On Writing

“Many think that writing means writing down ideas, insights, or visions.  They are of the opinion that they first must have something to say before they can put it on paper. For them, writing is little more than recording preexisting thoughts.  But with this approach, true writing is impossible.  Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us.  The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us.  The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write.  To write is to embark on a journey of which we do not know the final destination.  Thus, writing requires a great act of trust.  We have to say to ourselves: ‘I do not yet know what I carry in my heart, but I trust that it will emerge as I write.'”

—Henri Nouwen

On Writing

Writing should never be strictly about itself.  Writing should always be about sharing something that matters.  It should involve information that is worth communicating or ideas that are worth spreading.  Even the most artful poetry will lack power if it’s all style and no substance.

In a society that’s obsessed with appearances, it’s easy to become only concerned with life’s surfaces.  In the world of writing, this means it’s ever so tempting to just worry about using sophisticated rhetoric and clever stylings without giving thought to the substance of a communication.  There is a huge output of writing that’s all style and no substance these days.  But good writing is more than nouns and verbs, more than grammar and composition.  I mean, think about this: the best writing has so much substance beneath and beyond its language that it’s worth translating into other ones.