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June-July 2021

Everyday Heroes


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Why Do I Write?

By Neil Gilliland

Why do I write? I often ask myself that question. I have no illusions I will ever write like the historically great writers of years past or even present. I have friends, ordinary people like me, who are so creative. I marvel at their ability to express the simplest moments of life in word pictures that capture the essence of being. In comparison, my writing seems woefully mediocre. I often find myself winding my way back to the question: why do I write?

Some write because they are aware the gift honed over years of practice will impact a wanderer or wonderer and cause them pause to think. Their words may alter the trajectory of someone’s life. Their poignant sentences slice deep into the hearts of men and women. I suppose a deeply hidden part of me hopes some random words I form into a paragraph will leave a lasting mark on a reader. But the likelihood of that is slim at best.

So, why do I write?

Maybe—just maybe I don’t write for others. Maybe it is more for me than them. It almost sounds selfish. In reality, most of what I write is never meant to be published or even read by others. Writing provides a catharsis for my mind. Like most people, my mind is constantly moving, but when I write, that motion is captured on screen or paper, and I don’t have to rehearse those thoughts over and over. Even better, I can go back and edit the thoughts captured before me in sentences rather than whirling about in my mind like a Texas tornado.

Why do I write?

Writing records memories far too easy to forget. I can recreate a scene and leave a legacy to go back and read. We all have events in our lives that are keys to whom we have become, but it is easy to let those memories slide into the slough of the forgotten. It typically is easy to remember the major events of our lives, but the reality is common everyday moments are the ones that shape and mold us. Every now and then, I find simple thoughts I have recorded about an ordinary moment in life, and I smile and remember.

Why do I write?

It brings clarity to my thoughts. Sometimes, I think if a brain surgeon opened my skull, it would look like a plate of spaghetti—a tangled mess. But when I write, I bring order to the craziness running around in my brain. The clarity helps me make wiser decisions. It allows me to be a better communicator, both publicly and privately. As a counselor, I often suggest that people write what they are experiencing emotionally. It gets it out of their head and onto paper.

Why do I write?

Again, this may border on selfishness but when I write, I leave something for future generations to read and understand who I was. Recently, I came across an old photo of my dad and his sister standing in the doorway of an old, clapboard house. I’m guessing Dad was three or four years old. By the time he was six, both his parents had died, and he was orphaned. I looked at his sister and wished I knew what she was like. What she thought about life, what was meaningful to her. I wish she had written something for me to read.

Maybe one day, my bored grandson will be sifting through my things and run across some obscure piece I wrote, and he will know a little more about the old guy he called “Papa.”

Why do I write?

I have no idea, but I will probably keep doing it. You should, too.

About the Writer: Neil Gilliland is director of member care and mobilization for IM, Inc. Learn more:


©2021 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists