Why I Write

I enjoy the art of creation. Maybe enjoy is too light of a word for what I'm trying to describe. I feel compelled by. I have a need to. I cannot not create.

One of the mediums I do this is through writing. I write about all sorts of things. Philosophical discussions I've had either with myself or other people. My feelings regarding recent events. Some new insight at work. Frustration at some poorly designed programming interface. The weather.

I write these things in half formed sentences and rough notes. Sometimes I will string them together into a longer more coherent narrative. Sometimes I will even finish this narrative. At this point, I might or might not publish. More often than not, I don't.

By the point I get to publishing, I will find a reason not to. Usually, its because I'm afraid of being judged. Because I don't think I have anything useful to contribute to the discussion. Because there is enough noise in the internets and I would just be making it worse. And so I don't publish.

Two months ago, I read a Leonardo da Vinci biography by Walter Isaacson. I love biographies and I'm a fan of how Walter Isaacson writes them.

There's a great many things I learned from this book. Like how Leonardo was a great procrastinator and that for all the works we know him by, there were even more that were never finished, never published or abandoned half way through. I learned that Leonardo was a bastard son, a master of hydraulics and that he liked men. Most importantly, I learned that Leonardo was selfish.

Leonardo didn't cut up human cadavers because he wanted to advance the state of medical knowledge, he didn't paint images of Jesus because of religious piety and he didn't finish work so the world could enjoy them. Rather, he did all of this chiefly to satisfy his own calling.

Leonardo was compulsively curious and he desired to know how nature worked. Its not to say he didn't care about the world at large but it is to emphasize that he was driven to do things primarily out of personal callings.

Some historians look at the unfinished works of Leonardo and lament at all the inventions that the world had to rediscover because Leonardo didn't publish his work. I don't think Leonardo would care very much at all at what those historians thought.

Doing things primarily for personal reasons. This is often taught as something selfish, especially in eastern cultures. Being selfish is bad. There's a term used a lot in my family growing up - "ke qi". One should be "ke qi" in the presence of others. One way of translating this is to be respectful of others. The implied subtext is that you should respect others before self.

I don't agree with this. All the reasons why I don't agree with this might be the topic of another entry.

Suffice to say that my deeply held belief today is that the most important thing you can do (and indeed must do) is to respect yourself. Dare I use a phrase from the Woodstock era - to love yourself. This is not to say that we should be narcissistic, arrogant or completely self absorbed. Instead, it means to have build a foundation of self respect that ones actions can be said to truly come from one's self (as much as any action can be said to come from a self) instead of a need to fulfill expectations or gain external validation.

Even if after all this, if your prerogative is still putting other first, that's fine. It will no longer be an obligation. It will be an action taken in adherence to deeply personal values.

I think of the airplane analogy - in case of de-pressurization, secure your own oxygen mask before helping others. Lack of oxygen to the brain leads to inability to think. This leads to a distorted view of reality. Instead of helping, you might end up injuring others instead.

To bring this back to writing - a chief reason I didn't publish more is because I was too concerned about what everyone else might think. I didn't think I had anything sufficiently insightful or novel to say.

But this is not why I write - that is, for the sake of other people. I'm writing firstly for myself. I write because the words need to come out. Because it brings coherence to many loose strands of thought. Because I want to. Because I need to. It would be nice if others found use in these writings but ultimately, that is secondary.

This is all to say that the entries in this blog might not be unique in a world of plus seven billion tweeting/posting/blogging people but they are uniquely my own. And that's okay.


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