Why I Write
A Totally Self-Serving Post
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
I’m in the middle of writing two other pieces, with a third in bullet form. These pieces are timely and relevant, and I can’t finish the articles no matter how hard I try. Writer’s block is very real and subsides with practice, habit, and discipline. However, sometimes the urge to write something different becomes intense – something self-reverential.
At the risk of over self-indulgence, it’s important to recognize why you do things you do in life. This evening I told a small group of young men that it’s important to take risks in life. Writing is a risk; you end up revealing something about yourself to strangers. I remember a quote from a documentary on the French Foreign Legion, “The reasons why you join the Legion are the reasons why people will respect you for it.” To unpack - the reasons you try hard tasks are why you are respected for trying the difficult task. It is important to do hard things and not live life in a shell. Does that mean constantly pushing your comfort zone? Probably not. That is potentially destructive. I have many orthopedic injuries from pushing myself too far physically, and I suffer as a consequence.
While the purpose of life isn’t the avoidance of suffering but suffering needlessly, you don’t get points for being tough in most tasks in life except on the margins. Back to writing, it isn’t easy to write for many despite many years of academic writing for the vast majority of Americans. It is something that people abandon as they age. It is both a luxury and a difficult task.
I write because I like the challenge of explaining myself. I am often well-spoken in person, but I have difficulty communicating like any other person. I force myself to write in a medium with a logical flow where I am trying to get to a point.
A key aspect to successful writing is eliminating overgeneralizations. This aspect seems intuitive; however, it’s difficult to master. Overgeneralizations sully a piece. People don’t like larded-up, excessively fancy language because writers use it to conceal pointless writings. If you never get to a point in an article, you can easily replace common words with obscure ones.
I like this about writing and learning to write well. As I’ve gotten older and perhaps lazier in my speech, I’ve noticed a creeping of generalizations in my own language. It’s a bad habit encouraged by social media and my stint in politics. There’s not much demand for clarity as there is a demand for polemics.
Writing is a journey of self-improvement. I can improve myself by sitting down and focusing on what do I actually want to say. That is a luxury. It is a struggle.
When I went to Marine Bootcamp, the Senior Drill Instructor addressed the platoon on the first training day. In this speech, he tells the recruits that the hallmarks of the United States Marine are spirit and discipline. As strange as it sounds, I hadn’t truly understood what that meant until I got older and needed to persevere through civilian-life turmoil. In some ways, these are the upstream virtues to writing and other tasks we seek to turn to habits and then lifestyles.
Finally, I hope this helps you in some way. Find out your why if you can. I’m not an easily contented person; I’m restless and tend to want to keep moving – knowing why I want to keep moving keeps me sane and grounded.