I'm informally challenging myself to write more. Let's call it a belated New Year's resolution. Why? Well, for several reasons.
Reason #1: My friend Dan wants to write well and knows that he has a lot to say, but doesn't necessarily think that he has the right words or the right way of saying it. Some people, when they recognize areas of weakness, choose to make sweeping assertions about themselves as an excuse for that weakness. "Oh, I'm such a terrible writer," or how about "I am such a procrastinator, I can never get anything done on time," or there's the good old "I'm not very athletic. I could never be as fit as she is." If you hear someone make that kind of statement, odds are that they've given up on changing and are perfectly complacent about where they're at--even if they want you to think they're expressing regret. Hey, I've done it too.
But Dan doesn't think like that. He says, "I don't think I write very well, but I want to get better, so I'm going to write every day for a certain amount of time." Or, "I haven't been very good at writing longform emails, but here is one, and I will send out another one by Friday." Dan challenges himself, and he also challenges me, which should make him very happy, because challenging other people is something he's good at and also conveniently finds personally fulfilling.
I don't think I am bad at writing, but I could be better. I am quite lazy and undisciplined, writing whenever I feel like it. I don't edit much nor do I question my organization, what I'm trying to communicate, and whether I'm doing it well. This is, after all, a personal blog read by a dear but small group, so what's a little sweatpants-y monologue between friends, eh?
What this really means is that I have a lot of room to improve, and I can do so, if I am willing to invest the time and effort.
Reason #2: Someone, I think Katrina, once told me that when you make a point of having good posture, your focus measurably improves and you work more efficiently. I don't think this is just a physical benefit of giving your organs more room to play and increasing your lung function. I think it is a mental side effect of mindfulness. By paying attention to one small detail--how you are carrying yourself--you increase your alertness to other ways that you might otherwise allow yourself to slip.
I am not a very disciplined person. I realized this during the first week of the new year, when our regular schedule started at work and I didn't have to be in until 10:30 most days. I would wake up late, go to work, come back, and barely have any time to do more than check Facebook or watch a tv episode before falling asleep. To be honest, my habits haven't gotten that much better. There's still a lot of Facebook and mindlessly scrolling through my Instagram feed. But once I identified a pattern that was negatively impacting my mental and emotional health, I decided to start going to sleep earlier and waking up earlier. I can't get much done after work, but I have several fresh hours of the morning that are all mine to accomplish as much as I please.
Having made the physical shift in my sleeping habits, I have yet to make the mental shift toward a more effective daily routine. There are a lot of things that I want to do--get an adult job, become a master calligrapher, bind books, learn Latin, to name but a few--but I don't make much headway in them, because I am not organizing my time well. As strange as it might sound, I'm hoping that this small goal of writing something daily for the next month will improve my discipline in other areas.
Reason #3: I devour enormous quantities of ideas. I'm always reading two or three (or four... or five...) different books, and I've recently started listening to podcasts, checking longform.org for interesting essays, and going to Meetups with various discussion groups in Philadelphia. With so much going in, it's not always easy to remember what I've encountered even five minutes after I've read/heard/discussed it.
Writing is a multi-faceted act, with various facets becoming more or less significant depending on the situation. It can be synthetic, drawing together different ideas and playing them off of each other until they provide a coherent conclusion. Or it can be narrative, telling a story, perhaps even moralistic, if that story is shaped to provide insight. It can have a preservative function, as with oral histories, memoirs, or even shopping lists. There are some things we want to save, and writing them down may not secure their permanence, but it at least prolongs their lives.*
These, of course, are but a few of the possibilities, although I think they are not a bad start to the list. Personally, I think that whatever I am feeding my mind will ultimately come out in whatever I am writing, even if it's not immediately obvious how, say, Martin Buber supplies the backdrop to a meditation on blackbirds (for the record, while I have read Martin Buber and written about blackbirds, I don't think the two are actually connected on this blog) and even if the input is not of the same type as the output (e.g. a story inspiring a story vs. a story about a personal mishap inspiring a general discussion on the value of misadventures)
Honestly, it might just lose me all of my subscribers when y'all go insane from Christy overload, whilst I get tetanus from repeated cat maulings because Bear thinks my typing fingers make great prey. But why not give it a go? All this proletarian has to lose is her audience. And her fingers.
*Note to self: Barthes//Camera Lucida