Why Write? Making Meaning of the Meaningless 7

SOMETIMES life just doesn’t seem to make sense. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to people who don’t seem to deserve them. All our focused and  continuous efforts at one thing may fail, yet something for which we’ve hardly worked for seems to magically fall from the sky and land in our laps. We stand by helplessly while our children suffer from the words and hands of bullies at school, our loved ones get cancer, or our jobs disappear. And we wonder, Why?

I believe that all of life’s events have meaning, even when they seem random and nonsensical, and that creative acts, such as journal writing and art, can help us uncover the personal value of every experience. I say “personal value” because each of us has something different to learn or take away from all that happens in our lives.

Making sense of things is very difficult to do while we are in the middle of a particularly painful experience, and all we can do is write about what we are feeling, thinking, and doing. But — and this is key — if we have, through writing and art, recorded our inner perceptions and honest truths while moving through these events, we will not only emerge more intact and healthy, we will possess treasure chests full of valuable insights and gifts that we may turn around and offer others.

When I was in my late twenties, my family — at that time my husband, my two small children, and myself — sold our home and moved to Europe to be part of an evangelical missionary group. To save the world, as we thought. Instead, we lost everything — our friends, our church, the money from our home, and our sense of unity. My family never fully recovered and eventually broke apart under the stress. At the time, I could not understand what was happening to us, nor why it was happening. As we struggled to recover, I fell into a dark depression (is there any other kind?) that lasted two years. During this period, I continued to write. Perhaps not as regularly as before, but I wrote about the events as they happened, my feelings, my fears, recording all of it as honestly as I could. Although I judged myself as immature and idiotic to spend so much time crying and whining on the pages of my journal, I continued to turn to it as a way of finding meaning.

Later, I was able to go back to what I had written and see the common threads woven through the patterns of everything that happened. Through the writing and, later, the reading, I became empowered to understand what I had gained through my experiences: increased tolerance and compassion for others, an opened mind to others’ opinions and viewpoints, and a larger perspective of life in general. Ultimately, I grew into an expanded sense of my own spirituality and purpose in life.

What was catastrophe became a meaningful gift. With or without writing, we grow from our life experiences. With writing, we increase our ability to access our own inner wisdom and strength. We give ourselves the gift of understanding.

As always, I invite you to join the conversation by writing your thoughts in the comments field below.



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7 thoughts on “Why Write? Making Meaning of the Meaningless

  • Mary

    Years ago some doctor/author was on Oprah and he did the show about Thankful Journals. I started one that day and it changed my whole life. I began to “see” the segments of my life differently and to realize that each thing that happened made me the person I am and gives me the ability to deal with what comes my way. Journaling gives me a record to use as a source to help myself and at times others.
    Sometimes there are periods that I don’t write but in time I always return to journaling to see, to think, to heal and to move on.

  • Amber Lea Starfire

    Mary, thank you for your clear and insightful comment. I call it a “Gratitude Journal,” and yes, I highly recommend a regular gratitude or thankfulness practice. When we take the time to appreciate the abundance of good things and people in our lives, our world just seems to take on a glow. Journaling — “to see, to think, to heal, and to move on” — beautiful!

  • Charline Haynes

    Your comments have made me realize it isn’t to late to start journaling. I try to remember things and struggle with detail. I just had my 70th birthday and have been doing Memoire writing for 3 yrs. I love it and all the memories it brings back. My grandchildren always wants more detail and I need to get it down before it’s too late.
    The way your writing helped you come to an understanding of what happened to you is truly a gift. We can all learn from that no matter what our age is.
    Some of the things I write about were extremely traumatic at the time they happened, but when recalled, healing seems to take place to some degree.
    I think I’ll start today.

  • Lori

    Perfect timing for me to come across this. Writing is such a huge part of my life, yet still I ask; why am I doing this?
    There is something powerful about writing it down. In that space between thought and written word, an understanding happens–things become clear (or clearer anyway).
    Yes to writing! Always write.
    Great post
    Thank you.