Writing is like exercise. It’s just good on so many levels.
Whenever I get back into the habit of writing, I always think I should write more. It’s one of my favorite things.
Yet, much like exercise is for most people, I tend to have little flares of interest, where I get really into it for a week or two, then lose steam, and it just becomes a dormant blog again. You might have had a similar experience, and maybe even have a cobwebby blog or two out there. Perhaps you have some really cool half-finished google docs that you never quite got around to finishing and publishing.
It’s a funny thing though, about writing being like exercise. Because do you remember what exercise used to be called when you were a child?
And I remembered on a recent vacation I took, where I had the slack to remember, that writing is play. I fell back in love with writing then, typing away furiously on the beach.
Not only was it intrinsically fun, but I also loved that it felt like I was making a difference, writing about important topics. That my recommendations were helping people, whether it be making them happier or making them higher impact, or sometimes, if I was lucky, both.
To help myself (and perhaps you) remember this and all the other reasons to write, I’ve decided to write about all the reasons I have to write.
Reading the list will inspire me and hopefully others. Publishing it will publicly commit me to writing, which will make it more likely. Even better, it could potentially re-inspire some people, perhaps you, to start writing for the forums again. Or maybe even it’ll get you excited to try your hand at writing publicly, even though you’ve never done it before.
Epistemic status: motivational. An explanation of my personal experience that doesn’t generalize to all people. This isn’t meant to be a nuanced look into the pros and cons of writing.
It’s meant to inspire a subset of the population (and myself!) to write more. None of this applies to all writing or all people. It’s meant more as a manifesto rather than a research piece.
Of course, this is LessWrong, so feel free to debate the merits and demerits of writing in the comments.
Now, with all that hedging out of the way, here’s a giant list of reasons why you, the community, and myself should write.
The reasons to write fall broadly into three categories: enjoyment, capacity building, and impact.
Writing can be personally gratifying in so many ways.
I could go on, but after reading all of these reasons, I’m excited to finish an essay I’ve had in a Google Doc draft for forever.
I hope this also inspires you to dust off an old blog or start a new one. To experience writing as dancing. Where it counts as exercise and is good for you, but you don’t even care about that, because it’s just so damn fun.
Other things like this you might enjoy
Cross-posted from my personal blog.
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I agree with what you wrote. But then, why isn't everyone writing as much as possible? What are the obstacles, and how to overcome them?
I notice that I write too many comments and too few articles, although on reflection I would prefer to write more articles and fewer comments. (I mean, "fewer comments" is not a goal per se, it's just too many comments means I should have spent that time writing more articles instead.) Why is that?
First, comments are easier. I can stop whenever I want, like maybe even after the first sentence. That would be a lame article, but as a comment it is okay. Writing a comment is a lower-commitment thing.
Second, writing an article feels lonely. What if no one will read it? What if no one will care? When writing a comment, I am placing myself in the middle of a conversation. At the very least, there is someone I respond to.
The price I pay for this is that the comments are less impressive (you can give people a link to your blog, but you probably wouldn't give them a link to the list of your comments), and instead of writing about any topic of my choice, I have to write on a topic that someone else has started.
I have noticed that people have a problem with setting the quality bar too high for themselves, and then go like "this new idea is not good enough for my blog, I will write it on tumblr instead... uhm, this is too lame even for my tumblr, I will post a facebook comment instead... omg, I will rather just tweet this". Happens to me, too; the difference is that I do not have so many places to post, so it's just like "not appropriate for LW... not important enough to start my own blog... uhm, forget it".
I wonder if the proper approach (which would require corresponding technical infrastructure) would be the opposite: Everything you write should by default appear at the lowest-status place, but then you could move the best pieces to a more visible place (like on LW a personal post can be promoted to front page), ideally while preserving its URL to avoid breaking other people's links. Or sometimes I start writing a shortform on LW, and then I am like "oh, this is actually quite long", so I make it an article instead. Maybe I should never start with the idea of writing an article, and always try to write a shortform instead... and then move it if it naturally becomes too long.
Maybe I am overthinking it, and the ideal approach would be something like: make a blog, write whatever comes to your mind, random topic, random quality... and then maybe once in a year write a "Best of 20XY" article where you link the best pieces, and put a visible link to this article on your homepage.