A Declaration of Intent

By . Published on .

Abstract: 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:

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.