The Importance of Writing Stuff Down

It is less a contrast than it is a similarity. Two men, both highly educated Jews, both bold and passionate preachers of the message of the Gospel, both leaders in the first century Church.  Paul and Apollos were both used by God to build His Kingdom in the precarious, turbulent infancy of the Christian faith.  But only one of these men still has a ministry today.  Indeed, Paul’s contribution to the New Testament is central to our understanding of the Gospel.

Why is Paul’s influence greater than that of Apollos?  Spiritual calling aside, there seems a simple reason:  He Wrote Stuff Down.

I’m a big Writer of Stuff.  I have To-Do lists, archives of song lyrics, sermons and speeches, unpublished books and written meanderings.  According to the stats counter, my blog site just hit 100 blog entries last week.  I even have an archive of carefully documented calendars that stretches back to my freshman year in college, which I can’t bear to throw out.  What if I suddenly need to know what I did during the summer of 1984?

Paul’s writings, obviously, have a more influential gravitas.  But the point is, his passion and understanding of the heart and mind of Christ were documented in a way that move us two thousand years later.  And we cannot say the same of Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew and bishop of the Corinthian church, who’s fingerprint on the first century church is no less deep.

I share this in part because I know there are a lot of frustrated writers out there.  People hitting me up to find out how to get this Thing they’ve written published.  And while I might be a helpful encouragement and a catalyst to them, the main thing I tell them is to just to keep writing.  Not everyone is called to be a “published author” (whatever that means these days).  That’s not the point of writing.  Your audience may be only a hundred or a dozen or your spouse.  In my experience, the act of writing is a creative and cathartic act that you do because you must do it.  And of course, there is the vertical component—God is the audience for everything we do.

About fifteen years ago, after a decade of gentle but constant prodding, my father began work on his memoirs.  He is among the first generation of Filipino American immigrants, and arrived in the US as a teenager, prior to the Great Depression.  Poor but educated, his story is one of unsettling desperation, human perseverance, life-threatening bigotry, surprising romance, personal triumph.  I know this in large part because he took the time to write his story.  My cousins and I got together and self-published his modest book, Five Dollars in Change, and we’ve shared it with family and friends who were all grateful for the amazing stories previously untold.

Recently, I stumbled upon the semi-autobiographical novel of Filipino writer, Carlos Bulosan, entitled America is in the Heart.  Moving, heartbreaking, revealing, it is The Grapes of Wrath for the Filipino American.  As I read his account of life in the 1930s, I realized that Bulosan’s life mirrored my father’s in so many ways, from the incessant prejudice he experienced, to the overwhelming hopelessness felt by his people, to the enduring belief in his ideals.  I realized that his book and my father’s dovetailed in many ways.  It should be required reading for any Filipino American living today.

Dad passed away almost ten years ago now.  And I am eternally grateful to him for many things.  But one of his enduring legacies that I can pass down to my children and to their children is the story of his life.  Ultimately, his book will help us understand him, and understand ourselves.

And all because he Wrote Stuff Down.


2 thoughts on “The Importance of Writing Stuff Down

  1. Well said, Manuel. I believe that if you don’t record your own history, then your life is just someone else’s interpretation. Beyond that, however, being able to read others thoughts and experiences enriches my life, makes me think, and often makes me change.
    Thank you for “writing things down”.

  2. Your mother and father both had such incredible life stories! They could be the basis for a great novel! (hint hint)

    I’d like to echo Cate’s sentiments and say “Thank You” my friend for sharing through your writing.

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