WHY I WRITE
There are a lot of reasons why people write. I can’t speak for anyone except myself so I won’t even begin to speculate on the many reasons why other people write. Obviously, the very good writers write for a profit and they are handsomely rewarded for it.
I write for two reasons: to connect with myself and to connect with others.
Writing to connect with myself usually means I’m writing in my journal and I’m getting as many of my thoughts on paper as possible. I gather my thoughts so I can use them as clay. Once they’re on paper, I can rearrange them, mold them, or shape them to better define what I was trying to say. Rarely (ok, NEVER) do I lay down a sentence and consider it brilliant the first time around. That is why Anne Lamott so knowingly called these “shitty first drafts” in her book on writing, Bird by Bird. She suggested that all great writing begins with shitty first drafts.
I write most of my shitty first drafts in my journal for a few reasons. First, I love the natural flow I get into when my fountain pen lays the ink across the paper. There is something very organic and original that resonates with me when I use a fountain pen. I also write in my journal because I don’t want my mind to edit everything I say before I can get all my thoughts down. I’m too tempted to edit myself when I write on a computer; when I read my previous sentences I find myself editing before I can move on to the next thought, which is a major flow killer. With the journal, whatever I lay out there is there, until I type it into the computer later and start the process of editing afterwards.
The other reason I write is to connect with others. There is no greater feeling in the world than to truly connect with another human being. The joy and honor I feel when I hear my writing has touched someone is astounding. Knowing I’ve made a difference, if only for a brief moment, makes all the difference in the world. Let’s be honest, there’s enough negativity swirling around our globe so when I can brighten someone’s day or put a smile on someone’s face it makes my early morning alarms worth it.
Chicken-Shit, Bull-Shit, & Elephant-Shit
Fritz Perls (1893-1970) was a flamboyant psychologist who perfected a popular form of therapy called Gestalt Therapy. His honesty about the present moment and his matter-of-fact attitude earned him quite a reputation among his peers and clients. When people talk about present moment and share their experience honestly, Perls considered this genuine communication. This style of communication is very rare, however, and even trained professionals struggle to stay in the present moment all the time. In contrast, he came up with three types of shit that people use when they talk to people: chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit.
The easiest way people avoid any kind of emotional contact is by talking about chicken-shit. Chicken-shit is the small talk about the weather, sports, or any other cliched conversation. Talking about chicken-shit serves a rather important purpose for me since it keeps me safe. I don’t have to risk being vulnerable when talking about chicken-shit.
Another way to avoid emotional contact is by talking about bull-shit. Bull-shit is the intentional lies I tell for three reasons: I lie to hide the truth and wrong-doing, I lie to protect myself or someone else, and I lie to gain something (like prestige, power, money, sex, etc). Talking about bull-shit also keeps me safe since I don’t have to be vulnerable while talking about bull-shit.
I’ve heard two explanations for elephant-shit and I like them both. First, elephant-shit is when I talk about everyone else’s chicken-shit and bull-shit. Elephant-shit is when I get together with my friends or family and talk about other people’s drama. Or, more popularly known as gossip. As long as you and I have our neighbor’s chicken-shit and bull-shit to talk about, we never have to be real with one another and talk about what is truly happening between us. The second explanation I heard for elephant-shit refers to the grandiose plans I come up with so I never have to face reality or take responsibility. In other words, I talk about what I’ll do once I win the lottery but I won’t even buy a ticket. Either explanation works for me since they both give another example of how we avoid true connection.
Since I heard this explanation of chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit, I can’t help but say this internally when I’m talking to someone and listening to their words. I really do long to make genuine connections with those around me but our society seems programmed to avoid these connections. I totally understand life cannot be lived bluntly telling everyone exactly what we think of them in every moment. That’s probably not the easiest way to win friends and influence people. However, I do believe that life presents plenty of opportunities for genuine connection but it takes hard work to steer clear from the chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit.
Why I Write
Back to why I write: I write to avoid the everyday, unimportant chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit. I write to promote genuine connections among myself and others I come in contact with. I write with the hope of starting a conversation between people who have talked with chicken-shit, bull-shit, and elephant-shit their entire lives. I write with honesty and integrity longing for just one person to say I made them think differently. I write from a loving disposition because we are all learning as we go and none of us have all the answers. I write the way I try to live my life; sometimes I put an explanation point where it doesn’t belong but I’m never ashamed to use a question mark.
Many years ago I decided I would expand my mind by reading books. I made up my mind to become a life-long learner and I’m thrilled I made that decision. A large percentage of the books I read have to do with human relationships, memoirs, and different philosophical perspectives. You could say I write now because after years of learning and living what I have learned, it’s time to share some of it with the world. I write as a gift. If I can make you smirk, smile, laugh, or cry, then I will consider my job successful. My gift to you today is a smile. 🙂
Peace and Love!
T.J. You are still T.J. to me ! OK? I am really enjoying your writings. So much of what you say brings such truth in my everyday life with family, friends, and especially with myself living with two chronic diseases. My strugles are many, so hoping to put some of my emotional pain on the shelf as I work through them with your explanation of chicken shit. Bull shit. Elephant shit. Keep up the writings. Lets me see life through many windows!
You can call me absolutely anything you want. I believe you have earned that. 🙂 I really appreciate your kind words and I’m beyond thankful that you enjoy my writing. You are an inspiration to so many!! I hope you can shelf the emotional pain you speak of. I don’t know if it would help, but I have been reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle lately and it has been so moving. His ideas are such common sense but so profound. Worth a look. Thanks again for the support!
I am into Anne Lamott, and Erich Fromm, Carl Rogers is excellent, a Otto Rank psychologist, I love fountain pens, glad to meet you.
How much Erich Fromm have you read? I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to my Fromm books.
I write for similar reasons 🙂
Really enjoyed the descriptions of the chicken/bull/elephant shit. Never heard those before, though makes sense coming from Perls. I recently read a biography of him. Like all of us, he was full of shit too. Good and not so good.