Sunday, January 02, 2011

Arguments with Myself: Why I Write This Blog

Holidays almost over and work has returned to my mind in full blast. In a few days, I travel - to Malaysia first and then to familiar Manila. This, as I said before, promises to be a busy year, and hopefully a meaningful one. And, as I prepare myself for the work, and the change that must inevitably come with it, I had to question all the things I do, and see if it is worth doing. Why I write this blog, indeed, is something I had to ask myself.

This is an important part of my life. I have been writing this blog for 5 years now, and have written 600 notes and posted another 100 odd from somewhere else. That indeed is quite a bit, and considering that almost 500 of these entries have come in the last two years, this is indeed becoming a bit of addiction. So, I usually blog early in the morning, rather than browsing a newspaper or watching television. And, some of the evenings, and most definitely Sunday afternoons, like now. This means eating away the time I could see movies, read books or go out drinking with friends. Despite investing in some gear since I came to UK, I have hardly pursued my other hobby, photography, and now the cameras and scanners are lying in a state of disuse. All for this blog, and therefore, I must find myself a good reason to continue investing on this.

Revisiting why I started writing the blog, I remember Julia Margaret Cameron and her suggestions about writing 'morning pages', random writing that one should do to combat writers block and get to the habit of writing. Her suggestion was to keep this writing private, so that it remains uninhibited, but I have kept diaries before and this time wanted to experiment with technology. This was the background of my starting this blog at some point in 2004, just after I arrived in Britain. Then, I wrote sporadically and kept the blog private, but this never gave me much joy. Finally, I gave up on private writing, deleted all previous entries and made this blog publicly available as a part of my 2006 New Year resolutions.

That changed things quite a bit, but two things persist: First, I could not really stop writing about private thoughts and reflections and often they feature in my posts. I soon realized that though this meant I expose my vulnerabilities, but people treat me kindly when I do so. Unexpectedly, I built friendships with people who I never knew before and never met, and discovered the kindness of strangers. This was quite a discovery: My blog, a random thing, gave me a more positive outlook about the world and other people. My writing exercises, amateurish as they are, gave me connections, however distant, which all my in-person friendships failed to give. What's more, these connections were based on interest and a sort of shared view of things, a completely different matter than the coincidental friendships I entered into purely based on being at the same place at the same time with other people.

Second, I kept practicing. In the meantime, I read Malcolm Gladwell and his '10,000 hour rule', that a cognitively challenging discipline (such as writing) takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to master. Roughly, that translates into 200 days full time work for approximately 10 years, and I am surely not putting in full days here. But that 10 year idea stuck with me: I am only 5 years down and hence I have miles to go, I said. So, to the great annoyance of my sister, who was finally forced to take an Internet break by my prolific output, I kept writing.

However, apart from being the place to build friendships and connecting with people, and to keep practicing my writing, this blog helps me in another way: This is indeed my scrapbook of ideas. This is where I capture interesting moments, ideas, reflections, things that I come across and think about, or passionately believe in (at least for a passing moment). This is a scrapbook I may never open in the future, but for the brief moment that I end up lingering with the thought as I try to put it in writing embeds the thought in my person: By writing, the thought becomes more real, somewhat more permanent.

For all my dreams, I don't know what the future holds. I am the optimistic kind, so I am starting this year with great optimism and energy: And, indeed, with lofty resolutions, including not to touch Alcohol for a year (after all the seasonal drinking, this one keeps coming back every year), but also more serious and more realistic ones. As I write this note, I know that this blog is part of my self. However pointless this time spent is, my life revolves around this space now: All my significant friendships, conversations, hopes and dreams are here. This is one bit I can't let go.

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