No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Write!

On the alchemy of writing

Jack Purdy


Image from: Matilda Battersby in The Independent

Writing, or more specifically journaling, is one of those personal habits high up on the list Things people should do but most don't right next to flossing every day or not checking your phone first thing in the morning. While it's easy to grasp the benefits of keeping up with habits on this list, they're usually not compelling enough to give it a go. Either that, or we try and then expect some revelatory experience, only to throw in the towel in the absence of instant results.

However, for those who stick it out, finding a way to work it into their routine, growing to enjoy these practices, they gain firsthand experience of those benefits. After a while, they’ll compound over time and then become such a big part of your life that before you know it, you’ll be writing newsletters on why you ought to do it, keeping it forever alive on this should-do list.

So, to cut to the chase- why write? Well, to put it simply, writing helps make you more you.

Let me explain.

Writing is inherently a creative process. You’re taking a blank page and some thoughts and creating something that wasn’t there before. However, we know from the first law of thermodynamics that you can’t create something from nothing. So where does this ~something come from?

It comes from the total of your life experience; from the time you were born to when you sat down to begin writing. It comes from every moment in time, person you met, place you went, and thought that crossed your mind, all accumulating to become the entirety of who you are that informs the words you inevitably opt to string together forming your writing.

Now, having inhabited our bodies for the duration of our lives, we’re pretty familiar with this notion of self but depending on the level of reflection there are varying degrees to which we know ourselves.

That’s because it takes work. There are a whole host of external factors constantly berating us, influencing us to think or act a certain way that distorts your “you-ness.” You may think you know all of your hopes, dreams, fears, and anxieties, the activities you enjoy doing, the things that bring genuine fulfillment, but the reality is it’s a lifelong process to understand your authentic nature.

That’s why we have these aha moments now and then where in moments of particular clear-headedness we gain insights into these core pieces of self that all of a sudden seem so obvious but that we’d never really thought about before. Add on to the fact that these pieces are by no means fixated but rather constantly in flux so it’s a bit like a racing dog chasing the rabbit around the track.

Back to writing. When you engage in this creative process, you’re not just putting words on paper. You’re taking all of that “you-ness” and transforming it from an abstract, ethereal concept into a more concrete manifestation that illuminates the deep recesses of your psyche, further revealing exactly who you are and how you relate to the world around you. You’ll uncover new interests, characteristics, flaws, or feelings you didn’t know existed that build a more holistic, accurate picture of your true nature. You’ll think about the various happenings in your life in a new light once you’re able to slow your thoughts down to the pace of your pen on paper or fingers on a keyboard that offer a fresh perspective on how to view or act in these situations.

From this lens, you can think about writing as a unique form of alchemy except instead of turning lead into gold, you’re dipping into that reservoir of you and transforming it into an output that reveals core truths about yourself.

Our literary alchemist next to his reservoir (created with Midjourney)

The actual form of the output itself isn’t important, it could be a journal entry, blog post, poem, or whatever comes most naturally. All that matters is that you’re authentically writing, turning off your thinking brain and expressing yourself through the words that come out before you have a chance to second guess yourself or worse cater, cater to an audience. If you fall into that trap, you end up dipping into other people’s reservoirs and the end product won’t be a reflection of you.

This alchemical process of turning “you-ness” into the written form for further examination is one without an end state or goal. It’s not like if you journal every day for a year or write an autobiography you’ll be left with a perfect conception of who you are as a person. It’s a never-ending process that gets you progressively closer to an unachievable goal. But closer nonetheless to a worthwhile goal that will enhance your experience here on this earth.

At the micro level, it may seem incomprehensible. How will sitting down and writing for thirty minutes or an hour lead to any real self-actualization? You’ll often feel the exact same after as you did when you started. Introducing expectations for results only seems to hamper the desired result anyway.

However, if you release yourself of any preconceived notions for what it should look like or what you intend to get out of it and simply practice dipping into that reservoir of “you-ness” and letting whatever words innately flow out, you’ll step back one day and contemplate the aggregate sum of your creations and see a wholly new reflection of yourself than when you first began. You’ll understand yourself on a deeper level, informing the most fundamental pieces of your life; what you do with your time, how you carry yourself, the relationships you maintain, ultimately becoming more you than when you first started.

And with that, you’ll understand why writing has been on the should-do list this whole time.

Originally published at



Jack Purdy

Writing A Life Examined newsletter | Director of Sales @Messari