The dreaded why: a question which doesn’t strike most, if not any children, but suddenly comes crashing in when you become an adult.
The reasons for why is often the most enigmatic part of any activity. We can often stop ourselves right in our tracks simply by asking why we’re doing it, without any prior hiccups. And for me, writing is an activity that isn’t exempted from the dreaded question.
I wrote about the reasons for writing for myself in the journaling essay I wrote a while back (two years ago as of writing this, yikes!), but I never really thought about why I write essays in general.
To be quite honest, I had this topic sitting around as an essay idea for months now, with nothing to say on the matter. It wasn’t until recently, when I really started thinking about it, that I was able to figure out why I liked doing this so much.
But this is just a starting point. It hasn’t been too long since I started writing, so the reasons as to why may be shallow, it may be not adequate enough, but they’re still reasons. Maybe in the years to come I’ll find even more solid reasons, but for now these are the ones that I have on hand.
The fundamental reason as to why I write for my website is simple: it’s because I cannot find people who say the things that I want to hear, so I take it upon myself to express it instead.
I spent a lot of time back before I started writing looking for videos, blogs, or really anything for me to relate to. I may have a certain topic in my head that I think is interesting, and I go out searching for what other people have to say about it. But more often than not, there’s always something missing in what they say that I have floating around my head that I wish they would’ve mentioned. Most of the time, there’s nothing even being said on the topic that I searched up.
But really, how can I expect other people to have the same thoughts and perspectives as me? People rarely, if ever, cover a topic so extensively that it encompasses everyone’s perspective. It’s practically impossible. There will always be something with someone’s perspective that won’t coincide with yours, and vice versa.
What this means, to me, is that we rely on so little people to say the things that need to be said for us that we end up missing out on a lot of really good thoughts and insights, simply because there’s not enough people expressing themselves. There’s something inherently missing from the perspective of those who communicate with people on a mass scale that can be filled by those who are much smaller—those who are more niche than them.
I liken writing to contributing to a large, collective knowledge base. If we rely too much on the popular few to distribute all sorts of perspectives, then there will inevitably be large gaps where no one ever covers, and thus will lead to a natural bias. Nowadays it’s not hard to find people who are basically carbon copies of the people who they follow, which I find to be unfortunate.
I think there are more diverse perspectives than we’re led to believe, but they get overwritten by those who can say their opinions more eloquently than others, or there’s simply not enough people giving their thoughts on the matter in a way that’s more comprehensive and isn’t just some random blurb composed of a measly 280 characters; with that little amount space, the most you're really going to get is a mere agreement or disagreement, not anything of substance.
In a way, I write because I’m disappointed by what’s not being said. My writings may have parallels with other pieces on the Internet, but they’re largely fueled by the fact that not many people have said the same things—things which I so desperately wanted to be said but will never be able to hear.
That is, unless I write about it myself.
Writing can be a very isolating experience, because you’re writing about something that other people may have thought about, but did not express publicly. As a result, you may feel like the only person on Earth who tried to tackle such a topic in the first place, even if you could grasp the probability that other people definitely have had similar thoughts.
I think my writings come from a place of loneliness. Since I have such a hard time finding writings adequate enough to express my thoughts on a subject, having to do it myself can be somewhat uncomfortable—almost like going into uncharted territory.
There are times when people have messaged me about a particular piece of mine and say how much they related to it, and that’s great—I appreciate all of those comments. But it doesn’t change the fact that most of the time, I don’t know whether what I’m saying is even something that people will ever relate to—and that’s the simple reality of pushing your perspectives out there to the public.
Writing for myself simply makes me now a possible source in which people may find a voice in and can relate to, but it doesn’t make me finding people who I can relate to any easier. People can find comfort when they read something they resonate with, but if you’re the source of that resonance? It can feel like there’s no one else out there who you can relate to, except yourself.
Even if someone else’s thoughts on a matter is similar to mine, it doesn’t make it redundant. If anything, it’s nice to hear a voice that isn’t your own once in a while, even if it’s merely an echo. In such a case, even “redundant” writings have value.
Though I may write things that other people have talked about already, or write about topics which no one has ever covered, giving more opportunities for people to relate to other people can make the world less lonely.
If you’ve read any of my writings on my website, it may (or may not) be surprising that this is not how I talk to people in real life.
I don’t like talking to people about my interests because I’m a naturally private person and thus protective over those sorts of things. Not only that, but it takes quite a lot of thought as to whether mentioning certain topics of your interest is even worth it. Most of the people who I talk to either don’t care, try to make themselves look like they care but catastrophically fail in doing so, or they try to understand but they simply don’t know enough about the topic to really contribute to the conversation, making it less of a discussion and more of a one-way baggage return.
But with writing it’s quite different. Since there isn’t any two-way communication, readers decide whether they want to read based on the topic and after some general skimming. Only then do they decide to read it or not.
With this, the writer-reader dynamic is quite different from a speaker-listener one: the writer writes for many readers, who themselves will decide through personal criteria whether this person’s work is worth reading; with a speaker-listener dynamic, it’s a two-way battle of the speaker trying to figure out whether the person they’re talking to will be interested in what they’re going to say, and the listener making social cues to show their interest and engagement, or lack thereof.
In essence, the writer-reader dynamic would fit more of a discovery model: the writer creates something which many readers will skim and process, and determine whether it’s good to consume. Many people won’t read it, but some people will. The speaker-listener dynamic would be more of a prescriptive model, where the speaker will give something tailored to the listener, given their interests, contexts, and other factors.
What does this mean? Well, it basically means that with writing, I can talk about any topic that I want, and given enough time and exposure, the people who are interested will find it eventually. Since people are naturally picky, they sort themselves automatically—those who are not interested will simply stop reading, while those who are interested will continue reading. There’s no work done on my part, since my job was completely focused on writing what I wanted to write. If the piece is up to my standards, then other people engaging with it is none of my concern—this is a personal website after all, not a newspaper publishing company.
Now contrast all of this with talking with people: half the battle is figuring whether the person even cares before I talk to them about it. And when you do go for it and start talking to them, you have to possibly slog through the swamp of having to talk to someone who isn’t remotely interested in what you’re saying. It becomes very tiresome both to evaluate when to talk about a certain topic to someone, and then having to deal with the aftermath if things don’t turn out so well.
The thing about this writer-reader dynamic is that it isn’t reserved for just writing. Any permanent media such as video, audio recordings, and the like fall under this. Any type of communication that is stored and saved, basically. I could, in theory, have a YouTube channel talking about all of the topics that I’ve written about on my website, but by this point it comes down to strictly preference. I much prefer to write about my thoughts rather than speak them out loud.
Speaking of preferences, the reason why I write instead of expressing through voice is because it’s very discreet. I can write without making it known that I write.
No one that I know IRL knows that I write. No one. And I don’t intend to let them know. My website is the only place that I can share things to people without having people in real life confronting me about it, regardless if it’s positive or negative.
If I were to do audio recordings or videos, I may either have to live with people possibly thinking that I’m a lunatic talking to myself for hours on end, repeating my lines over and over—or I’ll have to eventually tell them that I’m doing this sort of thing.
But with writing? I’m free. The same thing with creating artwork. Only a handful of people know that I draw, and barely anyone has seen any of my work—out of the many pieces in my gallery, people who I know IRL have only seen at most two, maybe three. And oftentimes, I showed it to them begrudgingly, because in reality I didn’t want to share it in the first place.
I mentioned in my music creation essay that I improve more with solitary activities than I do with ones that are more “out there”, and it’s for the reason I mentioned above: no one knows I do it, so I’m completely free to experiment, to fail, and to build upon what I’ve learnt without prying eyes.
Where I am at now, writing has become almost a self-indulgence to me. After I started getting well-acquainted with writing (which was around 2018), I often would start rambling for way longer than I expect. In school, students always complain that they can’t reach the imposed word count when they’re given an essay to do, but I actually started having the opposite problem: I often go past the word count and I have trouble pruning my work as a result.
And in a way, my website reflects this tendency perfectly. A lot of my writing is more than 1000 words in length, and it’s not because I force myself to write for that long. I simply have a lot to talk about. Of course, there are some exceptions to this, but I think it’s important to cover a large portion of my perspective with some examples, and also including some other perspectives too, to make the writing more coherent.
There’s something that’s satisfying to me about writing something that is well-structured, and has a clear flow to it. It’s also great fun to write something that’s as clear as it can possibly be. Though I can’t say that my writing has the greatest of clarity, it’s pleasurable to write something that I would like to read back and say it was as concise as I could put it. I find it similar to computer programming, where it’s really satisfying to write code that is super optimized.
This all goes hand-in-hand with the writer-reader dynamic I mentioned earlier: I write so much that it’s inevitable that if I were to verbally communicate all of that, people will tune out so bad they’ll break the knob in their head that changes the radio station out of pure apathy. If I write it all out, then no one is obligated to read it.
But despite this, it doesn’t stop me from writing it in a way that I find enjoyable to read; it doesn’t stop me from enjoying writing as a craft.
The next two sections may be more suited for my journaling essay, but since I wrote that a long time ago, I might as well include it here instead.
I started doing a lot of reading of my old journal entries, and I found that it was nice to finally read something that’s completely and wholly relevant to you—this is your past self talking, after all. In a way, it can also be comforting, looking at things that troubled you so much but now they don’t seem to be all that bad. You can laugh at your past self sometimes.
I also find that reading past journal entries can also be great reminders for certain things that you realized already, but have simply forgotten about. Oftentimes I’d find myself mention some mindset for dealing with certain situations, or some type of philosophy that I had completely forgotten about, but when I read it over again it is still applicable to my life in the present. It’s almost like giving advice to yourself.
This sort of introspection simply isn’t possible if you don’t write about what you think, or what you did. In a pragmatic sense, writing allows you to build upon past realizations, which would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, if you tried to do such a thing through pure recall alone.
Writing in my personal time is one of the most cathartic activities ever. I sometimes forget how relieving it can be to write about something until I start writing about it.
I often get into looping thoughts where I keep thinking about the same thing over and over, trying to get different perspectives as to why X happened, or why person Y did that. I may think I’m going somewhere and reach a breakthrough—a grand realization, but in reality I’m just straight up stuck in the mud.
Writing usually solves that immediately. I dump all of my thoughts on the matter, and usually after that there’s nothing really for me to think about anymore, since I properly expressed all of what was cooking in the neuron soup sitting in my skull cauldron.
The thing about writing too is that it requires absolutely no one else except you, and anything else to jot your thoughts: could be a pen and paper, could be a computer, or it could even be your phone. It’s in the same vein as prayer: there’s no schedule conflicts when you want to write; there’s no appointments that you have to book beforehand. You can just sit down, and write.
The greatest part? There’s no social repercussions for it. You can hurl anything you want at the piece of paper or the text file—it won’t hate you for it. Just make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of other people. I’m fortunate enough where my family is full of people who like to keep to themselves, but it may be a completely different case for others.
After all of this, some people may be tempted to think that unless they have some grand purpose predetermined, then they can’t write. But that’s not what I’m trying to get at here.
Most of these reasons for why I write were entirely in hindsight. If you asked me why I write for this website, even as early as last year, I wouldn't have given this comprehensive list of reasons—I would have simply said that it’s because I like doing it.
But if you write simply because you like writing, then that should be enough. The reasons for why can wait. Ask a child why they’re doing something, and they likely can’t give you any reason.
But that doesn’t stop them from doing it; it doesn’t prevent them from improving, and most of all, it doesn’t stop them from enjoying themselves.