To successfully launch a long-term project such as this collection of articles and essays, I must ask myself why I am writing, what I am trying to accomplish by this. Realistically, I must also provide a reason for why you should read my writings. In this inaugural article, I answer both of these questions, and I share the story of why I did not choose a different topic for my inaugural article.
The most important question for writers
It was a late Friday night as I sat down to write my first article. With the metaphorical blank page staring back at me, I tried to brainstorm ideas for what would make a good introductory article for this new project. During the next few minutes a few ideas came to mind, but I didn’t feel comfortable implementing them just yet. Doubts started to form:
My readers don’t know me yet; shouldn’t I be introducing myself first?
Will my readers understand what I’m saying here? I haven’t given them enough context yet.
I don’t think I can write a quality article about this out of the blue.
It’s questions like these that stopped me from using my ideas as the introductory article. I knew that if I used one of these ideas as the basis for an article now I would be doing you readers a disservice. Ultimately, you would leave. And once no one reads what I write anymore, my project would die.
So, then, I need to provide you a good reason to stay here and read what I write. And to do that, I must be clear about what I want to write for you.
Suddenly, everything clicked. I had forgotten to answer the most important question:
Why am I writing? The reason I was uncomfortable with my other ideas was because my reasons for writing were still fuzzy, and I couldn’t tell whether writing about those ideas was in line with why I’m writing.
Never mind that my previous attempt at establishing a website failed for precisely this reason.
My preliminary answer
After having found the question I still needed to answer, these thoughts came to mind:
I write to be read. Everything else is secondary. To write is to communicate; to communicate my thoughts and opinions to others.
Without an audience, there are no others. There is no communication, only rambling. Without others, my writing is meaningless.
To be read, then, I must write well. My writing must be clear and readable. My writing must be true. And my writing must be relevant.
To write well, then, I must practice writing the relevant, the true, and I must write it clearly and readably.
To practice writing well, I must write a lot.
However, this was a preliminary answer. At this point, I remembered having read other blog posts that argued along similar lines and particularly resonated with me.
Emily Lewis’ answer: to learn along the way
Emily Lewis, a web designer, states that her reason to write, to present and to teach is to savor the learning experiences that happen during the activities:
It's satisfying to give back to the community, especially one that has taught me so much.
But as good as that feels, giving back isn't my motivation. Neither is education. … I do it for me.
[Not] every employer encourages learning something new. And not every project requires something new.
Yet every article I write, every presentation I give and every podcast I co-host are opportunities for me to learn. My involvement in these projects guarantees that I have dedicated time to experiment and grow each and every week.
I wholeheartedly agree with Ms. Lewis’ assessment. I have nothing to add.
Matt Might’s approach: make blogging a natural byproduct of academic work
Matt Might, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Utah, provides six examples of events which can easily be converted to blog posts:
- Tip 1: Lecture as post
- Tip 2: "Reply to public" as post
- Tip 3: Advice as post
- Tip 4: Vented steam as post
- Tip 5: Blog as code repository
- Tip 6: Blog as long-term memory
I understand and agree with the logic behind these six examples, and I fully intend to use this list as a decision template for when to convert the event in private and when to convert it to an article on this website. Additionally, I intend to pay extra attention to opportunities for articles arising from examples 1–3 and 6, as I believe these are better sources of articles than the other examples.
My full answer: a declaration of intent
Also considering the two opinions above, here is my full answer to the question
Why am I writing?
I write, so that I may help and teach my readers.
I write, so that I may learn even deeper about what I teach.
I write, so that I may practice writing well.
Why read my writings?
In line with my motivations for writing, here is my answer to the readers’ counterpart,
Why read my writings?
Because what I write is relevant, true, clear and readable.
Because I know what I’m writing about.
And because I’m doing my best to ensure my writing improves in the next round.