What writing 1000 blogposts taught meOct 2020
On one cold January evening in 2018, I wrote a blogpost on an impulse. I then chose a simple WordPress theme and published that post. The next day, I wrote another post. The day after that, I wrote another. 1000 posts later, I find myself here.
Growing up, I always thought of myself as a writer. I wrote my first poem in class 4, which was published out of kindness in the local newspaper. Throughout my schooling and university, I have been part of writing clubs. I wrote only when I found myself in the grip of an inspired moment. These moments had a will of their own, but they followed one pattern — whenever I put out a good post, the next one would take longer to arrive. People often complimented my writing, but I guarded those compliments closely by holding onto the dangerous myth of one being only as good as one’s last performance.
Yet, even as my writing became sporadic to the point of non-existence, I continued to think of myself as a writer. At some point, this notion started to feel empty. You cannot call yourself a plumber, a carpenter or a surgeon for long if you idled away amidst your tools while waiting for inspiration to strike. While writers are veterans at this act of self-delusion, even inventing terms like ‘writer’s block’ by way of justification, a writer that does not write feels empty inside. You are what you do despite what you say you are.
For the first time, I stopped calling myself a writer and decided instead to write everyday. I did not wish to merely write in private — I wanted the world to see my writing, and along with it, parts of my naked self. Striving for perfection in total secrecy is more than it is made out to be. It is harder, but more meaningful to publish your imperfect creations to the ruthless judgement of the world rather than protect them within the sanctuary of your own head.
Most people think they are better writers than they actually are. It is, after all, a skill that we are taught right from primary school. But just pause to think about how writing actually works. The cerebral cortex of our brain has the surface area of two newspaper sheets that are that are folded in and squeezed into our skulls — hence all the wrinkles. Like a firework display, this canvas within our head is witness to several interesting thoughts, ideas, feelings, notions, memories and experiences that fire off in different regions. The act of writing serves to build the neural highways and the alleyways needed to connect these disparate regions and convert their sparks into a story that can help reproduce the same firework display in the mind of a reader. The job of a creative writer is to make this reproduction accurate, but not precise. One’s writing ought to convey the essence, but leave enough unstated between the lines so that the reader can reproduce their own variation of the same firework display. Defining writing as the means to clearly express whatever one feels is simple, but on digging deeper, one realizes how it is a craft that demands its own 10,000 hours of rigour.
The more one writes, the more one realizes how building these intricate network of connections in the brain bestows several other skills. For instance, one learns to recognize bad writing almost instantly. The hallmark of bad writing is a feeling that the writer is making you work harder than you ought to in order to understand a particular idea. Seen this way, it becomes clear how bad grammar, spelling or word choice adds speed breakers and potholes on what ought to be a smooth road. Additionally, one also learns to recognize when a writer is using sophisticated language merely in a bid to sound smart while doing nothing to clarify what they are saying. In the manner of how a chef knows the quality of a dish no sooner than she spoons it into her mouth, a writer knows, after reading a paragraph or two, whether a piece of writing is well written.
Despite having written everyday for so many days now, I am surprised by how writing a new post continues to be hard work. I still have days when I wake up and amble to the computer only to find myself clueless about expressing an idea that seemed crystal clear the evening before. Several of my posts have given me the impulse to hit delete and assume a new identity rather than put them out into the world. The benefit of sustaining a habit so long is that when the ugly monster of Resistance rears its head, it makes it harder for the practitioner to discontinue their practice on a whim. Nevertheless, I constantly ask myself whether this habit is worth the time and effort that I dedicate towards sustaining it. So far the answer has always been a ‘yes’, but someday that might change.
Even as I count the benefits my writing has given me I understand that it hasn’t done nearly as much for my readers. Like the patient roommate who puts up with somebody practicing the violin next door, you have received word of my posts as emails and on your social media feed. Writing a daily blog does much more for a writer than it ever can for a reader. I am grateful for anybody who has engaged with this blog in their own capacity — from silently reading a couple of posts to initiating conversations centered around the blog. Amidst this journey, I pause today to thank you for your generous help.
I have always thought of myself as a writer. Writing this blog has given me the action to back up this feeling. However, I realize that this is just a beginning. Having written a thousand blogposts, I aspire to write articles, essays, booklets and someday, books to voice the ever more intricate firework displays that light up inside my brain. As for this blog itself, I will continue to appear on stage and perform this daily dance until a clear voice within convinces me that it is time to pull down the curtains.***
This post first appeared on my blog — anupamobserved.com.