Writing For Fun
( Originally Published 1906 )
MY third mental recreation should be writing. Do you know that you do not know yourself until you push yourself outside of yourself and look at yourself ? That is one thing for which conversation is useful ; it enables you to get a fair impression of your mind, with all its brilliancy and dulness, its hastiness and pains-taking, its flaws and its beauties. " As a small boy empties his pockets to see what is in them," says Dr. Holmes, " so I talk to see what is in my mind." But writing sets out your very self before you in permanent, unmistakable black and white. f your spirit stammers, stutters, is inaccurate, stupid, dull, so splutters your pen, and such dull lines stare up at you from the telltale paper.
Moreover, writing does more than disclose the writer : it enlarges him. A life is doubled that is well written out in one's private journal. Its joys are greater, its pangs are softened. A life is quadrupled that is repeated in cordial, gay letters to one's friends. And if one's life has attained the magic multiplying mirror of the printing-press, who can tell how many times it is magnified to the good of the world ?
Nowadays—as the editors tell us when they send back our manuscripts—nowadays every one is writing. And that is well, even if literally true, because every one also is reading, and every one is getting to think. Those are the three R's, you know : reading, the receptive; 'rithmetic, the thoughtful; and 'riting, the expressive,—the three R's, the three recreations, that is.
Do you know what joys are the most permanent in this world, the blessings handed down through the ages as most precious heir-looms, when paintings and temples and jewels and thrones are resigned to dust ? They are bits of recorded human life, fragments of human joys and sorrows embalmed in biographies, histories, poems, and stories, in journals and letters. What is the great joy of the world may be the great joy of the individual. Not that we should all turn authors in the technical sense of the term, but that we should all come to know what the fortunate few have hitherto understood, the delight of expression.
Poetry ? Yes, even poetry. The rhyme sters of my acquaintance get a vast amount of enjoyment from their " home-roams " and their " given-rivens." The editors may send them all back with that cruel printed slip, but never mind. "'Tis better to have rhymed and been rejected, than never to have rhymed at all," as Tennyson might have said.
That, then, is my list of mental amusements, —conversing, reading, writing. I do not despise more labored indoor sports. I have a catholic taste for all of them, from music, checkers, chess, dominoes, crambo, logomachy, proverbs, portrait authors, spello, halma, to that sensible game with the very silly name, " tiddledy-winks." None are perfect ; some are good for large groups, some for small, some for thoughtful people and some for the jovial, some for dexterity and some for wit, and some for ready knowledge. Lay up in your minds and houses a good supply of them, for they are rich treasures. Learn every one of them that is described in this book, and keep your eyes and ears open for more.
I have a mind to close this series of chapters with a six-sentence sermon. Why should there not be a wee mite of seriousness, even in this treatise on amusement ? Listen, my brethren:
Recreation for mind and body is a part of God's plan for our living, made necessary by constant waste of mind and body, which re-quire constant renewal. Do not expect to have health and cheer for nothing ; they are bought with a price, as are all best things. You must pay time for them, and thoughtful planning, and eager energy. But when you have won the art of praying, then, let me urge you, go on to the higher art, the art that is born of this,—the art of putting your play into your work. Vigorous body and active mind, sparkling eye and kindly jollity, brain and body thus recreated daily,—this, the end of sport, is worthily so only as it is the beginning of manly and womanly toil. Only as our muscles, renewed by exercise, are strengthened for the wielding of God's tools, only as our quickened brains are enlivened for God's thinking, only as our buoyed spirits are exalted for Christlike, helpful living, has recreation won its crown of entire success.