It has been a while since I committed time to sit down and write. I could pretend perhaps that I have been busy, or that life had gotten in the way, but to be honest, that would be a stretch. Because really, the reason for my literary hiatus has been more complex than that.
It comes down to one significant, underlying factor — who cares?
Every person who likes to write surely goes through this journey as they become more self aware. The perennial questions of the author — why am I writing? Who is reading it? Is this prose adding value?
It is a question that offers two sharp indents. Yes, there is surely the need for a writer to create work that is substantive, useful, not merely lorus ipsum. But there is also a natural desire for these words to not just exist, but to be read, consumed, digested. If nobody is reading this work, does the work serve any purpose? Or is it merely a painting that lies in a basement of a museum. The work exists in principle, but not in the minds of an audience.
The lowest common denominator of this thought process begs me to ask whether in this crowded corner of the internet, where we have arguably too many words, too many blogs, too many contributions already, is my work valuable enough to occupy space?
The confident percentile of my ego wants to respond with the argument that my writing is not merely for an audience, it is for me. It’s therapy. Words on a page that allow the exploration of words, feelings and ideas, in a more structured and complete format than I could ever hope to express verbally. In a way where I can hit the backspace, a carriage return. Ensure things are said as they are intended, in a format that will stand the test of time.
And if that is true, then the outcome is simple — I should write more. Words on a page, a contemporary diary, during challenging phases of my life, have been more helpful than they have been unhelpful.
It was during some of the more miserable moments —immature speedhumps, in retrospect — during my time in Denmark that I turned to the keyboard. I would write short summaries of the year that had just concluded. Short of an obituary, and usually just a highlight reel. There was a satisfaction in this, but perhaps it was almost bragging. These were the great things I did this year, the places I travelled to, the career achievements I unlocked. It felt good to put my successes on a page, to list them. A chronology of positive thoughts. It is, however, a format that needs to be pursued carefully, for want of not coming across as bragging. But that’s the fine line in the execution, I guess.
Another theme in my writing has been an outlet while traveling, to write about cities and countries that I fell in love with — let’s call it ‘the ten things not to miss when you are in Valetta’ style of writing. Travel writer controversy, I would say that these pieces were not written out of a desperation to ensure the sharing of knowledge, to help you find this underground restaurant or coffee shop, but rather I often felt that these corners of the world captured so much of my attention, that it felt rude not to put the destination into words. It didn’t matter so much what or how I wrote, I just needed to provide return service to each and every sparkling oasis that took me in.
And then there’s the third reason for why I write. Often, I am simply looking for words to accompany my photographs. Because photographs are improved by words. Just like words are improved by photographs. But even my pursuit of photography suffers the same questions that could be posed in this essay. Are they worthy of being seen? Does anybody enjoy looking at them? And what is their purpose for existing?
It would be much easier to simply write or take photographs without emotional consequence or lingering self-doubt. But these thoughts are not unique, and every artist can offer the same argument.
Perhaps the most accurate assessment was offered by the Wall Street Journal in 2017, in an article titled you should write a memoir, even if nobody will read it. The psychological exploration in the article led to a conclusion that people who write are able to make better sense of their lives. And the more complex and overwhelming your life is, the most helpful it is to write things down.
So maybe that’s my reason for writing. Not to pen a masterpiece, or to achieve a mountain of claps on medium.com, but to make sense of it all. To articulate a mishmash of the places I’ve been and the way these places — both in that instance, and afterwards — have made me feel.
Maybe that’s enough.