Every time the world seems to be falling apart, whenever something doesn’t seem to make sense, each time I’m left behind with an unresolved situation, I have a lifeline — writing.
“We write to figure out who we are,” Josh Spector wrote in a blog post on what it means to be a writer.
Writing is my way of processing the world. It’s my way of understanding things.
Because writing is not the same as a thought dump (raw thoughts belong in personal journals).
One of my favourite quotes about writing is about how it’s telepathy — getting a thought from one mind into another.
For that transition to happen, raw thoughts have to be distilled.
Sometimes I begin with a question. For example, what is loneliness? Sometimes I start with a thought like superfoods are bullshit, and who knows if it’s a true thought?
This is where research comes in. Writing gives me an excuse to follow my curiosity, go down rabbit holes, figure things out.
Often, the ending is different from what I had in mind.
Even when writing fiction, sometimes my characters surprise me and do something reckless, or something brave, and I think, “Oh gosh, I didn’t know you had it in you.”
And it gives me hope that maybe I’ll surprise myself as well.
“…writers know the best way to figure out what we have to say is to write.”— Josh Spector, For the Interested
How is it, that in spite of being surrounded by people, a person can feel so lonely?
Researchers say that there are a few types of loneliness and one of them, internal loneliness, comes “from our perception of being alone”.
This is the kind that happens even when you’re in a crowded room, although you may have an active social life, even if you have a partner and/or loving family.
In a study on loneliness, one of the main findings was an inverse relationship between loneliness and wisdom.
In this study, wisdom was measured based on six components — general knowledge of life; emotion management; empathy, compassion, altruism and a sense of fairness; insight; acceptance of divergent values; and decisiveness.
Could it be, that we are not really as alone as we think we are? Could this emotion just be yet another lie our brains tell us?
What happens if we perceive things differently? Would we still feel as lonely?
I say “we”, but what I really mean is “I”. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt this thing that I call “deep loneliness” and I don’t know where it comes from.
Perhaps my self-awareness could use more work.
“It’s human to want more,” Paul Jarvis wrote in one of his latest email newsletters about setting goals.
“A lot of successful entrepreneurs want to convince you that if you aren’t aiming to dominate markets, crush it, and put every competitor out of business, you’re letting your apparent lack of self confidence get the best of you.”
But I’ve been questioning this idea for some time. While I do experience a very human desire to compete, I sometimes manage to stop myself and wonder why.
Oftentimes, it’s because of an irrational sense of fear.
As a writer, I have lots of friends who in the traditional sense, may be considered competitors. But if I take a moment to see it from a different angle, they become potential collaborators instead.
One of the many things I’ve learned from working at the bar is that there’s space for differentiation, that we have to trust in our own abilities, and that there’s so much space to work together to elevate the industry as a whole.
“Commerce is collaborative, not a zero sum game for me.” — Paul Jarvis
For the last couple of months, I’ve been exploring ways to collaborate with others and I’ve come to realise that collaboration works best for those who are individually strong.
It works for those who are confident enough in their own abilities to know what they’re bringing to the table.
Last year, Ming and I challenged ourselves to question all our purchases.
Do we really need this? Or is there something forgotten that could be refurbished instead? Is it something that we could do without?
Is it something that we would really use? How many times a week will we use it?
So many of us work a job we don’t like, to spend money on things we don’t need. And I’ve been wondering if it’s because we aren’t always conscious of what we buy.
There’s a reason that “reduce” comes first in the “three R’s”, followed by “reuse”.
While buying biodegradable, compostable, or even recyclable items can be a good thing, it still takes time and energy for that kind of waste to be processed.
By questioning every potential purchase, Ming and I realised that we would rather spend money on experiences and on time together, rather than things.
That we would rather buy things we really wanted and could see ourselves using for years, rather than cheap items that have short lifespans.
I wouldn’t call myself environmentally-conscious. I’m not that socially-conscious either, I think.
But the idea of owning something that I don’t need, that I don’t use often enough, makes me feel uncomfortable.
Why spend that kind of money?
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my life to look like. The kinds of people I let in, the vibe I allow into my space, the work I want to do.
In one of his latest articles on Medium, Ryan Holiday writes about the metric he uses to make decisions about things. He thinks about what he wants his “ordinary life to look like most of the time” and whether those things will allow more or less of that.
It’s what I’ve been aiming to practise in my life as well.
“People think they have to live a life they don’t want for a long time so that eventually, off in the distant future, they can live a life they do want.”– Ryan Holiday, You Could Have Today. Instead You Choose Tomorrow
The privilege of choosing what you want your life to be like is “more accessible than we think”, Holiday goes on to write.
And it’s true.
We have the ability to choose between working a high-pressure, long-hour corporate job or a job that we enjoy. We can decide whether we want to spend our money on things we don’t need or to invest it instead.
For me, optimum happiness lies in that space between wanting more and knowing what’s enough.
I’m trying to tailor my life accordingly.
As a writer, you know you’re in the middle of a really good book when almost every sentence you read makes you feel torn between wanting to continue reading or closing the book to start writing instead.
How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis is a book like that. In this book about books, Ellis reexamines her favourite childhood heroines from fiction to see if they are really as heroic as she remembered them to be.
For example, was there that much to love about Cathy Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights? Was Jo March in Little Women really that much of a wild thing? Is it a good thing that Anne from Anne of Green Gables grew up?
I’ve read most of these books and loved some of these heroines as well. And now I’m wondering if I would still see them the same way.
I always loved the fact that Jo married an old German professor that could “handle” her. And now I wonder if my reading of Little Women was coloured by my daddy issues.
The thing about the classics is that they grow with you. Every reread is almost like reading a different book, depending on what stage of life you’re at.
It’s been a while since I’ve cracked open the spine of these books and How to be a Heroine makes me want to dive back into these stories again.
Ask anyone who’s lived or worked closely with me and the coffee cup thing will come up. By that, I mean I can go up to a week without washing my cup.
Coffee in the morning, turns into coffee-flavoured water, then possibly soda, and at some point, more coffee. Why wash it when I’ll use it again, is my rationale.
It may not always seem like it, but I am lazy. I’m lazy af. One of my pet peeves is doing things that make no sense or is a waste of energy.
This is probably why I’ve only had bosses who either loved me or were constantly frustrated by my behaviour.
The thing is, “busywork” happens so often in the workplace. Offices are rife with people who don’t know what they want, don’t know what they want to achieve, have no idea why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Or perhaps they have trouble communicating all that information.
Which is why I loved Martin Weigel’s article on how strategy is narrative.
“At the end of the day, strategy is the art of getting other people to do something,” he writes.
He goes on to say that strategy is an imaginative act. “Narrative is how it thinks, expresses itself, and brings others along.”
For that you need words.