Recording in progress
Writing, and why I kept myself from it
Over the last few months, I have collected several journal entries pondering why I fear writing. This is my attempt at piecing them together:
I see writing as an extension of thinking– to me, they’re almost interchangeable. Throughout my engineering education, I have used writing for exactly that purpose– a space to hold and process thoughts before I share them. Whether in my notes app, a Google doc, or a physical journal, I was always jotting things down. Some days I would write out lists of questions or expand on advice from friends, on others I would fill the pages with whatever existential crisis was taking over my life at the moment. Even in meetings at work, I have a tendency to quickly note down new ideas and thoughts before I say them out loud.
Friends who saw my writing for class assignments or projects encouraged me to start a writing practice, but I never took their input seriously– because I never took my writing seriously. I simply didn’t see myself as a writer. Outside of class, the only time I wrote was when the urge to do so was so large that my mind could not possibly continue to function without sorting out its thoughts on a page. Whenever a particularly emotional or thought-provoking moment occurred in my life, I’d spill out my reactions in a journal entry. Once it was finished, I’d never return to it, and could never bring myself to read it again. It was as if I was embarrassed by my own thoughts. I think this stemmed from a belief that I needed something profound to say for it to be valuable enough to read, even if the reader was just future me.
I assume that many people work through this feeling by acknowledging that it is human beings that judge the profundity of each other’s work, that every person has something meaningful to say regardless of expertise, and how even expertise is just another human-defined construct.
And I do believe all of that, but it hasn’t helped with my personal insecurity of feeling like my words don’t matter. Whenever an interesting idea crosses my mind, my instinct is to dismiss it. If I can think of it, couldn’t anybody? The only thing I’ve found that’s helped me push my insecurity to the side is treating my thoughts with kindness, like I would a friend’s. I wouldn’t dismiss anything any of my friends said to me, and I wouldn’t worry about how nice it sounded, because what matters to me is respecting and acknowledging what they’re trying to communicate. I’ll be honest, I still don’t think much of my writing, but I’ve determined that it doesn’t have to be particularly special to have validity.
It also feels a little funny to ponder the greatness of my writing because until recent times, sitting down to write was unavoidable. People wrote emails, and before then letters. Twenty years ago, phone time was charged by the minute and even I grew up with charge-per-text messaging. For a long time, every literate person had to write to communicate. And it would have been silly if they had wondered whether their writing was sufficiently eloquent before they settled down to do it. Words can serve a purpose regardless of how remarkable they are.
Once I decided that I would write some unremarkable words, a natural question followed – what would I write about? I’m not the sort of person who has any pointed interests I can articulate, and my reaction to people who ask me what my passions are is often a sense of internal panic. Everything feels interesting to me– there are so many ideas in the world and not enough time to read and listen and learn them all. I often spend far more time paralyzed by the decision of what to consume than actually consuming. This is embodied in many forms in my life, from the way that I leave most books almost-finished to skip to the next ones, to how I spend so long choosing a show on Netflix that I run out of time to watch it.
To pull myself out of this overwhelming feeling, there’s been one thing I love to do, and that I’ve always done– asking questions. I grew up as a child who read a million books and asked a million questions to whichever ears I could get a hold of. As I got older, and more self-conscious, I started keeping most of these questions to myself. My only venue to express them was in high school literature classes, which I excelled in, but once my college course load was overtaken by time-intensive technical classes, I lost that curiosity too.
As I’ve settled into my post-grad routine and regained a sense of contentment with my life, I’ve attempted to revive my reading habit, be it through books, articles or even podcasts. During this time, I’ve made it a point to observe the questions my brain encounters, and this has made my problem rather obvious. In blindly searching for where my passions lay, I was trying to reverse engineer questions from answers, while all along, the answers revealed themselves in the questions I needed to give myself the space to ask.
In letting myself be guided by the questions I ask as indicators of what I care about, I’m becoming aware of an assortment of topics I’m curious to dive into. Reading with the intent of writing has thus been effective in forcing my focus, giving me a basis with which to approach content and adding a sense of intentionality to my explorations.
The last thing I wanted to consider here was why I was writing, what purpose it served. I’ve always written to contemplate, to process, to make sense of my world. And those words always had a distinct lack of polish. Sure, I could write them down, but were they worth publishing? As I pondered this, I came across this quote in a post by Simon Sarris:
You shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not you understand something before you try to explain and share. Some things can only grow in the light of others.
And so I’ve been reminded that there is much value to be found in first draft thoughts. There’s a beauty in sharing prose that has some rawness to it, that is yet to fully form. It solicits advice from people who’ve experienced the same thoughts before and support from those who are experiencing them now. It helps people feel less alone in their curiosities and makes complex conclusions seem more feasible to reach.
So I guess these letters will be me recording in progress thoughts, seeking more questions than answers, and seeing to whom and where that road takes me.
All the love,
P.S. a playlist for your time ~ i leave you with some of my favorite sunrise tunes, best accompanied by morning silence & a cup of tea ✨