Writing Tools

When it comes to writing, some tools are more important than others. Some people can write without a pen or paper. Others can write without a good beverage to semi-distract them from time to time. For one person I know, effective writing is all about the location. As with many things in life, there is no ideal set of criteria that will work for everyone. Fortunately, it's these differences that can make for some interesting discussions.

Writing Tools

Last week I was having a short chat with someone who, like me, has lived in Japan for over a decade. Like me, when he first arrived in this country he would blog daily about all the new and interesting things that caught his eye. He'd write about the different places he wanted to visit. He'd post dozens of photos showing places he had been. He'd follow up with a "reflections" blog post a week or two after a trip to share his thoughts after taking some time to digest everything he'd seen.

This changed in 2009 when he started working full time. Rather than write daily, he would have a weekly post that would go out on a Monday or Tuesday to summarise the last weekend. A couple of months later, he'd publish a short post seasonally. Between the winter of 2010 and the fall of 2016, aside from a few posts talking about the 3/11 earthquake that struck the northeastern part of the country, he'd written fewer than 5 items. "Life" had gotten in the way of his writing. It happens to us all.

Of the many questions that we asked each other, two have really stuck with me over the weekend:

  1. What purpose does a long-lived blog serve?
  2. Given how "everyone" uses various social services, why have a blog at all?

What's the Point?

The general answer we came to with this question would fit right in with a lot of existential questions people might ask about themselves. Why would anyone want to have a blog for 10, 20, or 50 years? Who would read it? Should such a site be a publicly-facing diary, or something more ephemeral that discusses things that are current as of the publication date?

In my mind, I don't see why a person would want to impose an artificial lifespan on a hobby or pastime. People are not static beings, but ever-changing individuals with interests and commitments that change with time. So a blog doesn't see an update for two years before a flurry of posts are pushed out because a little bit of time became available. What does this matter? Ultimately, a blog or other hobby is there for us when we want them to be there. If other people can get enjoyment from what we do, that's just an added bonus. It is us who gives the writing we share value, not someone else.

Why a Blog? Why Not a Social Post?

Why, indeed. Why does anyone write a letter on paper, stuff it in an envelope, buy a stamp, and mail the missive when an email would be faster, cheaper, and more interactive? Why does anyone bake bread when there are stores just about everywhere that sell the finished product for a reasonable price? Why read a book when there's a movie version of the story? For some people, value is in the message alone. For others, the value of the message is enhanced by the medium. I won't pretend that a blog post is more valuable than a Tweet or something posted on Facebook but, at the end of the day, the medium can signal the amount of attention a person invested into their writing, and how much they expect from the reader. I would hope that a person who received a hand-written letter from me would enjoy it just a little bit more than an email, just as a person who bakes a loaf of bread hopes the people who eat it enjoy something more unique than a mass-produced food product.

While I may not write nearly as many blog posts today as I did a decade ago, the medium is still an interesting one that is still evolving alongside the rest of the Internet. There may be dry spells here and there as "life" gets in the way. There may even be future torrents should the need ever arise. The purpose of this site is the same today as it was in 2006 when it was hosted from a single-drive Synology NAS sitting on top of my fridge. This is a place where I come to put ideas into a text-based form. The words may not always make sense. The concepts may not always be correct. But they do provide a point-in-time picture of something that is happening in my life. Whether anyone will ever get any value from anything I write is tertiary to the reasons I invest time here.