The Sweet Torture of Writing | Dr. Laila Alghalban

October 26, 2020
By: Dr. Laila Alghalban


Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing,” says Brian Clark.

The mystery of the written word remains indecipherable. Writing is a creative process that involves all senses. When you hold your pen, you build a touching memory; when your fingers run on the sheet of paper, you build a motor memory; your eyes build a visual memory. Even your nose, when smelling a letter from someone you love, builds an aromatic, lasting memory. All in all, your brain activities become more comprehensive and acute which makes the writing experience a brain-feeding one. Writing, especially by hand, improves learning and acts as hooks for the brain to hang memories on. This has been the main finding of some latest studies. As writing is inherently a creative act, given the composition labour it involves, it stimulates both the right and the left hemispheres of the brain, and helps us think more sharply. Why do we write?  What does your handwriting reveal about you? And are writers necessarily happy during the writing process?

Why do we write?

 The invention of writing is an incredible landmark in human history. It is when humans make the stunning shift to record history, memories, knowledge and experience. Imagine living without writing, we would miss a lot. We write for infinite reasons. We write to communicate knowledge, emotions and experience. We write to connect to ourselves and others. We write to entertain, create new worlds, heal and discover the deep valleys of ourselves. We write to make history, set standards, launch wars and make friends. We write to grant our lives a sense of purpose. Writing creates more beautiful worlds to which we can link even more robustly than our real world.  Fictional writing, for instance, is exceptionally captivating; we are born with an instinctive love for stories; our brains act better and process the world more efficiently through stories which build our episodic memories. We escape to writing to make this fictional world a real one.    

What does it take to write? How is writing?

 Writing is a sweet torture; sometimes it takes you an awfully hard time to come up with a satisfactory piece of writing; it consumes you to the fullest; it takes a lot of enjoyable pain, heartache and time; it is a self-discovery experience, where you come face to face with a part of your unconsciousness, your deep self.  People write to heal, explore, dream and live dozens of additional lives. 

When you finish writing, you never know how things would end up; it involves an abundance of surprise, amazement and mixed feelings.  Writing is a real journey: to formulate an idea, relate to it, keep thinking and reading about it until it grows and hatches, and nurture the new outcome through long, throbbing processes until it becomes a final one. During the writing journey, you walk trodden, untrodden, dangerous, scary, enjoyable, awakening, adventurous and emancipating ways. 

At times, you get lost and stuck; reaching a destination becomes an unattainable mission.  Your virtual companions in this journey are all the people you met; all the writers, thinkers, teachers, and philosophers you love and align with; all the memories, world experience, background knowledge, beliefs, ideas, values, ambition, biases and predispositions you live by. You have a dialogue with readers, critics, gatekeepers and history. You develop special sensitivity to social taboos and dogmas. The passion of writing simply grows by such interactions; it blossoms.

Laborious stages of writing

The greatest accomplished writers usually talk about the laborious stages of writing and how they end up sending their works to the dustbin or simply burning them. The feeling of being satisfied with what you wrote never finds its way to your heart. Talented writers are constantly wrestling with artistic perfection, a mission impossible indeed. They are never rarely fulfilled. However, the joy of writing makes is unrivaled. The beauty of a written text lies in its brevity, boldness and novelty. Every text is a melting pot of multiple voices as it echoes previous texts, themes and techniques; however, it must offer new perspective and depict new versions of human experience; this is the way good, timeless texts should be.

“Wherever you go, you read part of your story,” says Eudora Welty. Timeless written texts makes readers’ hearts race to get their laden wisdom, euphoria and ecstasy. Brevity is the soul of wit, says Shakespeare. “I didn’t have the time to write a short letter, so I write a long one instead,” says Mark Twain.  Even texts, like novels, which is inherently the art of details, the fresher and more artistically authentic the description. We would enjoy it, no matter how much time it takes to finish reading

What does your handwriting reveal about you? 

That is a very interesting question. Graphic symbolism has intrigued psychologists for so long.  Handwriting analysis would unmask aspects of your personality; hidden personality disorders. Some business owners, employers and institutions utilize it in hiring employees. The size, angel, slanting degree, harmony of letters and the overall fashion in which you put the black figures on the white sheet of paper. This is definitely subject to much doubts; technology would tell us more about the properties of our hand writing.

Finally, modern technology has made writing a daily practice for billions of people around the world, a new era in the history of writing.

Dr Laila Abdel Aal Alghalban
Professor of linguistics
Faculty of Arts, Kafrelsheikh University

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