writing a column keeps me mindful that I live in a melting pot society, where the marketplace of ideas is messy, and it is never necessary for everyone to agree. What is necessary is for everyone to think, listen, and put up with those who disagree.
5. Writing forces me to admit my own reality: Finally, writing is daunting. To write my thoughts and throw them out on the waters of public opinion is both hard and scary. Ever time I write I am reminded my voice is small, just one of millions, and may ultimately have absolutely no effect.
Writing also reminds me of my own weaknesses. I often feel chagrin at the prospect of pushing out another column. I have to fight off my natural laziness. Most of all, my pride wants to tell you that each column is like a child of mine, and how dare you not think its cute!
Writing forces me to admit I’m still learning, still growing, still trying to overcome my deficiencies, and ultimately, on the same journey with you all. But most of all, writing reminds me I’ve been given a great privilege that brings with it a great responsibility.
To write is to enter into your lives though we’ve never met. It is to be invited into a conversation the other side of which I may never hear. It is also to be allowed some of your time, some of your mind, and some of your heart. Thank you for reading, and more than that, for thinking along with me. I promise never to take our relationship for granted, or do less than my part to make it a benefit for us both.