What did I accomplish in 2016?
Altogether, that’s probably only 10,000 words—a pretty sorry showing for someone who claims to write things.
But I didn’t just write 10,000 words. I wrote another 100,000 words that weren’t for public consumption. In 2016, I filled up a bunch of little notebooks with random scribblings. I felt compelled to invest time in personal journaling, and the more I wrote for myself, the less I needed to share my curmudgeonly opinions with the rest of the world. The decision to write privately left me with an easier spirit.
There is an inherent satisfaction from the journaling process. There’s a certain therapeutic quality to this kind of aimless writing, but I don’t think it’s just the navel gazing that’s brought me more peace. I think it has more to do with me not needing to worry about how people are reacting to my words. No one comes along behind me and “likes” my daily journal entry. Surprisingly enough, neither does anyone come along and crawl an angry comment at the bottom of the page. I don’t have to worry about whether an editor will accept my journal entry. I also have the curious habit of becoming sad if one of my blog posts or articles becomes popular. Journal entries do not become popular. Private writing has helped me know myself a little better.
But the pendulum swings.
All this private writing has been therapeutic, but I’m probably not called to merely psychoanalyze myself. Writing can be all sorts of things. It has a healing function, but it’s also work.
I tell my students that our work should be for the benefit of others. If I think of writing as an extension of my life’s work, then I ought to think about how my writing can serve others. Can my writing instruct? Can it entertain? Can it inspire? I don’t know, but I’m called to do all those things in the lecture hall. Maybe I should try to do them with the written word as well.
A year’s worth of self-reflection has given me a new perspective on writing. There’s a freedom in not feeling the need to inflict every opinion I might have on the world. Some of my thoughts are best kept to myself. However, some ideas matter, and I should find an appropriate way to share those.
Even if an idea matters, I should ask myself, “Do I really need to say this?” If I’m saying something critical, I should ask myself that question twice—maybe three times. Sometimes saying less of what I think can bring about more good.
PS. My journaling efforts were partially inspired by the wonderful notebooks available at baronfig.com. You should check them out. (I get no benefit from the recommendation, I just love their products.)