On Writing

Throughout most of my life, my relationship with writing has been fairly clear-cut and pragmatic – I write to accomplish some task/assignment or to communicate something to someone else. The same is true of this blog. Given its public visibility, there is the expectation that someone else will read it or be able to read it, regardless of whether this actually happens or not. In essence, I write for others more than for myself. The same could be said to be true about many other things I do – drawing, taking photos, lifting weights, etc. While I enjoy these things and derive some benefit and meaning from them, I doubt I would be as motivated to do them if I had no expectation of someone seeing what I have drawn/photographed, or the results of lifting weights. Ironically, the thing I do primarily for myself is language learning; for me, it’s more about figuring out the puzzle and accessing different texts and ways of thinking than actually communicating with people (although reading could be said to be a form of communication, albeit indirect).

I actually started this website/blog primarily so I would have a place to share and organize some of my photos, with more flexibility and without all the distractions of “likes” or whatever else on social media. The journal or blog aspect was an afterthought, but after starting to write these posts, I’ve found a lot of personal value in it. It forces me to engage with myself, and the process of writing has been greatly beneficial in helping me to evaluate and organize my thoughts on various topics. Basically, this site/blog started with a focus on sharing with others and has subsequently become something I’m doing primarily for myself.

I’m sure some of you are aware that I am a fountain pen and stationery enthusiast – I have spent an abnormal amount of money on pens, inks, and paper, despite my handwriting being average looking and only occasionally sending letters to friends and family. Sometimes I feel guilty when I look at my beautiful pens and inks sitting there unused. In order to alleviate my guilt, among other things, I’ve recently started writing stuff in one of my notebooks – experiences, emotional states, thoughts, or anything else I may need help processing or releasing. Interestingly, even though I have no intention of anyone else reading what I’ve written, my personal writings sound just as cold and restrained as my academic writings. Maybe this is a side-effect of never having written for myself before, or maybe because, given the nature of writing, it’s able to be read by someone if they come across it. Maybe this is a sign that I don’t like to let others see my emotions, or maybe I’d rather not leave them carelessly lying around written in my notebooks.

I enjoy writing letters to others because it’s more personal, and I value the aesthetic and physical experience of different handwriting styles, ink qualities, paper textures, etc. However, I somehow hadn’t really noticed how different the experience of writing by hand is from typing on a computer until recently. Of course, it’s slower and requires you to have paper and pen, you can’t delete or edit things as easily, it can’t be backed up in the cloud or accessed from anywhere, etc. These differences are a bit obvious; less obvious are the effects that these inconveniences can have on the writing process itself. When I’m typing, ideas flow quickly and my fingers type them nearly as quickly; when writing by hand, my hand moves much slower and it forces me to slow down my mind and be more intentional in my thinking, resulting in a feeling of being more deeply-engaged in the process. A side-effect is often that, due to this forced slowing of the mind, I feel more calm after writing by hand, while I don’t feel this way after typing something. I guess this is analogous to the differences between film and digital photography, using a dedicated camera and using my phone camera, writing a letter and texting, reading a book and browsing Reddit, watching a movie and watching YouTube/TikTok videos, talking to a friend and posting on social media, etc.

Despite the conveniences of modern technology and the massive societal advancements they have afforded us, I often find that doing things ‘the old way’ or simply not taking advantage of conveniences makes me feel better. Inconvenience and intentionality force me to engage more deeply with what I’m doing, something that I really need in this time of shallow interaction and distracted engagement.

If you have any thoughts about this or would like to share your own experience (or if you’d like to receive a letter from me), feel free to comment or contact me.

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