Writing, first of all, is something one can only do it alone. You can get someone to help you with proof reading, editing, and revising what you have written. But when you write, you write it alone. No original idea worth spreading, reciting, and thinking about, can come from other people telling you what to write. You have to do it alone.
In the past few years , I have spent more time writing than doing anything else party because writing is part of my job for which I get paid, but it is also the way of life, with which over the years, I have developed and familiarized myself. I sometimes tell my close friends and students, I have learned how “not to hate” writing over the years. It’s tiring, boring, etc., let alone those writer’s block that you’d sometimes get simply because you don’t know what to write! Writing is essential to people like me, who write to learn. When I write I think much more carefully because there is an observable yet often overlooked gap between the time when I get the idea “in the moment” of what I want to write (i.e., the time when something comes up in my head) and the “moment my fingers start to realize” and function, process the information, and eventually put it together, usually, first, in a series of alphabets into words morphing eventually into sentences.
Writing to learn is also writing to communicate. A wise man once said, “it’s not a great idea if it’s not worth spreading.” I couldn’t agree more: writing, by and large, is about helping and sharing with others, also, the joy of learning — otherwise what’s the point of writing something in a language that others can also read?
I also write for myself. Writing Degree Zero is the title of the semioticist/poststructuralist thinker Roland Barthes’ work in which he, basically, writes about the possibility that one could write for the sake of writing; in other words, writing as an end in itself. I never understood what Barthes was getting at in that book, but I did sense, when I read it, that, perhaps, the message that he wanted to convey may have to do with the idea of “just writing,” without the conscious sense that one is writing for a particular reader. Why? To put it simply, by thinking that there’ll be someone reading your work, you are automatically doing injustice to the ideas that are flourishing inside of your head by consciously (and sometimes unconsciously) censor them because you have an anxiety toward the reception of your audience. In the same way that fieldnotes may have done for ethnographers who use their notes to record what they have learned each day from the field, I write because I think of writing as a friend who always spare me his profound silent words. This friend whom I call writing is always helpful in being a prolounger, a mediator — and a mediator — of an act of immature thinking, which I often arrive at without his kind and critical help. This friend of mine, writing, helps me think twice before making any conclusion, without doing the justice to the data received through my unfortunate and imperfect cognition.
Original Title: A prelude to the my 100 Days of Writing blog.
September 14, 2015
Photo: Somewhere at the bank of Huangpu River on the Puxi side on my bike. This particular act of writing took place, and was performed there.