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What stops me from writing

November 25, 2021

There are many reasons why a person might choose to write and share things. I recently realized that although my reasons all boil down to "I write for myself", I often hold myself back with self-criticisms that are only relevant if my goal is to write for others.

For example, I'm interested in writing technical blog posts, and the reasons are almost always these: I just learned a new concept and want to articulate how it works so I can solidify my understanding of it. Or I just built a project using an unfamiliar tool and I want to document the process for my own future reference as well as, again, deepening my grasp of it.

That's basically it. I have no desire to, say, teach others something new, start a side hustle or further my career by producing developer content, or shift the way the tech industry or scholars and researchers think about something. Those are valid goals one could have and they largely seem like cool side effects, but they're not what drive me to want to write.

More broadly, writing is one important way I think and make sense of experiences. It is the case, by choice, that my notes, from class notes to todo lists and journal-like entries, are very scattered across mediums and I don't use a system to preserve or organize them well. This makes me particularly appreciate when I have a(n at least somewhat) polished, easy-to-find, honest record of what and how I was thinking at a previous moment in time.

If I write about a life lesson I learned recently or an opinion I hold, it shouldn't matter if someone reads it and thinks, "wtf that's so basic, i already knew that". It's not relevant. It also doesn't matter if someone disagrees. Maybe we could talk about it and one of us changes our minds — taking in new information and adjusting is part of life — but we don't need to. The important thing is that the idea that someone might disagree shouldn't stop me from sharing, because I'm sharing to express myself.

(In fact, it could be helpful to just always assume that some people will agree with you and some people will disagree. If I take this as a given, I don't see any obvious changes to make in response, so for me, this assumption is just a nudge in the direction of continuing toward sharing what I intended to share.)

A related observation is that I love reading other people's life updates. Not necessarily grand, year in review-scale productions, though those are nice too, but just what has happened in the last day or week or two, along with brief, partly-baked thoughts about those happenings, usually on a lowkey blog of some sort. Maybe this is a nosy drive, but that aside, it's ironic that I've struggled to give myself the permission to create and share the exact kind of content I enjoy reading.

I don't know if these trains of thought help when one is trying to write for others. If your goal is indeed to provide novel ideas, then yeah, if you're getting feedback that nothing you're sharing is insightful, you probably want to change something. Maybe I'll think about that at some point, as I do have aspirations of writing for others (in the relatively far future), but not now.

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