I’ve been writing here for nineteen years now, and writing in general for a lot longer than that. Most of the time it doesn’t even occur to me that “writing” isn’t a hobby that everyone pursues. I think I generally tend to imagine that everyone sits around writing all the time, when they’re not doing their jobs or out having drinks.
But I guess they don’t.
© Aron Hsiao / 2018
I still have boxes of loose paper, torn from notebooks of all sizes, filled with words in ink of all colors—blue, black, red, green—written on throughout junior high and high school. I’d sit around as a teenager—you know how teens do—everyone on in someone’s bedroom, cross-legged and doing nothing in particular as a group—and scribble out poems and paragraphs of random reflection. I’d tear them out of the notebook and hand them to people sitting right next to me. It was like what people say happens now, with people texting to each other while sitting next to each other, only I did it with paper because texting didn’t exist yet.
I never wanted to be a writer or thought I’d be a writer, and yet somehow at the same time it was never in question. No matter what I’ve officially done in my career—where I’ve worked, what my official job responsibilities were—through tech and consulting and research and teaching and public relations and e-commerce and all of the rest—the plain fact of the matter is that in day-to-day practice, in every role, I’ve always ended up working as a writer.
You end up doing what you know how to do, because doing what you know how to do is how you solve the problems that you encounter. When all you have is a hammer, you treat everything as a nail, even if it isn’t a nail and you know damned well it isn’t a nail.
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It took me a long time—well into my thirties—to realize that I was “a writer” and say it and own it.
This is because I’d always reserved the term in my imagination for people of far more rarefied stock than I am. People who create things that other people want to read—who inspire them and take away their pain and present to them their life stories and so on. Novelists. Poets. Essayists.
I’ve never been any of those things, so the idea that I was a writer didn’t occur to me for many years. Yes, I’d admit to people, I spent most of my time writing, both at work and at home and at leisure, but it wasn’t as though I wrote things that mattered. I just write because I have to—because it’s practical, not because I have something to add to the world.
Sometimes I imagine in secret that maybe, just maybe someday I’ll have something to add to the world. But a sober mind realizes by the time they’re in their forties that whatever they are already is likely what they’re destined to be. So probably what I’m destined to be is a writer of the practical variety, rather than of the somehow priestly, soul-saving variety.
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Crediting all of this, it’s no accident that this blog is here like I used to say it was.
“Oh, I don’t know. It’s something I just started and I haven’t bothered to kill it off yet. Force of habit. It’s mostly just a long, slow-moving accident. My blog doesn’t exist for any particular reason, really.”
Not true. It exists because I write and I’ve always written and I can’t stop and I’ll likely never stop, and it’s how I relate to the world, and a big component of how I relate to other people and to myself. So the moment the technology emerged and began to weave itself into everyday life, it was inevitable that I’d adopt it and make use of it habitually, like I used to do (and still often do) with pen and paper.
I post because I have to. Because it is in my genetic makeup to feel that somehow sitting down and writing will make things better, is a path to whatever I want or need or whatever relief I’m seeking at the moment. Not that it is; very often I don’t feel all that much better after I write. And I’ve forgotten ninety-nine percent of anything I’ve ever written. But that doesn’t do anything to curb the impulse, the compulsion.
Some days, it’s just a vague urge that gnaws at me throughout the day until finally in the evening sometime I sit down to do it. Sometimes I don’t even have a single thought in my head, yet my fingers are itching to type. Those are usually pretty terrible posts, but I make them anyway, to scratch the itch.
Other days, I make one post and I’m in a kind of pain because I really have twenty or thirty things I’d like to reflect on and say here, but it feels somehow too much to make twenty or thirty posts in a day, so I allow myself one and maybe if I’m particularly itchy, two or three, but that’s it. And the rest of the things I’m thinking end up being like children who were conceived but never born, the starts of long, interesting futures to come that instead fade away and disappear from the record and from memory forever.
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It pains me in a way that so many young people now do all of their communicating and thinking on social media. Young people who may be writers at heart, who may have the same urge, the same impulse, the same wiring.
Because social media isn’t writing and can’t be writing. It’s too brief and too ephemeral and too performative; it foreshortens things and grinds them with lapping paste until the superfluous edges are gone, yes, but much of the substance is, too. Instead of finding a voice, they merely manufacture a look, albeit one finished in abbreviated prose.
But it’s not the same thing at all, and they are not feeding their souls.
The same technoculture that has offered me yet another space to write and write more for two decades is ironically killing the same proclivity and release in others, who have no idea that a part of themselves is withering. Does it matter at all in the end, if they don’t know about it anyway? If a tree falls in the forest but no one is around to hear, does it make a sound?
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What is this post about, and why am I making it? I don’t know. I woke up unexpectedly, before dawn, re-watched a few fragments from My So-Called Life for no reason that I can put my finger on, sat down, and started typing.
So I’ll just leave this here. It’s Leapdragon post number 3,301, by the way.