Guest post: All humans are writers


Hi, by the way! My name is Jen and I’ve been given the great gift of guest-posting on this blog. It’s an honor which I do not deserve because, while I may be a writer, I am not a blogger and I bow down to anyone with the grand skill of blogging.

What I do write is romantic comedy, when the mood strikes. It is one of my favorite things to write because clumsy characters and unfortunate mistakes really, REALLY make me feel better about myself by reminding me that I am not alone in my goofy imperfections! Just the other day, in fact, I opened my car door and hit myself in the face, sending my glasses flying. So if you ever read that in any of my future stories, just know it was based on actual events and also know that it’s okay if you ever do the same thing. But, I digress…

All humans are writers.

In addition to writing romantic comedy, I write speculative fiction under another name, I write news stories for the local newspaper and was once a columnist. Yet I can’t figure out the art of blogging to save my life.

But…all humans are writers. Even you. Even if you don’t think you are. Even if you don’t have a knack for writing stories or using the written word to convey facts and information.

Do you remember middle school? If you’re my age, the Internet DID exist but it was still sort of an illusive tool that not everyone had and you weren’t quite sure what to do with it anyway. Cell phones were huge (think Zack Morris!) and you knew maybe one or two people who had one. But even without the Internet or texting, your personality leaked out of you through your hand into a pen and onto some paper. Or your school desk. Or a bathroom stall door. Or a park bench.

Since the beginning of time, humans have left their mark by writing. Before there was language, before there were words, before OMG, LMAO and SMH there were hieroglyphics and cave drawings and carvings that screamed out I WAS HERE. Or KILROY WAS HERE. (Who is that Kilroy guy anyway?)

I think it’s unfortunate that technology is edging out writing because all humans are writers. We all have a desire to leave a mark. It’s a little egocentric, but, hey, that’s okay! And the reason that it’s okay is because we all matter. We are all important enough to leave something permanent behind when we go.

Text messages only last as long as the phone does and are usually deleted way before the phone has made its way to Phone Heaven. Emails only survive as long as the person with the password does. (Or as long as they are kept in police files…)

In my novel Follow Me Home (read Sam’s review here) the protagonist is a writer of novels. One of her quirks is that she writes the entire first draft of each novel by hand. That quirk is based on myself, but even I have strayed away from that practice. Follow Me Home was the first novel I wrote from start to finish on the computer instead of in a notebook. Now I go back and forth. Sometimes I just have to write a scene by hand because I feel so much more connected to the words when they are coming from my hand and stamped, with my unique handwriting, on a page. The computer screen is impersonal. The black and white markings on the computer screen have no personality. Yes, there is personality that comes through the actual words; I can’t deny that. But when people write with a pen, you can tell a bit about their personality. You can even tell a bit about their mood. Letters end up more connected when the writer is in a hurry. Strokes are much harsher and pressed into the paper when the writer is angry. Happy handwriting is generally more legible. Someone who is old or sick will have shakier handwriting. And you just don’t get any of that through words on a screen.

You might not think it matters, but I do. I also think it matters that YOU write things down. I think we should all pick up a pen at least once a day and write something down.  Doodle a picture of a flower. Write I love you or write I love myself. Instead of sending an emoji, scrawl a smiley face. Take a look at that birthday card from Grandma and try to memorize how she signs Grandma or Nana or Mimi. That’s not even her name, but that is what she hears you call her and when she is writing that, she is thinking of you. As her hand moves across the paper, you are on her mind, and it becomes a permanent mark.

When she is gone, you can still see the evidence of her thinking of you. You can feel the impression of the pen on the cardstock. Writing is how humans leave their mark.

I think we should all write with a pen and paper every now and then. Write out that grocery list instead of typing it into an app. You could even write out, “Hey, what’s up?” on a piece of paper, take a picture of it with your phone and send the picture instead of just texting, “Hey, what’s up?” Write your name in the fog on the mirror after your shower.

Some people write stories and leave them behind. But we can all leave a piece of ourselves behind, even if we don’t write stories. And who doesn’t love a pretty notebook? I challenge each of you to get a pretty notebook and write out a thought each day. Because leaving marks is one of the things that make us human. And if you don’t have money for a pretty notebook, write out a pretty thought on the back of those hideous bills that keep coming in the mail.

All humans are writers.

We’re all writers or scrawlers or doodlers or math-problem-scratchers. Don’t let technology cheat you out of leaving your mark!

But don’t vandalize. That’s just rude.

Get your copy of Follow Me Home by Jen Benjamin here.

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