Why Writing Can Be Dangerous

Every writer has an introverted streak in him. It’s natural. It’s necessary.

You cannot write (well) without spending some time alone.

As a result, every writer is an individualist. You can’t spend that much time in your own company and not think more in terms of self and less in terms of the community.

This is the beauty and danger of the writing life.

Dangerous Writing
Photo credit: Heath Brandon

Here’s why writing can be dangerous:

The invention of writing gave people the luxury of thinking apart from the tribe without the concern of those thoughts disappearing.

As reading and writing became available to more and more people, the community was no longer needed to retain teachings, traditions, or identity.

And because the tasks of reading and writing often encourage being alone, tribes and communities can be fractured as people spend greater amounts of time in private.

This isolation creates the conditions necessary for a strong sense of individualism to emerge. In pre-literate societies, a person’s identity is bound to the tribe; the notion of the individual has little importance.

However, the technology of writing, regardless of content, weakens and even destroys tribal bonds and profoundly amplifies the value of the individual.

-Shane Hipps, Flickering Pixels

Whoa.

So is writing evil or what?

Not quite.

But writing does create a sense of hyper-individualism — which can be tremendously good and, at the same time, potentially dangers.

Here are the double-edged advantages (and dangers) of writing:

Writing requires solitude

It’s a solitary practice. It’s done behind closed doors — early in the morning and late at night.

It’s hard to write and socialize. That’s why Twitter and Facebook can kill a writer’s productivity. It’s all about being alone.

And this is good, albeit lonely for those of us who aren’t born introverts. Like me. I have to be around people to get energized, but I know that I need to spend time alone to craft compelling copy.

It’s a challenge, but one that I must tackle. If I’m going to be a real writer.

Writing causes you to reflect

When you get alone, this is where brilliance happens.

You start pondering and dreaming and remembering. You look inwardly, examining your life and thoughts and deepest-held beliefs.

And you may question them. You may even dismiss them.

This is why writers are dangerous. This is why we must temper our questions with being grounded in some central truths that guide our life.

Because it is not always enough to question authority. You have to follow something bigger than yourself — you must commit yourself to an ideal, a perfect standard by which you measure your life.

Otherwise, you’re just another punk writer.

Writing allows you to communicate

Duh.

It allows you to dig into your brain and pull out those thoughts that are uniquely yours.

But here’s the danger: They’re not stories or traditions from the community or family. They’re your subjective experiences and notions. And they may be different from the accepted norms of your context.

Ideas can be dangerous. They launch revolutions and upset the status quo. They can spread propaganda (whether it’s true or not sometimes doesn’t matter).

But ideas can also heal dysfunctional systems and reconcile broken relationships. They can redeem social ills and bring sanity back to a world that’s lost its mind.

So writing isn’t all bad. Quite the contrary. Writing is an extremely powerful tool that has, many times over, changed the world.

Wield it with caution. And wield it well.

*Photo credit: Heath Brandon