Jonathan Delavan hates writing. It’s true! But he shares his reasons for writing for The Good Men Project despite his aversion to the craft.
To be honest, I hate writing—always have, always will.
I hate the headaches I occasionally get while I write. I hate how long it often takes for me to write a single page or a single paragraph or even a single sentence. I hate how much I brutally second-guess myself over the trivial details. I hate the uncertainty that anything I write is actually of any good, even when I know what I’m writing about very well. I hate how my head can be so filled with ideas that I can no longer distinguish between them or structure them into a coherent paper. I hate feeling like everyone else can write so naturally while I languish with every word before I even put pen to paper.
I HATE WRITING!! In fact, I have hated writing ever since I first learned to write. I’ve been struggling with this all my life, and I will continue to struggle with it till the day I die.
During my school years, reading and writing were the subjects I dreaded the most. It was always a labor and even painful for me to complete my assignments—especially when I had to do them in class. And yet I never understood why I struggled so much with reading and writing. What made it worse was that I felt so alone in my academic struggle growing up.
I was always expected to do so well in school despite my difficulties. If I went to others for help, my struggle was usually made into an issue with my motivation or study ethic, in which case it was my own fault for my struggle. So I also hate writing because of the emotional stress and baggage it sometimes brings up in me from my past experiences.
It wasn’t till my first semester in college that anyone really noticed my struggle. A college professor pulled me aside after class to talk with me after I failed to complete half of his test. I told him how I’ve always struggled in school like this, and that is when he kindly recommended to me to get tested to see if there’s another reason why I could know the answers and yet not finish the test.
When the results came back from my battery of ability tests, sure enough, I was diagnosed with mild dyslexia and dysgraphia. Finally, it all made sense why I struggled so much! For so long I have been beating myself up for not being good enough with my writing or reading skills. But now, I know it’s not my fault; I still have to deal with it myself, but it’s not my fault for struggling. Since then, I have taken steps to account for my learning disabilities, but the hardships around writing still persist for me.
Long ago, even before I learned of my disabilities, I had decided that I would never become a writer. When I did learn of my disabilities, it seemed to be a definite confirmation of that early decision. And yet, the great irony for me today is that I am aspiring to be a writer of sorts. I guess that goes to show: Nnever say never!”
But why do I write knowing full well that I have disabilities that will forever make writing difficult for me? My daily life would be so much easier if I wrote as little as possible, and yet I push myself to write regularly. Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself, but I always remember eventually.
To put it simply: I write in order to take ownership of my life.
Over the past few years, I have been dedicating significant portions of my time each week to my personal recovery and growth from a past filled with emotional and spiritual traumas. A major part of that personal inquiry and development has been trying to figure out what I believe, what is true for me without desperately relying on external sources telling me what I should believe about myself. Sounds a bit stereotypical, but when you grew up within a religiously conservative family and community that bases its lifestyle and intrinsic worth (and those of “the outsiders”) on having the “absolute truth” via an ancient set of sacred books that have spanned time and space, discovering and accepting your own truth can be a monumental task—as it has been for me!
At first, simply exploring and considering other perspectives and alternative understandings of myself was enough. But in time, I sensed I needed to do more for myself. The internalizations I have made of those external authorities still had their sway over my psyche, shaming and terrorizing me whenever I “crossed the line” with my own thoughts or feelings.
I couldn’t afford to dabble with my internal values and beliefs through mind games and intellectual exercises anymore. I had to make a stand. I needed to directly confront my internal critics and old messages. I had to reclaim myself by rebuilding my shattered inner world. The mode that has helped me do this has been, oddly enough, writing.
Essentially, as long as my thoughts and insights remain in my head, they remain subordinate to my old internal critics and messages. About two years ago, I discovered through an intensive therapeutic exercise that writing is a potent way for me to realize my thoughts, my beliefs, my perspective, my voice, without my internalized inquisitors getting in the way.
So writing, though very much difficult, has become very meaningful for me; perhaps it become meaningful simply because it is difficult—because it is so laborious, because it takes so much of my cognitive and emotional strength to undertake. Writing, in effect, demands from me the same depth of resolve and courage that is necessary to reinvent myself and my world from the ground up. I’m not sure if any other task—at this point in my life—would require anywhere near the same level of dedication and sacrifice needed to change myself from within as writing does.
That’s all well and good, but I could easily accomplish all that by keeping a private diary as many others do. So why do I bother submitting what I write to The Good Men Project editors so they can publish my drafts online for all the world to see? Hell, I could save myself a lot of heartache and anxiety by keeping my writing private from strangers like a timid man stuffing his life savings under his mattress! Yet here you are reading my words online.
So why do I share what I write? Because, strangely enough, it’s even harder for me to write only for myself than it is to write for others.
I guess it follows the same logic as those who hate running yet end up running anyways: for some people, it is easier for them to run a marathon if they do it for family and friends and not just for themselves. For some reason, knowing one’s actions and sacrifice can encourage and inspire those they care about to endure hardships so they can reach their potential can be quite the motivator. But deep down inside, those same “amateur marathoners” may also sense that they are running not just for others either, but for themselves as well.
It’s quite an absurd rationale: at first you won’t do something difficult for yourself, then you find you can be motivated to do it for the sake of others, and later you realize that you were motivated to do it for others so that you could really do it for yourself without making it all about yourself. Pretty selfish when you think about it, but a selfishness that can sometimes lead to win-win outcomes in my opinion.
Now I write to both challenge myself and to possibly help others, men and women, who struggle in similar ways as how I have struggled in the past and currently struggle today. By challenging myself, I can help others, and by helping others, I can discover myself—and so the cycle perpetuates itself. To write for either reason in isolation from the other would be virtually impossible for me to do!
Why do I write even though I hate it? Because writing is my selfish and altruistic deed that ultimately challenges me to be a better man, both on and off the page.
Photo: Flickr/Thomas Leth-Olsen
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