Why I Write

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Several friends, old and new, have advised me over the past few years that writing a blog is a good idea. I did gain much delight from writing as a high schooler for our local track community’s BBS and for family and friends early in my college career. However, “adult” life has been too busy for blogging. And besides, if I was to write a blog, it would need to be a slice of perfection. It would have a very clear theme and it would have great flow from word to word, sentence to sentence, paragraph to paragraph, post to post.

I would have to answer the wannabe existential – yet profoundly practical – question of:

Where do blogs begin?

So I avoided blogging and writing-for-fun all together.

And it’s been nine years, based on the generous assumption I regularly wrote something for fun near the end of college. But with my recent choice to step back from it all, to reflect forwards and backwards on my life to this point – and in particular, nine years in China – I started to take the question, “Why do I write”? seriously again.

I did not hit the ground running when I arrived in America the second week of May. My lady’s graduation was top of mind, while re-integrating into America, jet-lag, culture shock, etc. were background accompaniment. For my primary daily activity, I resorted to reading. And lots of it. It’s been an interesting time for me, as a guy who typically spends most of his waking hours with people, to shut off from the telephone and most email in favor of article after article after article. Did I mention I’ve considered myself mostly a non-reader since college (if not slightly before)?

Turns out I love reading. I’ve had a blast and have been very content to spend most of my days alone. Reading. Thinking.

It was Andrew Chen who provided my time-to-start-blogging tipping point in his post, “New college grads: Don’t sell your time for a living.” It’s worth the read and much of the article resonates with me as a person who has pursued non-traditional employment from the day I entered the workforce. But it was the part about learning to make something – and the fact that blogs are something you make – that hooked me.

Reading further, I appreciated Andrew’s note on the time it takes to make something great, and his mention of an Ira Glass quote, originally from the Underground, on starting as a beginner:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.”

In some ways, it all should be intuitive, right? Finding a meaningful writing niche has a great degree of difficulty. It is followed by questions such as: why write, to whom do you write, about what do you write, etc. I expect it should be painfully obvious that blogging is hard, it is a skill, it is something you make. And sometimes to make something great, you need to start over.

And that challenge was enough to push me over the edge.

At the end of the day, I’m not here looking to develop blog skills. But I am quite keen to find my voice. I’ve spent nine years neglecting my English writing voice in favor of things like improving my Chinese language skills and practicing business. The past decade plus has brought me to places I could never have imagined, many of them far from home. I’ve made it by not being afraid to explore, to take a risk, to try, and to fail. And as I continue on this journey to find my place in this world, I return to spend some time in my home country, and return to a medium of expression I used to practice daily. Thanks for joining me for this segment of my travels to find my voice, to find a niche. I am ready to write.

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