That was kind of fun! I was surprised. I had just finished an exercise in a required course in college. Our professor instructed us to do some creative writing in class. Although I’ve always struggled with grammar, the process of clustering, and then writing a short story was entertaining, energetic, and kind of fun. The exercise brought out something in me I didn’t know was in me. I liked to use words.
Sometime later (this was in the day of the newspaper), a friend of mine said that he had written an editorial for the local paper and they had printed it. I was excited for him and also intrigued. “How did you go about doing that?” I asked. “I just wrote a letter to the editor,” he said.
I took that as a personal challenge and decided to try to get something printed, too! I laugh now, but rather than trying to communicate an important idea, my only motivation for writing was to try to get something printed in the paper.
I emailed several papers and shared a few stories. I was shocked that they printed them! I realized that I enjoyed communicating ideas through the written word. That led me to becoming a writer for our local newspaper and doing a few articles in magazines. And here I am, this many years later, continuing to write and share ideas.
Historians note that in the middle ages (5th to the 15th century), most people could not read or write. The only communication was oral communication. The spoken word. Spoken words are great, but they need an immediate audience. It’s one person communicating ideas in earshot—or close proximity. Communication was also limited by the memory of the hearer. All of that changed in the middle of the 15th century. Words would take on new life.
Although writing was nothing new, it was Johannes Gutenberg who is credited with the invention of the printing press around 1440. Mass communication began. We may scoff at the idea of mass communication being tied to such an ancient device, but before this time, mass communication was limited to someone speaking to a large group. Written documents were somewhat scarce and copied by hand, and even then, very few people could read. Once words and ideas were spoken, like a vapor, they simply dissipated into the atmosphere and were forgotten. Perhaps hanging somewhere over Lake Michigan.
With the invention of the printing press, a whole new medium emerged. Now, words and ideas were not merely limited to memory and oral transmission. Instead, someone’s words had the chance to be crystalized, duplicated, widely disseminated, and perhaps, immortalized.
In addition, logic and reason took on new life. The speaker now had the opportunity to think through words and ideas for maximum impact upon a reader or hearer. These ideas could be written down, examined, and edited.
In addition, the reader benefited as well. They could read the material at their own leisure and did not have to be in close proximity to the actual author. They could take their time reading and reflecting upon the information and, if necessary, read it again. This was not always the case with oral communication. Sometimes, you had one chance to hear. As history reveals in the enlightenment, the printing press led to increased logic, reason, and rationale thought.
Writing is not only for others—it can be very personal. Many of us keep a “to do list” or have them impressed upon us. Before written language, I guess they just had to tie strings around their fingers and depend upon their memories.
Writing is also therapeutic. In our current society, we have multiple opportunities to write and record our ideas. Many people choose to keep a journal. Every morning they remember, reflect upon, and write out the significant events that happened to them the day before and how they felt about those events. They also write how God spoke to them and they record blessings or hardships.
As a people who need to process and destress, journaling is a great way to get our thoughts out of our head and heart and onto paper, a hard drive, or cloud. There is a unique power when the words hit the paper. For some strange reason, visualizing the words on the page helps us to grapple with their power. They bring clarity and focus. Sometimes, we say, “did I really think that?”
As a forgetful people, journaling is a way to help us remember where we’re been and where we’re come from. For example, as we read back in our journal, we remember past thoughts and emotions—and often the reasons why we did what we did.
Sometimes, reading and remembering these events helps us remember why we chose to avoid some things, people, or situations and reminds us not to go down that road again. Other times, reading back reminds us of God’s faithfulness and blessings. We’re reminded that, in times past, God came through for us in a very difficult time. Then, we’re able to face the future with faith and peace knowing that He is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. There is great power in the printed word.
If you’ve never journaled or just sat down to write out your thoughts, I would encourage you to try. You can journal in a notebook or find an online source that is password protected. Don’t worry about what you’re going to write—just begin writing and let the words take shape. It’s as much about the process as the product. There is a healing process is writing.
One site that I use allows me to write and to include pictures. This app also notes the time of day and the weather. In addition, like most databases, it’s searchable. When I look back, I’m often reminded of the exact emotion at the time.
The greatest and most powerful word of all is the eternal one. Is it any wonder that Jesus is called “the Word?” The gospel writer, John said, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). The Bible tells us that Jesus is the essence of all things and is the embodiment of divine communication. The writer of Hebrews echoes this concept saying, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:1-3). The divine mystery is that the essence of God, is imprinted upon, the Word, the person of Jesus.
God gave us his Word to communicate His heart and desire. His eternal Word brings salvation, comfort, and peace. All we need to do is listen. There are a lot of voices out there. Jesus is the first and final word. As the Father said, “this is my beloved Son; listen to Him” (Mark 9:7).
Dr. Wayne Geiger is the Pastor of First Baptist Grain Valley, an Adjunct Professor of Speech, and freelance writer.