Writing existentialism

I have more to write about than I have time to write. Seriously. I have a to-do list full of things topics to write about, and every time an interesting thought occurs to me, I add it to the list.

However, I work a forty hour week, and after going to the gym, coming home, having dinner and cleaning up, it’s usually time for bed, having no time to do any writing at all.

But often a free night will come up, and I think ‘I could do some writing!’. And then I ask myself ‘Is it really worth my time writing?’.

For example:

I could write a review about a movie I saw, or a restaurant I went to. But my review would be just one of many, among others whose career is to write these reviews.

I could write a piece reflecting a political opinion, but that opinion is probably well expressed somewhere.

With the exception of the people who know me personally – whom would be finding value in the reflections of personality and values, rather than the ideas themselves, chances are what I’m writing simply isn’t that interesting.

I myself tend not to read blogs. I read memes and cartoons and watch videos, but a blog tends to get dismissed with a ‘too long’.

An immediate counter argument: Yes – there’s plenty of people producing content that may not have value to me personally, and so it’s quite reasonable to extrapolate that the content I’m producing isn’t going to have much value to others. However – every now and then, there’s a song or a book, that I read and I think ‘I love this song/book!’ and it’s of immense value to me personally.

The writing I do doesn’t need to relevant of valuable to everybody, just that one person who has the feeling of great appreciation.

Here are some reasons for finding value in blogging:

Further abstraction

While the ideas I’m wanting to express might be already well expressed elsewhere, re-writing the idea helps abstract it into a more palatable form for the common audience. This is the essence of computer science, no longer are we individual toggling switches representing binary digits, or writing in assembly to direct instructions to CPU, we write in high level languages, and use APIs and libraries that already do the work for us.

My expressing the idea may not be improving the original idea, but it maybe help present the idea so that it is better understood.

Adding to volume of opinion

By repeating an idea, while not necessarily creating a new idea, I contribute to the volume of the opinion in the public space, and increases people perception of the accepted social value of that idea.

I’m a little uneasy with this argument though – it seems like the equivalent talking louder to make your point.

Because I enjoy it.

Simlilar to an activity like watching television, or going for a walk, are inherently valueless. Yes you can argue that my watching a television show might improve society indirectly by improving my knowledge about something, and also if it relaxes me and then I’m a better person for it, but for the most part, these activities don’t contribute value to society.

By the same token, even if my writing doesn’t contribute anything, if I’m enjoying doing it and getting relaxation from it (rather than a sense of guilt that I might from watching a TV show all evening), then it’s a good thing.

But if that’s the sole value of writing, then it seems that often watching that show (or going out socialising, or going for a hike) will be the better choice.

Costs of writing

Beyond question whether writing has any value in itself, there’s also the opportunity cost to be considered. For example even if we agree that there’s some value, both to myself and to the world, to be created from writing – you might argue that it would be much more effective for me to focus on something more pragmatic – such as learning new IT skills in order to advance my IT career.

Another thing I find paralysing when it comes to writing, is the potential social cost of writing. I wrote a little about this here. Just like when a teenager expresses their edgy ideas, thinking they’re original only to be embarrassed by them ten years later (I made such a website by the way), there’s the fear that anything I’m writing now, I’m going to be embarrassed by in the future. Even if agree with what I’ve said in the future, there can be the cringe factor that I’ve said it.

I was talking to a friend about this and the conclusion I’ve come to, is that part of the creative process might be simply writing what’s on your mind. Even if it produces some bad work, the idea is you need to get that out of the way before you can write your brilliant work. Thinking of it this makes me feel a lot better about it.


3 thoughts on “Writing existentialism

  1. Hi David! You do write well (though it must have been late as there are loads of grammatical errors in this one) – just a bit on the long side for what I call ‘brain candy’ – those short essays that people publish for entertainment value. I certainly enjoy reading other people’s humorous takes on life and this could be your niche (with a philosophical/life angst twist). To ensure a wider appeal you may like to experiment with a bit of self-depreciating humour – from what I have read so far of your work it is full of self analysis and quite serious (to the point of boring) and a bit of humour may help spice things up a bit. They say one of the best ways of learning to write is to copy other writer’s styles – that could be a fun project – to set a challenge to write a piece in a particular writer’s style. (When I was learning to paint our first project was to copy a painting that we liked.)

    I enjoyed seeing your old Scorchworld website – I never knew it existed!! I particularly enjoyed reading the Terms and Conditions…. Goodness, if I had known the site existed at the time you were building it I would have been logging in from time to time to check on you!! 🙂


    1. Haha you did know it existed! I remember you telling me you thought the my views section wasn’t really me and just me trying to be edgy. Which – to be fair was a pretty accurate assessment.


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