Friday, March 13, 2009



Last night in bed I read this passage in Alexander McCall Smith's novel, In the Company of Cheerful Ladies:

There were many such stories
he understood how important they were
A life without stories
would be no life at all
And stories bound us
did they not
to one another
the living to the dead
people to animals
people to the land

Why are we, all the thousands of bloggers out there in blogland, labouring over our keyboards, risking potential RSI, furiously typing stories and uploading photographs to create pictorial narratives?

Some people write for the enjoyment of writing, as a form of self expression and creativity, others to keep a record for themselves of their activities and reflections; they may write for family, friends and future generations.

Others may write as a way of remembering, triggering old memories, reigniting passions and issues.

Do we write because we are aging and feel time's winged chariot hot on our heels, or because in the autumn of our lives we tend to reflect and muse on the past more?

Do we write to better understand ourselves, as a form of self therapy, reflecting, reappraising, evaluating the life we have lived and are living?

Why do we write stories?

Story telling is a universal activity in which people of all cultures indulge. Evidence narratives are known throughout history and yield common themes . Cultures tell stories to keep track on what is happening in their communities. They also use stories as a training ground or preparation for future interaction with others. Stories allow people to learn the customs and rules of their society. Story telling is a learning tool for the development of relationships with others in our social group and promote social cohesion.

On the individual level the imagination required in story telling, and essential for the understanding of the story, serves as a proving ground for vital social skills. In addition, through stories, we can pass on knowledge and life enhancing attitudes to future generations.

All stories appeal to our emotions and our capacity for empathy. This empathy, or ability to walk in someone else's shoes, engenders a narrative transport. We are carried through the words of the story into the world of the teller and our emotions are inextricably tied to those of the story's characters.

The theory of mind trait - that ability to feel empathy, allows us to attribute mental states , awareness and intent to others. This trait is essential to social interaction, communal living and to the understanding of stories.
Stories are word pictures that convey lessons learned, offer warnings and advice, entertain, inform and educate, remind us of time honoured values and principles, and give an insight into who we are.

Have you considered why you write your blog?

I am inclined to believe that we write to understand ourselves better and by exploring our rich inner worlds through the vehicles of words and stories we come a little closer to revealing our real selves that lie within. Having an audience is a way of connecting that part of ourselves to the lives of others in this blogging community. Our stories are the multi-coloured threads that connect communities, connect people to the past, connect people to place, connect people to animals and connect you to me.

I have used the article by Jeremy Hsu in Scientific America as a reference for this story.



  1. Stories obviously are our own spoken language in written form. ONE of the reasons for writing stories is the same reason that we listen to music - that is it is a way of transcending both our language and our music - through metaphor in story, tne emotion invoking quality of poetry and the transcendent melodies of music we reach and commune with that which spoken and written language and music cannot fully express in simple terms - we commune with 'intimations of immortality' as it were - we commune with that which is beyond our conscious understanding - the meaning is intuited in a sense - we aren't given a diagram or a plan, we are just given that feeling that yes! there is something bigger than we are beyond the veil of this human existence. Human Language in its broadest sense is a vehicle for this understanding - thats my theory anyway and I'm sticking to it!

  2. Alden, so in addition to the literal message, we read the subtle message that accompanies the message and also the message that may lie behind the message and sometimes if we are lucky we get taken out of our own worlds and transported to somewhere else entirely...

  3. Hi Delwyn, I said on someone's blog yesterday:
    "That stories were the threads that weave us all together" and gave the example of Family History, for instance.

    Today, it has popped up again! Synchronicity at work again. :D

    I personally write as a mode of self expression and to CONNECT with humanity. I have a driving need to do this.xx

  4. Natalie, I imagine that most bloggers feel those two needs, the need to articulate and creatively express ourselves and desire to share and join with like minded friends.

  5. maybe we want to be a bit of an author in our own right and need a lot of rewards... trying utterly to attract readers,because more comments mean you are doing well? post not as popular and how do we feel? .."blogland" is a tricky world and i am the Blog story.

  6. Hi there Mona, How has your week been? Glad its Friday? Have you been to see the oil slick?

    Comment are very affirming and keep you motivated to continue writing but I don't think that because we don't get dozens like some other blogs that our efforts are any less worthy and valuable. Its a fickle world this blogging and people have very short attention spans. When my kids were growing up they loved 'Playschool' on TV- so did I!(especially John) and they also liked Sesame St, but it rushed along at a frenetic pace which I am sure taught children only to focus for very brief periods of time on the one thing.
    I think we have become a bit like that and if a posting doesn't grab our attention in the first few seconds we are off to sample another one. Its like sampling all the chocolates in the box trying to find the best one. I am now trying to savour each person's contribution and feel how it moves me, what it says to me, where the person is coming from, what challenges they are facing, or joys they have experienced, so that I can give an honest, genuine response.

    I have sent you an email Mona
    Happy Days

  7. Hi Delwyn, It is nice to meet you and sorry it has taken me a little while to make it over here...!!

    I have pondered this myself for a while now, there seems to be several different camps on this one. Personally, I blog to interact with the community within I find myself, having joined a group who blogs and started in a ready made community. I also love to get feedback and meet new friends with like minds.

    Take care

  8. "We read to know we are not alone", CS Lewis.

    I suspect we write to know we are not alone, as well.

  9. Self expression, self exploration, digging in the past to make sense of the present, honing writing skills, being a vision keeper. Some of my reasons, but not a comprehensive list.

  10. LOVE the pic of the old typewriter. My parents had one similar to this. I can still remember the sound of the keys striking the paper, the smell of the typewriter ribbon. Wow.

    Why do we tell stories? I think that's almost all we humans do is tell stories, to each other yes, but most often to ourselves. Stories about every little thing are always bumping around inside my head, that's for sure.

    Blogging is a phenomena, a community stitcher that reaches all over the world, bringing us together in one room. I believe those of us who blog are doing much more than telling stories - I think we're creating an electronic tapestry like nothing that has ever existed. It reminds me of the salons of the early 1900s, except we get to do this with people all the way around on the other side of the planet. It is so cool!

    I love being part of this blog tapestry, and am so glad you're a part of it too.

  11. Hello Jen. Its nice to see a new face. Sounds like you had a good base camp to launch out from.
    Happy Days

  12. Willow, yes and we write on universal themes each in our own way, to we can relate to the message of others...

    and then a little affirmation and comment gives us the energy to continue...

  13. Reya, thats a good point - our heads are always trying to make sense of our experiences so they are continually creating little narratives, some based on the actual event, some if onlys, some pure fiction...

    I agree that blogging is weaving us all together, but I sometimes think that it is producing a very fragile, delicate texture and if I was to fall of the face of the earth, no one out there in blogland would know. However I feel that in time deeper connections can be made. The last comment you made is reciprocal.

  14. Meri, thanks for adding your valued thoughts. Making sense of the past is a very good reason to write, and also vision keeping - so we are looking backwards and forwards...

  15. I write my blog strictly for myself and my children. I write it so that when I die they will find me closer to them by my written word.

    So when I become a memory they may read something and the memory will not seem so distant.



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