What it means to write regularly

2:09 pm on January 2, 2017 is as good a time as any to finally start blogging.

And I do mean blogging, not writing. I created this website August 28, 2016, having discovered that the New York venture capital power couple Fred and Joanne Wilson had mustered the discipline to blog daily on their AVC and Gotham Gal sites. I found it liberating that their posts aren’t always (or even often) groundbreaking. Sometimes they just post pictures of and brief commentary on shows they’ve seen (Joanne recently posted about Manifesto, which features Cate Blanchett in 20 avatars reading historic manifestos) or links to interesting tech videos (Fred is investing in blockchain companies and posts about the technology frequently). I thought to myself, “hell, I could do that!” What’s most interesting about their blogs is the fact that they approach writing as a daily practice. Velcro to the quotidian. Blogging akin to but different from journal writing: akin in that what’s written pulses our (my) daily thoughts, discoveries, experiences, writing a space to actively process what we (I) live and thereby transform what we live, sedimenting the seen, heard, read, and watched into a different area of our (my) consciousness than that available to passive experience (writing a documentation very different from the flash activity of selfies and social media posts, which mediate present experiences and change our methods of recollection); different in that what I (we?) write for a public audience won’t, given who I am, be as raw and direct as what I write for myself and for the men I have loved. Now, I share far more private thoughts with friends and strangers in face-to-face conversations than I think is appropriate, polite, or beneficial. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to cultivate interiority. But the spoken word is, at least partially, transient (I qualify this because the older I get, the more I appreciate, and often regret, the consequences of what I’ve said and shown to family and friends). Transient, directed, and selectively shared. What’s written stays there, exposed, available to whoever decides to look. This fear of judgment is what makes public writing – and art, and so many endeavors – so hard. It’s also hard not to write to someone, as Coetzee discussed in Elizabeth Costello. I’ve always found that the blank image of an open audience folds in on itself and lands at the iron gates of the superego. That is to say, to write for everyone is to write for no one is to write for oneself. My fear, finally, is much more palpable for me with some subjects than others. I prefer to hide behind the conventions of business, math, and philosophy, to write in a way that a man would never deride as feminine. In this blog, I am going to try to expose more personal thoughts. I do think some of the prose will be worth reading.

I’m a sucker for daily practices (and understand that daily means almost daily). So much so that I think the strongest daily practice I have is my habit of setting new daily practices. Write a blog every day. Study at least 20 minutes of Mandarin every day. Meditate at least 15 minutes every day. Refresh my other foreign languages. Exercise. Find a way to practice gratitude. Keep a journal. Play violin. The point is it’s silly. The point is it’s a way to avoid the responsibility and prioritization required to actually build a new skill, to define oneself in a particular way. Instead of making hard choices, and picking something at the expense of other things, I often wear myself thin trying to do lots of things, trying to inhabit the liminal space of potential as opposed to closing the door on a different possible world. That’s ok: I believe there’s a space for generalists in this world, even though I’ve always envied those who truly excel at one art or skill. But what’s healing about doing something regularly is that there’s space to mess up. It doesn’t always have to be great. You just have to sit down and do it. I love how routine can remove the agony of choice, although I do agree with Ruth Chang that it’s helpful to view hard choices as life presenting us with opportunities to exercise normative agency. But habits are the fruit of lots of little choices, the how of our life, which define us so concretely that they can challenge projections of who we think we are.

This post did not turn out to be what I thought it would be. I originally entitled it “2017 resolutions,” and realized midway into the first paragraph that wasn’t going to be the right title. What I perhaps love most about writing (how wonderful that in the course of this post I may have mustered the courage to write) is giving ourselves over to insights, to the truth that cannot help but be told if we allow ourselves to follow where the writing takes us. I’ve found that writing helps me crystallize my understanding of technical concepts and excavate the caverns of my emotions. I’m surprised by how personal I’ve allowed this to become. My New Year’s resolutions include intentions to cultivate interiority, honesty, bravery, and self-love. This feels like a step in the right direction.

The image is Mikhail Vrubel’s Demon Seated, painted in 1890. I find Vrubel so wonderfully lyrical, this image betokening androgyny, loneliness, strength, and introspection, and thereby a fitting representation for my personal experience of writing. 

3 thoughts on “What it means to write regularly

  1. I gave myself the goal of daily blogging when I started mine ( ReallyWonderfulThings.me ), and it was a wonderful exercise in cultivating will, and in letting go of the goal of perfection.

    After ten weeks, and with other obligations pressing, I gave myself permission to post just twice a week… or whenever I felt compelled to comment on the world.

    Like

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