I was stuck. I’ve been meaning to get back to writing for a long time. I tried; but to no avail. “Why the heck is it so difficult?”—I thought.
And then I realised it doesn’t have to be. All I needed to do was to challenge the assumptions I had about writing.
“What is writing?”—and, more importantly—“What is it that I mean by writing?”.
On the surface, it couldn’t be any simpler:
writ·ing n. The activity or skill of marking coherent words on paper and composing text.
And yet, I’ve always thought about it differently—writing was about expressing my thoughts to other people. It implied an audience. It was a long and tedious process, consisting of typing, editing and publishing. A process that in the era of self-publishing, has become my responsibility.
And I wanted to get it right. Should I publish on Wordpress, Tumbler, Blogger or something different altogether? Do I write in Word, Pages or some new fancy distraction-free writing environment? The possibilities are endless and the more research I did, the more I realised that there isn’t a perfect tool. I’ve formed an ideal solution in my head and none of the tools lived up to it. I got stuck in the abundance of options, struggling to choose one that sucks the least.
Choice is a double-edged sword. It can be both empowering and crushing. And in a world where it’s held up as the ultimate liberty, you only have yourself to blame if you choose wrong.
So I didn’t. I drafted this essay by hand, sometime in the summer of 2011 with no intentions of ever publishing it. It freed me to focus on the essence of writing—expressing one’s thoughts. It was remarkably liberating.
I encourage you to do the same—write to improve your critical thinking, not to impress your audience. Be humble and expect your essays to be read by no one. Decouple writing from publishing and just write. You will be surprised how much easier it becomes.