I can’t recall when I first referred to myself as a writer. Writing has always felt like a state-of-mind, but writer—someone who has better grammar, and a more sophisticated understanding of the language—sounds like a profession.
Published at 19 (in a mathematics research journal), I didn’t think much of how often I wrote. At best it was for fun, but most often it was a means to an end. Email, status updates, and boring white papers.
Then one day it hit me—I enjoyed writing. How did that happen? English was always one of those filler classes, which I endured between those I really enjoyed.
After college, I paid more attention to how things were written. Instead of looking for mistakes when I read, I’d observe the writer’s style. Notice how they setup a scene or phrased a question. Eventually, my focus would turn from structure to voice.
It was then my own writing style began to emerge.
Emails from friends, and loved ones are flagged after I read them. I prefer to reflect on what was said. When I return to it, I draft and read over my response multiple times before I hit send. My first drafts have atrocious grammar, are riddled with typos, and—because I’m mildly dyslexic—often written out of order.
Posts to this site are subjected to even more rigor. I write two drafts at a minimum before I begin basic editing. Once the content edit is complete, I format the site in my publishing system, and edit the post again for layout.
It’s a slow, manual process. Deliberate, and lovely.
Every word on the page, screen, or email is written by hand. I avoid scripts, templates, and expansion tools. It may go against the nature of my day-to-day work—software development—but I want writing to remain a slow, deliberate process.
I can hear you ask, “Doesn’t that limit the amount of writing you can do?” Yes, it does. Intentionally. There is an upper limit to the number of correspondence1, stories, and articles I can write. Automation would only fuel my desire to write more, and distract me from the enjoyment of writing well.
$ jekyll build -d ../public_html
The above is the most satisfying command I can type into a terminal. It’s the command I use to rebuild this site, after I complete a new post. In Mail the equivalent is
ctrl-cmd-A (On iOS it’s a satisfying swipe-right2), which archives the email I had flagged for response.
Automating this final step would remove some of the pleasure in the completion of a well-considered response.
Writing is exercise for my brain. It requires my complete conscious thought, which banishes unresolved thoughts to my sub-conscious. That is where I want them—unresolved shit annoys me.
I go for a walk when I want to swim in my thoughts. When I’m ready to empty thoughts from my head, I sit down to write.
I once heard3 that “…writing well is the sign of an organized mind.” Organized is not an adjective I’d use to describe myself, but I sure feel it while writing.
Perhaps writer is simply an aspiration.
I don’t include work correspondence, which is often requests for meetings, and sending documents. The emails I reference are personal correspondence with close friends—the very type of emails I want to write my very best. ↩
You have to set this preference on your device. I have swipe-left set to delete a message, and swipe-right to archive. ↩
Probably a stupid podcast. ↩