Why You Should Write

You should write because we need your voice. Granted, your voice might reveal that your life and your world are just like my life and my world, a variegated mix of beauty, brokenness, bridges to a better place, and occasional beasts in the darkness. But we still need you to write it, for no one else has lived the life you are living. No one else has the specific perch you have on the balcony overlooking mankind. No one else can tell your story but you.

Will it be balanced? Probably not. Will it give the whole picture? Not likely, for we all see in part. And yet you must write, because you are a unique and irreproducible person with a distinct experience that is yours alone to speak. And your story, together with the stories of all others, does two things. First of all, it helps to complete a whole world. Second of all, it is a clue to the First Story. For all stories, no matter how bent and ruined they may be, retain clues of the original Tale. For, in the end, there is only one story. We are working out the choices that took root in Eden, and the Creator is working out what He intended Eden to ultimately become. It is that way across the whole wide earth.

Think about it this way. Once you have returned to dust, your voice remains in the journal entries, commentaries, memoirs, and anecdotes you have written. It might remain in a wide variety of other forms: poetry, literary fiction, a catalogue of the birds you watched at the coast, the recipes of your kitchen, letters you received from your beloved, the song you composed in a reverie of inspiration, etc.

Now, in our present age you need not literally write, but you can easily record. Indeed, fewer and fewer people carefully read these days, while more and more just put in ear buds or view. We are on the long march back to illiteracy. But that is all the more reason to record, for you can contribute to the new oral tradition that will be passed on to those who become the foundation of the next civilization that will emerge out of the ruins of our current one.

Think about it this way. Your children, your children’s children — descendants, readers, and listeners whose names you do not know — will gain wisdom, guidance, and a sense of identity from your words. They will gain courage for their calling. They will be told what actually happened, for it happened to you.

We need your writing more than ever, for, more than any other generation before us, we live in an amputated age, disconnected from our past. There are several reasons for this. For one thing, we suffer from what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” We deem that we are better than all past ages because our blind spots are not theirs. We are confident we will not repeat their mistakes. We deem ourselves therefore qualified to rewrite or in some cases blot out the narratives of the those who have gone before us. It takes too long to discern baby from bathwater. It is more convenient to throw them both out and feel in control. Secondly, the irony of our digital age is that although we have more comprehensive access than ever to information, we have less integration with wisdom and less sense of context than any previous generation. One reason is because the rate at which new information comes to us is far faster than the rate at which we can ponder, contemplate, and respond. Thirdly, our culture has concluded that, in order to progress to a better world, we must actively reject or dismember the memories of the world that preceded us. It is because of these three reasons, and more, that we are often no longer are in touch with our inheritance.

This is why you should write.

I am not saying you are called to write a runaway best seller. I am not saying you are called to author something that will become a Tom Hanks film, though I hope it does. I am not saying your name must be on Amazon or YouTube. I am not saying you must hammer out a full scale autobiography of your life when two or three key stories may be just fine. But what I am saying is that you are called to mentor the lost sheep of the future. I am saying that you are called to bring sanity to a scattered people who will grope along the wall of their culture and their chaos seeking clues to who they are, where they came from, and where they are headed. And you will do so by offering them what you have in whatever genre or form that seems best to you.

Yes, this is why you need to write.

Writing goes beyond our years on earth. It is why ancient Athanasius, medieval Dante, Renaissance Milton, Victorian MacDonald, and modern J.R.R. Tolkien speak to me. When I read them, they are with me in the present. You, too, will speak in some future time if you leave your words with us before you depart. It is a life saving exercise for people you do not know, not unlike Arland Williams, the last man in the water of the 1982 ill-fated Air Florida Flight 90, who passed the helicopter rescue line to others from the freezing Potomac before he passed away.

You should write because, among other things, your primary calling is to produce life-giving words that have a life of their own in the reader.

Toward that end, you should write to

  • Put courage in people for their callings.
  • Rediscover all that we have forgotten. 
  • Explore the truth until we find hidden treasure.

And even if the exploration of the truth is at first a rugged, even ugly path, it will, like the roots of a single tree, eventually join the paths of goodness and truth. But even here we are not yet done, for all reality is ultimately personal. The material world, and our very earthy lives, are testimony of an eternal world, the home of the One who is in solidarity with our story. This is why it has been said that Christ crucified is the homely root of the beautiful tree we long to eat from, the Tree of Life. And your words will have played a part in imparting grace to people to persevere to get there as if you were holding out a lamp, along with countless others, to light the long road through the night.

Therefore, think not your words are worthless. Write them down. Perhaps they are mustard seeds that have yet to disclose the influence they will have when, bursting forth at some distant point in time , they fill the garden.

© Kurt Mähler

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  • Becky says:

    Thank you Kurt for these words!! After reading this, I’m encouraged to make time to continue my journal writing knowing more fully that it has an eternal purpose!!❤️

  • Samuel says:

    What inspired you to write this?

    • Kurt Mahler says:

      I have pondered your question for a full year.

      The answer remains cloudy, but perhaps it springs from the conviction that each one is called to mentor the lost sheep of the future. Perhaps it springs from the awareness that each person’s life is a unique and irreproducible moment. Therefore their words and their lives, though having everything in common with being human, will nevertheless testify to that unique life and therefore testify — however indirectly and fractured — of the One who created them, the only One who is called Faithful and True in our fallenness.

      I believe that if a person leaves a modest record of their honest exploration of the truth or an honest account of what happened, even if unpublished and for the private circulation of friends and family, then perhaps he is planting mustard seeds that one day, at some point in time, will grow and flourish in the gardens of another he may never know. And this way we all help one another become a little less lost.

      I am influenced by my mentors Ray Mayhew (raymayhewonline.com) and South African friend Gus Hunter, both of whom have introduced me to the wealth of the ancient Christian faith; the traditions of the Desert Fathers; and the life-giving practices of Henri J.M. Nouwen in The Way of the Heart and In the Name of Jesus.

      Through them I am influenced by Dmitru Staniloae, a persecuted Romanian Orthodox priest whose suffering only increased his insight into the cosmos, the Creator, and Christ the Lord.

      I am also influenced to write this essay through my friendship with Dr. Phil Donnelly, who as of this writing is head of the Great Texts program at Baylor University.

      Somehow, because of something in all of the above I was inspired to write the essay, “Why You Should Write.”

  • Lisa Blair says:

    Good insights, Kurt. I appreciate this thought, “Toward that end, you should write to: put courage in people for their callings; rediscover all that we have forgotten; explore the truth until we find hidden treasure. And, “Perhaps your words are mustard seeds that have yet to disclose the influence they will have when, bursting forth at some distant point in time, they fill the garden.”

  • Steve Jones says:

    I’ve just finished writing my story, thinking it might mean something to my grandkids someday. It’s consumed a lot of time and effort and I’ve been concerned lately that maybe vanity was my real motive. Reading this has been great encouragement. Thanks for writing.

  • Jane Gray says:

    I love this and am encouraged to write stories from my childhood, our family, our time on the mission field, current events with the truth told to pass on to future generations.

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