Why Do I Write?

An inexhaustive list of reasons that capture this itch to write

Date: Dec 28, 2019

I must confess, I did not have an innate need to write for most of my life. I found out that I had a knack for writing prose in high school and didn't make much of it. Afterall, why would a middle-class Indian kid good at science and math consider literature studies. As misguided as I was, I did (and still do) love reading books. As a reader, I get to look at things from a different perspective, make unique connections to my own experiences and emotions. It inspires me to write. And with each iteration, I get better at conveying my ideas.

I need to remember. There's a cheesy, pseudo-intellectual scene in the cinematic masterpiece American Beauty involving a plastic bag floating in air. The scene per se isn't hard to film, but that's not the point. Maybe I'm looking too much into it, but I think it's trying to capture that sublime moment when you feel blessed/grateful for your transient existence on Earth. A perfect moment when you feel in sync with your surroundings and feel the benevolence of the greater forces around you. Enjoying that warm sunny day, the cool, gentle breeze or those initial drops of rain can be such an immersive experience. It helps forget our troubles and truly experience the present moment. Be it Buddhist or Hindu monks, they all agree on one thing - take a moment to observe and appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. The randomness and senselessness of life drives me crazy. But I do, at times, see some order emerge from the chaos. I started to grasp the hidden complexity behind the things I took for granted. For a moment I'd feel like I was a part of something much bigger than myself. And I need to remember that. It's like the quote in that scene - I need to remember. I know it doesn't do justice to the real things. But I need something to remember. Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember... Writing is just one way for me to do that. Words will fail me from time to time. But at least, they'll capture enough information to rekindle those memories. Yann Martel said it best in Beatrice and Virgil - “Words are cold, muddy toads trying to understand sprites dancing in a field - but they're all we have.”

Critical Thinking. Dr. Jordan Peterson had a brilliant video that elucidates why you should write. Our brains have a few of shortcuts that accelerate our thinking process. We make leaps from one idea to another and we hardly realize it. Writing helps identify the gaps in thinking and make it a coherent logical chain.

Catharsis, Introspection & Retrospection. Maria Popova had a great article on Brain Pickings titled Celebrated Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary. I don't keep a daily journal. But I do write when I feel overwhelmed. It's cathartic to express your most visceral feelings in an unpublishable note without any judgement. In addition, articulation of ideas and thoughts requires significant effort. It forces you to think deeply about what you're talking about and identify any blockers. Sometimes the picture is too big to fit in my mind. Hence, I offload the additional data by jotting it all down and then try to connect the dots.

Writing is therapeutic. I don't know why, but I find it near impossible to lie to myself. I have no qualms lying to others if necessary. But I just can't delude myself. Writing forces me to be honest with myself. I can journal my deepest, darkest secrets without fear of scorn or reproach and remove the sting/poison in my emotional psyche. Once the petty, nihilistic angst is dealt with, I can calmly evaluate my options and move on with my life. Negativity and toxicity has a way of seeping into every aspect of life and impacts everyone in the immediate vicinity. By writing my heart out, I can spare my loved ones some of the existential anguish.

Reinforces the lesson. As much as I take pride in my ability to memorize random things with minimal mental effort, nothing drills in a lesson like writing it down. It increases the odds that I will remember it over a longer timescale. Plus it's easier to look up information in your notes compared to searching from scratch. It's just a good tool to recall the lessons learned the hard way.

Need for social relevance. All said and done, I'm still a social animal. While I might be picky about the people I choose to spend time with, I still have a strong desire to be liked and admired by people I care about and respect. I really hope that my posts resonate with my readers on some level.

I like to. Most times it's as simple as that. I like to write. I do so because it pleases me. And there's probably no clear explanation for that. If you made it to the end, thank you and be gone! :P Write something and please do share it with me :)