When Ernest Shackleton set out to explore the icy caps of the earth, he needed to recruit a team to go with him.
Below is the advert he placed in the Times in 1907.
‘’Wanted. Men for hazardous journey. Low wages. Bitter cold. Long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in the event of success’’. Ernest Shackleton, 1907, The Times
And it got me thinking about who would apply for such a role and how there were so many parallels to writing.
In both cases:
It is hard work; there are long and dark nights, and yet success is not guaranteed.
Both exploration and writing are an adventure! It is a process of discovery and self-discovery. A safe return is doubtful, either way because no matter how the adventure turns out, you would have changed.
You would return an entirely different person. Writing is a process of self- discovery and exploration.
And the more you discover, the more you change.
Writing is an opportunity to rediscover. To re-discover something new and old.
Once you go through the process, you will never be the same again. In fact Seth Godin says that ”the book you write will change your life’. And this is precisely why writers write.
Although we say we want our words to touch the lives of other people, the first life to change will be ours first.
Why do you write?
Writing is a special vocation in that it taps you on your shoulder and calls you out. And it will keep tapping on your shoulder until you succumb to it.
It’s more than a job or a past time activity. It becomes a way of life, or as Jeff Goins calls it, your vocation.
It becomes an integral part of you. And you become a part of your writing. Every word that pours out of you is a reflection of your soul.
We write because the message inside of you needs to be expressed. It’s too big and grand to be locked away in your mind.
Those words need the attention of a thousand minds. So the only way to make sense of it all is to literally write it out of your heart, body and soul.
But writing is hard. It’s plain simple hard.
Yes the words may flow sometimes, but every day it’s still a struggle to face the blank page.
Even though I try to write every day, there are days when I can’t write because I am terrified nothing good will come out.
But what is good writing and what is bad writing? What makes an adventure good or bad? Surely the process of writing and adventuring is the whole point? That’s what adventures are.
Even though writing can be seen as a solitary activity, I find it is more of a rollicking adventure.
Your words will thrill you, horrify you and serenade you. They will make you jump for joy or weep in pain.
You will fall over many times and cut your shins. Other times you will wake up to the fresh air and see the sun rising and be absorbed in the beauty.
You may get lost and lose the map. But at the end of it all, you would have changed. You would have learned, and above all, you would have lived.
For that is why we write. To show what we learned while we lived. To capture our experiences onto a sheet of paper. To make sense of the world we live in.
The recruits in Shackleton’s team were not guaranteed success yet they were expected to work long hard hours.
By committing to this expedition, they were not even guaranteed their lives. If they made it, if they achieved success, there was a chance of recognition.
So why do you write?
Will you still write knowing the hours may be long?
Will you still write knowing success is not guaranteed?
Will you still write knowing recognition may never come?
Will you still write because the process of writing itself is a journey you are willing to endure?
If so, then you are a writer.
So why do you write? Please leave a comment or question below and join in the conversation.