Why Writing? Why Now?
I never enjoyed writing growing up. Ask me to write anything and I would groan at the thought. The word “essay” elicited unpleasant memories of high school english and discussing the morality of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” — a topic I could care less about.
Then Paul Graham taught me the importance of writing essays, and it turned my perception of writing on its head. It taught me that writing is thinking. That anyone who thinks clearly can write clearly, about anything at all. This was much different than my perception of essay writing in high school. I started to seriously consider taking up writing.
That’s when I came across Francis Bacon’s quote:
“Reading makes a man full, conference makes a man ready, writing makes a man exact”.
This quote pushed me over the threshold. It convinced me that writing is the next step in my evolution and yours too. Here’s why:
Writing helps you become a clearer thinker
Writing is quickly becoming one of my most important practices. Every piece I write I learn something new. Take this piece. Before I began writing it, my reasoning and arguments for why writing is important were messy. But as I write it out, I’m fleshing out and sharpening those arguments, and as I do so, I’m clarifying to myself why it is that I write.
This is why writing is so powerful. Writing remedies an unclear thinking process because it forces you to think about a topic in a structured way. After your ideas are written down, you begin to rewrite, and the essence of writing is rewriting. During the rewriting process, you begin to separate the good ideas from the bad ones until you are left with only the best ideas. When you do this with your writing it affects your thinking as well. Clear writing becomes clear thinking. And clear thinking is an essential skill that benefits all aspects of life. Clear thinking means sharper decision making. Sharper decision making means higher quality outcomes. Higher quality outcomes means a better life.
Writing is a form of discovery
One of the first posts I wrote was an autobiographical piece. It was a pain in the ass to write, but it’s the piece I’m most proud of. I’ve always considered myself a self aware person and this piece challenged that. It forced me to ask myself difficult questions like: What are my values? What’s most important for me? Where am I going? I put a lot of thought into these questions but I never wrote about them before. Writing helped me find the truest answer, it helped me understand myself.
Now, whenever I want to understand something I’m inclined to write about it. In fact, this is the purpose of an essay. The word “essay” comes from the french verb “essayer” meaning “to try” and an essay is an attempt to figure something out. For example, the idea for one of my articles came from a question that a friend asked me, “what advice would I give a high school freshman?” When I wrote about it I discovered a profound concept that I would’ve not found otherwise.
Writing creates intellectual assets
Writing, particularly writing online through a blog, generates value over time. Say you write one great article, this piece becomes an advertisement for the opportunities and people you want to attract.
A blog post on a subject is a signal that you have knowledge and interest in that area — it doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or not. The act of writing helps you think clearly and explore the subject in depth. This creates a positive feedback loop that accelerates your learning. As your writing improves so too will the opportunities available to you.
In addition, writing online is the most scalable networking activity. It’s a way of sending out your beacon on your aspirations, ideas and interests. The internet is large and writing gives you access to that audience. No matter how small your niche is, you’ll find someone with similar interests on the internet. Writing online makes it easier for you to find those people, and those people to find you.
Writing is a way of sharing
Many people are hesitant to write online because they feel like they have nothing original or valuable to say. But what is original? And is it true that we have nothing of value to share?
In a previous blog post, I argued that nothing is original but rather a derivative of something else. Many of my ideas I took as inspiration from a podcast I listened to or a book I read. Take this piece, search up “why you should write” and it’s likely that many of them relate thinking and writing clearly.
In terms of having nothing of value to say I think we underestimate 2 things:
- How much you know that other people don’t.
- How much others will benefit from you sharing your knowledge.
We all have plenty of knowledge to share. In fact, some of our most useful knowledge we think of as common knowledge — that everybody already knows this stuff — when in fact many don’t and would benefit from you sharing it. For example, remember when you were searching for your first job? How lost you were? What advice would you give to a freshman about to enter the job search? We’ve all been there before and to many of us it’s second nature, but I’m sure there’s plenty we can share. Each one of us has a vast body of accumulated knowledge, that others would benefit from, but more often than not, that knowledge does not get passed on.
This reminds me of a gospel song that I used to sing back in elementary school called “This Little Light of Mine”. The main verse of the song goes:
“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine”
We all have a light that we can shine and I’m going to let my light shine through this blog.
Writing is a way of expressing yourself
In Roger Ebert’s Go Gentle into that Good Night, Ebert summarizes Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes:
“Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clichés, that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and happily torturing people with my jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all eventually die as well, but so it goes.”
My hope for this blog is to have a body of work that expresses who I am. I believe everyone should have a medium of self expression. This is what writing is for me. One day when I leave this planet, my writing will outlast me, though it too will fade. This is my way of passing on my learnings and experiences so that hopefully someone out there can benefit from it.
Writing is fun
This verse from Eric B. and Rakim’s “I Know You Got Soul”, sums up how I feel about writing:
I start to think and then I sink
Into the paper like I was ink
When I’m writing, I’m trapped in between the lines,
I escape when I finish the rhyme
I got soul
When I first took up writing as a hobby, it was tough. And it’s still tough. But now I’m beginning to understand the craft. I understand that the first draft is going to be messy. I understand that I’ll need to fiddle with each word, each sentence. I understand that each time I rewrite it only keep improving. And seeing that final product, it’s magical. There’s no better feeling than working on an article for an hour, rewriting again and again, and then reading the end result and saying, “Damn, that’s better than I thought”. This is how I feel every. Single. Time.
Keep Making a Ruckus
One of my greatest heroes is Seth Godin. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be writing right now. Something that Seth likes to say is “keep making a ruckus”. That you don’t bring about change by sticking to the status quo. You don’t bring about change by staying in your comfort zone. You bring about change by doing what you’re afraid of and making your best possible work.
Part of my mission in writing this piece is to encourage others to write. I’m no expert but if you’re interested in writing or you’re just starting out, I’d be happy to help out. Send me an email at email@example.com.
Let’s start a ruckus together.
- 10 years of professional blogging — what I’ve learned - Andrew Chen
- Advice to a Young Writer - Ray Bradbury
- James Baldwin’s Advice on Writing - Brain Pickings
- On Writing - Stephen King
- On Writing Well - William Zissner
- Why You Should Start a Blog Right Now - Alexey Guzey
- Why You Should Write - David Perell
- Willa Cather on Productivity vs. Creativity and the Life-Changing Advice That Made Her a Writer - Brain Pickings