This piece has been simultaneously cross-posted on the Research Whisperer blog. You can find them on twitter here @researchwhisper. It is an account run by @tseenster & @jod999

When I write, I write for myself. I put myself on the pages. I put myself in the edits. I write so that I can understand, explain and express. I don’t know if my words will be heard, I don’t know if my words will resonate. I don’t really think about that when I write. What matters to me is that I have heard, that I have gained clarity. I recognise that being clear about my audience is important, the audience does matter. For me though, this comes after I have clarity and understanding of my own thoughts and words.

For me, the process of writing is sometimes about intellectual understanding, and sometimes it is simply about expression. I don’t always like sitting down at the table to write. But when I do sit down, and when I do start writing, I can’t seem to stop typing the words. Other times, I ache to get to the computer, and will wake very early in the morning, or stay up for hours into the night, just so I can write.

There may be times where I have thoughts after something I have read, or a person in mind like a student and the advice I have shared with them, or where I reflect on an idea after a conversation with a friend or colleague. I write it down so that I can see the structure myself. I might know the concepts, but to articulate them, to see them on the pages, to form that clarity of thinking around that thought. To be sure that I know what I mean. That is writing for me. Other times, I write in my head. The words flow and it is almost like I can see them on the pages. I tell my mind to hold them there until I get an opportunity to write. I believe that if they are important enough, they will stay. If they go away, well, that’s okay. Other ideas and words will come.

Right now though, I’m struggling. I’m writing this because I can’t seem to bring myself to edit my already written words, or to form any structure around them. Fear is in the way. Not fear of what the words say, not because I judge my writing, but I fear sharing my writing. Right now, I am blocked because I fear what others will say. This makes it difficult for me to write, for me to put “me” on the pages and then press send. I don’t always fear sharing my words, but right now, I do.

This fear is cautioning me. It is telling me to put up some walls, some barriers. Sometimes my fear is about insecurity. This isn’t insecurity; this is caution, and as a friend pointed out to me, sometimes fear can be wise and intelligent, it is a warning that we need to heed. This type of blockage is new for me. A different kind of chatter, a different conversation to ones from before, a differently worded fear in my mind.

You see, I don’t mind the world accessing my words, I’ve written blog posts, papers and other forms of publications. I understand that I will get criticism in my life, even over my writing. I often seek critical feedback. I like it and believe it only makes me and my writing better. But I’ve recently had interactions that have led to self-doubt. So right now, the writing feels different, like I am seeking out toxicity, like I am putting myself in the mouth of the lion. But, then I remind myself that I have a choice. As my friends and colleagues have reminded me, those experiences were not about me, they were about the toxic people. So, I go back and remember that I have a safe support network. That I am my own safe place.

This is what I will do: I will write, like I always do. Free, and flowing. I will remind myself that I can add the armour later. If I try to add the shields and armour from the start, I miss the process of reflection and understanding around my thoughts. I miss the joy and freedom of expression, the beauty and love that comes with the process of simply writing for myself. It is private, intimate, and it is about me and the pages in front of me. I won’t let anything else get in the way of that. I can add the shields later, they are important, and I may very well need them. However, I cannot add the shields, I cannot add the armour if there is nothing there to protect.

Right now, I’m going to take the time to ground and reconnect with myself again, come back to “me”. Remind myself that I am my own safe place. Right now, I write for me. This is for me. Let the world do what it will. Let my words fly off into the wind.

This piece is written with all my wonderful friends and mentors in mind, and everyone who has ever given me advice on writing and blogging. Thank you all for your support. You help in ways you could never imagine.

2 thoughts on “When I write, I write for myself

  1. Anuja, this is a lovely piece. I relate so much. When I started writing, if I look back on my work on FRANCE NOW (1990s), the sentences were unrelated to each other. Yet I enjoyed writing them. Ten years later, I started pouring my stuff on SSRN.com. By this time, I had started verifying if my sentences were correct and exact. Internet helped to make the stuff available if anyone cared to read it. But most of my work was still on fiscal matters, a rather taxing field to read. Once in a week, sometimes, somebody would download a paper and I would get a kick. But even without the kick, I would have gone on. Because I enjoy writing. For me, its concentration and even meditation, shutting out the noise in my brain as I focus slowly. From SSRN to academic research publications, the drive came from my school. I am happy today that I send my papers to journals because once in a while someone accepts to review them. These reviewers are perhaps the only ones who will ever read my work. Some will express their love of their role by engaging me in a conversation, others by pushing me forward, and when they do, I feel I am not alone. Whatever happens, I learn because I write and not just the other way around. Like you, I write because this is what I do. Today, most of my work is co-authored as I expose myself to others at an even earlier stage of the draft, prepared for their scorn, especially those working with me for the first time. But once in a while, I just want to do my own thing and go my own way and write what no one may want to publish or even read. Its OK. As you said, I’m doing it for myself.
    (I wonder if anyone remembers Paul Anka’s song (later Frank Sinatra): “I did it my way”. Actually, an English version of a French song “Comme d’habitude”…. just an unrelated thought).

    Like

    1. Hi Arvind, so lovely to read your comment. I relate so much to your words. Yes, it is almost like a meditation for me too, I love what you say about shutting out the noise and and slowly focusing.

      I know that song well. In fact, one of indie radio stations here used to play it at the end of one of their weekly segments that I used to tine into. I had no idea it was originally a French song. It is a completely related thought.

      Like

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