On Becoming the Internet Gardener
Notes on three years of writing every day and creating a beautiful pocket on the internet
A long time has passed since I started writing every day. It was the beginning of 2020. I was twenty-two.
For most of my life, I didn’t like writing — I despised it in fact. It was my worst subject in school by a wide margin. The words didn’t come easy to me. I remember taking an English diagnostic exam at the start of my junior year of high school. I scored a 27% and my teacher recommended that I drop down a level. I was the stereotypical math and science nerd with little aptitude — or interest — in writing.
This changed in the Summer of 2019 after reading Paul Graham’s Age of the Essay. Before, I associated essays with analyzing novels or dissecting Shakespeare’s plays. I thought essays were boring and pointless. In his piece, Graham explains that essay comes from the French verb essayer meaning to try. Thus, you write an essay to try to figure something out which in turn forces you to think clearly. Graham expresses my frustrations with writing and provides an alternative perspective on the craft.
Armed with this realization, I flirted with the idea of taking time off university to focus on writing. I didn’t have any ambition to be a writer. I just had the conviction that focusing on learning this craft now would pay off for the rest of my life. I figured that I can stay at my parent’s house and spend those four months writing. I had nothing to lose. Inspired by Ray Bradbury’s advice to graduate at the library, I named my sabbatical “A Semester at the Library,” and I started writing every day.
Three years later, writing every day has changed how I live and how I view the world. It inspires me to read widely, to have interesting conversations, to live a life worth writing about. Through writing every day I’ve become more observant and curious. And through observation and curiosity, I learned to see the beauty, wisdom, and inspiration that lies around me.
But writing every day doesn’t come without its struggles. There are many days when I’m not inspired or life gets in the way. I remember the night before my quantum physics midterm: I didn’t attend any lectures or attempt any of the problem sets. I planned on pulling off an all-nighter to study, but I misread the date of the exam and I had less than 12 hours to prepare for it. I hadn’t written that day either. I thought about skipping writing; but I had made a promise to myself that I’d write every day, a promise I take seriously. I wrote a blog post and miraculously ended up passing that exam.
As my writing evolved, so too did my voice, my themes, and my motivations. I learned that my style focuses on insightful ideas, simply explained. I learned that I love writing about creativity and technology. And eventually, it became more than a way to clarify my thinking and explore my ideas — my original motivations for writing.
There’s something deeply rewarding, almost spiritual, about the creative process. Through creating we become gods; every word we write, every note we play, every brush stroke we paint is participating in this beautiful act of creation. As I continue to hone my craft, I’m better able to express and manifest my ideas to their truest potential. I still have a long way to go.
And while writing every day is a tough journey, there are many signs along the way that signal I’m on the right path. A few weeks into writing daily, I received an email from a reader who found my blog through my sister. He complimented my writing and encouraged me to keep going. It was the first compliment I received for my work outside of my friends and family. I think every writer remembers the first time they receive “fan mail”. As writers, we take a risk and share a piece of ourselves with the world. And when someone expresses gratitude for your art, it’s confirmation that our work does matter after all. Since then I’ve inspired many friends and strangers to start writing, and them finding inspiration from my work inspires me in return.
Right now, writing is on the periphery of my life; a side character complimenting the main character; the Robin to my Batman, the Samwise to my Frodo, the Watson to my Sherlock. The beauty of writing—and especially writing daily—is its flexibility. Whether I’m focused on my craft as a product manager, solo traveling South America, or exploring a new hobby like interior design, writing daily captures those learnings and further drives comprehension. And because of its flexibility, I can see myself writing daily for years, decades even.
Perhaps greatest of all, writing gave me a voice. Growing up in an immigrant household, many of my dinner-time conversations with my parents rarely went below the surface. I felt like I couldn’t express myself freely at home. It was frustrating. In retrospect, this suppression of emotions spurred me to write. When I started writing they were my biggest advocates sharing it with our family, friends, and colleagues. They read every single one of my posts. And while I still struggle to express myself at the family dinner table, I communicate to my parents through my writing: this is what I’m up to, this is what I care about, this is who I am.
Over the years, I grew up on this blog. All 1780 posts and half a million words. These pages are a witness to my reflections and reckonings—in school, in career, in life. I also grew immensely as a writer, a title that’s taken me a long time to be comfortable with. Sometimes I’ll read an advanced writer, someone like Ava, and I’ll be in awe of her work. Her ability to craft a compelling narrative and wordsmith sentences seems like magic to me. Her level of mastery seems almost unattainable but I find it inspiring. In order to become the writer I want to be, I need to evolve and my work must evolve with it.
Part of that evolution is becoming the Internet Gardener. In literature, the garden is a symbol of growth and healing. Tending to a garden means embracing slow growth: gardens don’t grow overnight, and anything worthwhile takes a long time. Gardens also heal us. They’re alive and that aliveness ignites our own spirit. An “Internet Garden” embodies my vision for this work. Three years ago, I planted seeds that have since flourished into a forest of ideas. At its core, the themes and cadence of this blog will remain. But this name change is a necessary transformation as I reach the next level as a writer. The Internet Garden is a place for growth and healing for myself and for anyone that chooses to visit. The Internet Garden is my means of pursuing what’s beautiful and true. The Internet Garden is my contribution to creating a beautiful pocket on the Internet.