Click here to show or hide the menubar.
Thread started by Dave Winer on Friday, January 18, 2013.

Why I write

I get a fair amount of grief for writing my blog and pushing links through my feed and to Twitter. It's been this way since before I started blogging. There are always people around who question your motives, and who project their own nasty theories about people on the easiest target to find. Often that's the most vocal and visible person, esp one without affiliation. There always seems to be one person who has a bone to pick with me, sometimes lots of people.

There are many reasons I write, but probably the least of it is for fame or fortune. I don't make much money writing, I actually spend money to write. And if I wanted fame there are much more direct ways to go about it. In fact over the years, I've done things to limit my fame, because I don't like being famous.

I write to express myself, and to learn. Writing is a form of processing my ideas. When I tell a story verbally a few times, I'm ready to write it. After writing it, I understand the subject even better.

I send links to Twitter and to my linkblog feed because I want to share them, and because I want to remember them. By linking to them they get into my archive where I can search. This way instead of hunting around for an article, trying to remember where it was or how I got there, instead I just scroll through the archive. As a by-product, I share it. Some people like this. I assume the people who don't like it know how to unsub.

I also write to create a record. In my programming work I've gotten a lot more disciplined about this. I have a rule that I can't make a change to my most mature products, the ones that are being used by others, without posting a worknote. It's a rule I don't have any trouble keeping, even though at the beginning, it was like a New Years resolution, it felt like a chore. Now it's a habit as ingrained as brushing my teeth or taking my meds or getting exercise every day. I don't feel right if I don't do it -- so I do.

I write to keep up the connection with people I care about. That way when we meet, they have a clue what's going on with me. I really like it when people I care about blog too, so its reciprocal.

I write to put a stake in the ground, so I can, over time, debug my prediction process, and hone my understanding of how things work. If you point to something I wrote ten years ago that turned out wrong, I don't feel ashamed. I take the opportunity to learn. By explaining my process then, I have a chance to debug it later. Why did I think desktop publishing was a bad idea? I don't know -- because I didn't write about it. But I do know why I thought the iPhone was a bad idea. This process helps me get smarter over time.

I write to give people something to react to. So you think the iPhone was a winner from Day One. Great. Tell me why. Maybe I'll change my mind. It's happened more than once that a commenter here showed me another way of thinking about something and I eventually came around to their point of view. And even if I don't change my mind, it's helpful to understand how another person, given the same set of facts, can arrive at a different conclusion.

Update: Another reason I write, which I remembered after publishing -- I develop writing tools. If I didn't write, I couldn't do that. I wouldn't be able to test them, refine them, and get new ideas for new tools. Writing and my software development process are integral. I couldn't do one without the other.

And maybe I write because I'm narcissistic. It's possible. You know it's hard to tell, because the only experience we have is our own. I don't know what you think, unless you tell me, and then I have to decide if you're being honest about it, or being honest with yourself. And I try not to worry about that so much. Because whether you're honest or not is something for you to deal with, and if there is a god, for he or she to judge you on. It's not my problem, thankfully. Because there are now 7 billion people on the planet. If we were to make each person's honesty our business, we'd have no time to live! :-)

So when someone gets on a soapbox and starts trying to rev up a crowd to hate me, and when they lie to do it, I have to learn not to give that any weight. What I do now is ask a friend to have a look and tell me what they see. Since the ranting isn't about them, they won't take it personally. If they say it's something I should pay attention to, I would -- but they never do. The most recent time it happened, a friend came back and said the person is a sadist. But my mind still circles around the abuse. I have a hard time not thinking about it. So what do I do? Write about it, of course. Now it's on the web, and hopefully out of my way.

One more thing. I remember being at a conference, chatting with someone and I saw at the other end of the room someone who had been a friend but had started trashing me on the Internet. I excused myself and walked over to the guy and sat down next to him, and asked why he was doing it. He started repeating the nonsense he was saying online. But I didn't think he really believed it, so I pressed him and asked why he was really doing it. He said he had cancer, and was in chemo, and was in a lot of pain. I felt sick myself in that moment. I said you know that's terrible, but it's no reason to do and say things that hurt me, and make me feel bad. We all have our struggles. Me too. He agreed, and we're friends again, but now when I see him online, I can't forget how used I was, and why, and the pain comes back, his pain and mine. This really sucks.

Anyway, I don't know why people do this. I don't think I will ever be immune to it. But I find that having good loyal friends helps make it a bit more tolerable.

XML