On Writing

There is not a day when I don’t write. So when my favourite minimalism blogger, Leo Babauta, wrote his latest post on writing, I thought I would share it with you.


I simply cannot remember a time when I didn’t write. From my earliest endeavours right through to computer days, I’ve always written. It’s how I draw. It’s how I create. It’s how I capture the world and it’s how I remember things.

I should say now that I have an appalling memory for events and emotions. I have a great factual memory. If it’s a silly little fact, like the fact that the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland or that Jaco Pastorius’ birthday is December 1st, then it’s embedded in my brain til kingdom come. But as for events, they might as well not have happened to me if I don’t write or take photographs in connection to them.

This blog initially started simply as a way to keep in touch with relatives. Then it became an aide-memoire for me, so I can recall what I’ve done and where I’ve been. It’s nothing more than the outpourings of whatever is on my mind that day, be it Carson Daly or Michael Gove. Some days I record what I’ve planted – mainly because that’s a habit I’ve had for the last two years, so I can keep track of everything that I’ve done. It’s nice to see the journey of a thing, from seed to food.

As Leo says, writing is reflection. It may surprise you to know that when I’ve taken multiple intelligences tests to find out my strengths, they are not linguistic as you might expect, but intra- and inter-personal. I write to reflect and I write to share. I read for the same reasons. It’s a curiousity about myself and about others that is behind it all. Seamus Heaney wrote in Personal Helicon:

I rhyme

to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

I think that is the most powerful image I have of why I write too. To see myself. Narcissus-like, as Heaney says.

p.s. He was MOST impressed that I could recite this poem ad hoc in the bar at the Swan in Stratford. I’m sure he had no idea, when he went to see Julius Caesar, that some crazy woman would recite him his own poems. He liked that it was my favourite.

But I read to find connections, to see into others. To understand myself better. I never knew until I read A Suitable Boy, for example, that I was an incurable romantic.

I think it’s a common thing for many people who suffer from depression to feel, from time to time, a real sense of inwardly-directed hatred, frustration and anger. I know it was very hard for my CPN to get a grip on the fact that in actual fact, I quite like myself, despite myself, and enjoy watching myself grow and evolve as much as I do seeing it in other people. That sounds really conceited, but writing has always helped me be kind to myself, to be gentle, to be reflective and thoughtful. For a girl with a motormouth and motorfingers, you would think that I don’t listen much. Ironically, the reverse is true. I consume far more i a day than I could ever hope to produce in a year. Or even ten. I’ve always used writing as a way to slow down and to think. I like the way words spill out and take form, like making thoughts something permanent and corporeal rather than something fleeting and transient. It’s the slowness I like.

I believe in practice too. Shannon is quite amazed at what I write, indeed, that I write. Today, it was a couple of articles about the area, a translation of light fixtures, a blog or two, emails, an article for a teaching magazine and an article about Barcelona. I spend about two or three hours at least every day in writing. It’s how I find what I like and forge my own style. It’s as personal to me as my fingerprints, and it becomes more so as each day passes.

I like art, too, but I don’t practise as often as I should in order to develop and progress. Not only that, I am very narrow in my approach. I have my favourite things and I tend to do a lot of that. Writing is my creative outlet.

Believe it or not, I also have to spend time thinking of my audience and what they want to hear – and not just for the articles I write. I think blogs make you nicer as you try to avoid all the negativity and nastiness and bitchiness that can filter into your life, even if you try to keep it out. In the past few years, there have been times when I have wanted to name and shame all the villains in my life, but public writing is not a place for it. Not even if you are anonymous. There are people who my friends and I discuss, like a certain person I call Hatchet-Face, but blogs are by-and-large a much more pleasant, charming space.

The hardest thing is having content. That’s why this blog could never be a daily thing. I just don’t always have something to say. I know you probably think I’m the wordiest person on the planet, but some days I have nothing to say. Nothing at all. And so, I write nothing. It’s not a block of any kind, just a more kind of introspective day.

Leo gives advice for anyone starting off. I agree completely with his guidelines. Write as often as you can. Have a time for it. I have two times when I write – early mornings, when I’m fresh from sleep and the day is still quiet – or evenings, when I can reflect on things that happen during the day. I think it is the regularity that makes it a habit, as with all things.

1 thought on “On Writing

  1. We wrote daily for the blog from almost the beginning, and now it is a discipline, part of the daily routine. It would be weird not to do it any more. We find that the more you write the more you have to write about too. It’s rare that we have to search very far for something to write about.

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