The ‘lust’ & self-exhibition of writing

Many friends tell me that they do not understand the appeal behind participating in social media, specifically on platforms like Twitter and the practice of blogging. “I just don’t have anything to say,” they tell me. I’ve long held the belief that you need to suffer from acute self-exhibitionist tendencies in order to engage effectively with social media. You have to want to ‘put yourself out there’ in some respects. The desire to say something and to have people engage with that ‘something’ are powerful drivers behind activity on social media. If you didn’t have that desire or urge, your writing would just fall into the category of journalling.

In reading one of the last interviews with C.S. Lewis I began to realise how important the ‘urge’ to write is, not only in social media circles, but for the sake of writing at all. Lewis was asked to give advice to young writers on how to prepare themselves:

But to speak of the craft itself, I would not know how to advise a man how to write. It is a matter
of talent and interest. I believe he must be strongly moved if he is to become a writer. Writing is like a ‘lust,’ or like ‘scratching when you itch.’ Writing comes as a result of a very strong impulse, and when it does come, I for one must get it out.”

Strongly moved.

Writing is like a ‘lust’.

It is like ‘scratching when you itch’.

It begins with a strong impulse, and ‘one must get it out’.

I’m certainly not a prolific writer or blogger, but the way Lewis describes the urge to write and the need to ‘get it out’ captures the way in which writing is cathartic for me. There are times when I am gripped by a concept, a thought, a current affair, whatever it may be at the time … and I just simply have to get my fingers moving on a keyboard.

But …

For me, and I think Lewis would agree (wow, that’s a hefty assertion, that Lewis would agree with me – ha), writing is an urge to produce content but it is also paired with an inherent desire that the content will be engaged with by an audience. The engagement can vary for sure. From simply just reading a piece to commenting on and distributing it. Either way, we writers want our audience to engage. Again, without this desire, writing would actually be journalling.

Sadly, Lewis’ life did not extend into an era (he died in 1963) in which both the urge to write and the desire for audience participation came together through technological advancement. It is a real privilege to write and publish nowadays.

Until the urge strikes again …

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