With a nod to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ballad “All I Can Do Is Write About It,” which I heard for the first time last weekend thanks to Jim, I have decided that each of us should use the written word to communicate. Talking to each other about our beliefs has not worked for quite a while now, and especially, most recently. Sadly, we cannot have civil conversations with each other about the state of affairs in our country.
Many of you know that I never talk about politics, religion, or football, but that is another story. All three of these topics are really not appropriate for a Head of School to have a public opinion about. But, I have been thinking a lot this week about the art of writing.
Author Gustave Flaubert wrote: The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. This statement truly captures my personal experience with writing. I often get new ideas for my column through conversation. But those ideas don’t become mine until I write about them. Clear prose means clear thought and, for me, writing equals thinking. It solidifies my thoughts and helps me formulate new ones. As a child, I kept a diary and later, journals filled with poetry and reflections on my life. So few people do this today. I also enjoy writing old-fashioned, hand-written letters and notes. Writing is a way for me to share love across the miles to my family members and dear friends.
Writing is also about re-writing, editing, and reflecting on your message to be sure it represents your thoughts appropriately and authentically. Even writing an email, or writing on your social media platforms could be used to help convey what you believe in a clear, responsible and civil manner. There’s no reason that a tweet or post can’t serve a higher purpose. (Check out @DalaiLama on Twitter if you want to read inspiring posts.) And, while I do think that many people feel they are achieving this, I don’t believe that most social media posts today elevate our national conversation in any way.
The ancient Chinese regarded the written word as a transformative force able to move heaven and earth and unite the reader with the source of all things, the Tao. (The Art of Writing, Chou Ping) If we all took some time to use the written word to formulate our opinions before we said them aloud, we might all get along just a little bit better. At a minimum, we would be more civil towards one another.
Everyone is a writer. Yes, to pursue it as a career takes education, special training, and endless practice. But, for most of us, on a daily basis, all it takes is time with your thoughts, and a basic desire to always do good in the world.
Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.