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Why Write?

Why write? Yes, why write?

I often ask myself this question every time the deadline for the submission of my article in a community-based newspaper is fast approaching. When I am not in the mood, I watch football or basketball on TV until I hit the sack. The answer why I write is to share my ideas with others and to challenge the readers’ perspectives. I also want to improve my writing skills apart from discovering whether what I write resonates with the readers. But oftentimes it feels like the real reason why I write is to really spend my time wisely and meaningfully.

When I was imagining what my years of retirement would be like, I was advised by friends to keep myself busy and do something productive. They told me to have a clear vision of what I wanted to be to avoid boredom.

Obviously, nothing can make us become motivated to live life fully, especially during retirement, than knowing what we want to do.

While writing this piece, I came across an article by Jill Suttie in Greater Good Magazine where she describes a new book, Happier Hour, by Cassie Holmes.

Suttie begins her article by saying that many people feel that there are not enough hours left for them to do the things that matter, like hiking in nature, doing creative projects, or hanging out with people they love because they are busy with working, meal preparation, household repairs, and seemingly endless appointments.

She posits that Holmes’ new book offers trove of ideas on how to prioritize our time so that we live a happier and more meaningful life.

Suttie further explains, “One could argue that this topic has been mined before, but Holmes comes at it a little differently than most. For one thing she doesn’t assume the only way to feel less busy is to give up bunches of activities – or to cut back or retire from work. In fact, as Holmes points out, being not busy enough can have similar effects on our well-being as being too busy, because it can make us feel idle or without purpose.”

Feeling idle and without purpose is not what I want to be. I hate being unproductive. I remember a maxim that I once heard from a professor as a college student: “Don’t mistake activity for productivity.” It means that people tend to do many tasks, under the guise of being too busy, without profoundly reflecting on what activity would give them personal satisfaction.

Admittedly, I sometimes tend to equate productivity with activity. I go to the gym to do bike spinning. I eat out with my family. I do yardwork when needed. I take out the garbage bins regularly. I communicate with friends on Facebook. And many more. But at the end of the day, something is missing. It’s not that these tasks are not important. But I sometimes feel that I am mindlessly filling my time.

Which brings me to the idea that apart from spending time with my family and watching my grandchildren play flag football and soccer on weekends, I can best spend my time wisely and meaningfully by doing something that I really like – writing.

Writing for me is a powerful tool not only to share ideas but to influence people. When I write I can add my own ideas to a particular concept or thought, and this often leads to greater clarity and understanding as new ideas are generated. I also learn how to focus on what is important.

Of course, writing is time consuming, especially for someone like me who is still learning how to write. Truman Capote, American novelist, described writing “the hardest work around.” Annie Dillard, American author, said that “writing sentences is difficult whatever their subject.”

Be that as it may, there is one important element in writing that motivates me. And, that is, that writing can be a weapon to spread the truth.

My philosophy when I write is quite simple. I write with a social conscience. I learned this from Carlos Bulosan, the US-based Filipino writer in the 1930s, whose writings were the focus of my doctoral dissertation during my graduate studies at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Bulosan, who was considered by many in the same stature as Steinbeck, Tolstoy and Tagore, to mention a few, wrote, “It was only when I began to write about life and people I have known that a certain measure of confidence began to form as my periscope for future writings.”

In all his writings, Bulosan wrote about the plight of the voiceless and the oppressed, and the struggle for justice in society. Consciously, in my own small way, I have taken to heart Bulosan’s way of writing.

I have long decided to make writing my passion and spend more of my limited time writing. Maybe by writing more often, I will be forced to organize my time so that I can use it meaningfully. After all, how I spend my time is how I spend my life.


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