Why Do I Write?
Why do people write? First of all, there are those who write for a living. They write novels, short stories and plays. They write screenplays for TV or movies. There are journalists and activists who write about what’s going on in the world and in our society to inform us, or in an effort to change things and hopefully make them better. There are the philosophers who write about their ideas. There are the scientists, specialists and scholars who write in order to share their discoveries with us or with an elite group of people who are the only ones able to understand what they are talking about. There are all those who write contracts, laws, regulations or the instruction manuals that tell us how to assemble and use the stuff that we buy at IKEA, Canadian Tire or Costco. There are also the people whose job it is to describe tourist attractions, resorts, and even the food we order in restaurants. A lot of people have to write reports and the minutes of meetings, and most people have to communicate in writing either with their bosses, colleagues and clients as part of their responsibilities at work.
The new technologies gave a platform to people who don’t have to write out of necessity, but just for fun, to share ideas, recipes, jokes and all sorts of things. They use Facebook to write trivial comments to their friends, to tell them about what they had for breakfast or their last trip to Europe. They use Twitter to share their opinions on just about everything from the colour of margarine to capital punishment with as many people as possible. Some want to share their faith, positive thinking or love of humanity while others want to spread their hate and extremist views.
Another possibility offered to us by the new technologies is to have a blog. Having a blog gives retired people like me, who have more time to spare, the opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts, interests, hobbies, opinions, religious or political views in a more in-depth way than on Facebook and Twitter. A few years ago, I didn’t even know what a blog was. I’m going to tell you why I chose to start one and a little bit about my experience with it.
I’m 65. When I retired two years ago, I was looking for a way to remain intellectually active. I did a lot of writing when I was working: pedagogical books for my students with a lot of stories, written exercises and dialogues, reports, outlines for new courses, etc. I even taught French writing in a non-academic environment when I was a French teacher at of the Bank of Canada. It goes without saying that writing was an important part of my professional life. My friend André, also a retiree, who had started writing articles for a blog dedicated to his old neighborhood of Québec City called Limoilou, and who had also written a few short stories, gave me the idea of starting my own blog. He told me about a website called Blog4ever, and, in no time, I was in business and ready to start writing.
Apart from being able to draw pretty well, I have no particular talent or aptitude, but I can be very motivated and disciplined when I want to. That’s why I was quite successful in a lot of things that I started: yoga, karate, kayaking, paddle boarding, cross-country skiing and dancing. I never tried singing and playing a musical instrument because I knew that motivation and discipline wouldn’t be enough. For my blog, I decided to write not only in French, but also in English, to give my brain a more complete workout, like when you target different muscle groups each time you do weight training. I started 18 months ago and I have already written and posted nearly 80 articles.
At first, I wrote a few articles to give my opinion on different topics or to tell stories about things that had happened to me during the course of my life. After a while, I realized that, as I kept writing, I started to develop a better understanding of my beliefs and values, and to look at my past experiences in a different and more meaningful way. In a book that I read not too long ago, the author quotes someone who said that writing was more an act of meditation than communication. In my case, it’s true. Sometimes, when I start writing, I’m not entirely sure of what I think or feel about something. By the time I finish reflecting and writing about that topic, things are a lot clearer to me. Leonard Cohen said this in his last interview before he passed away, “Spiritual things have fallen into places, for which I am grateful.” Like Leonard Cohen, I can say that, thanks to writing, a lot of spiritual thing have fallen into place for me. We often hear about the therapeutic benefits of writing. Writing has also helped me to go back and revisit the painful events or periods of my life to heal my emotional wounds and find a closure.
I sometimes write articles that are lighter and more fun to read. These articles are somewhat easier for me to write. It’s like taking a walk in the park. On the other hand, the more serious articles that I most often write are more like hiking on a mountain trail. It’s a more strenuous exercise but the results in terms of giving me a better insight and coming to terms with my past are much greater.
Now that I’ve made peace with a lot of things that were upsetting me, maybe I should concentrate on more simple and funny stories. It’s true, but when I think of all the things that can be found online to entertain us and make us laugh, I tell myself that there is no need for more. So why bother?
This morning I was listening on the radio to a comedian who said in a serious interview that “all you can do when you write is leave messages behind.” Here again, when you consider that with a couple of clicks of a mouse or a couple of taps on your tablet you can access everything important that have been said and written by the greatest thinkers, artists, philosophers, scientists in the world since the beginning of civilization, you tell yourself that there is not much that you can add.
Considering all this, I know that those who read my articles do it for no other reason than because they care for me, and I’m very grateful to them for taking some of their precious time to do so. The great Italian writer Umberto Ecco once said that the writers who say that they write only for themselves are full of it  and that the only thing that we write only for ourselves is our grocery list. I think he was right. Even those who write their diaries do it with the expectation that their most intimate thoughts will be found and read by the people they leave behind, the ones they cared for and the ones who cared for them, and that somehow they will be remembered.
Writing for my blog became part of the routine of the 65 year old retiree that I became. When I go more than three or four days without writing, I feel the urge to turn on my computer and add a few more paragraphs to the article that I am working on. Just like I do yoga, cardio-vascular and weight training to exercise my body, I keep writing my little stories to keep my mind active …and, of course, to communicate with you my beloved and faithful readers.
 From what I heard from someone talking about him on the radio the other day, he actually said, “full of shit” (in Italian of course), but I knew that my proof-reader, Maria, would not approve the use of that word in writing. I therefore decided to change it for "it".