As I was contemplating the last letter, I noticed a fairly big problem. The trick. It didn’t work. Once I sensed my intention to publish this letter, my writing changed—“when I had some kind of external audiences in mind,” indeed. But who did I really intend to write for?

I mean, if I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that someone’s gonna read this, I probably should try to understand the essence of that “someone,” right?

For some posts it is clear. Take, for example, “Migrating from Cygwin to Msys2 as Daily Driver When Using Windows”. This article describes an arcane and fairly cursed setup, with a lot of unexplained abbreviations. Not many people will benefit from that—its intended audience was obviously my future self. It was indeed the output of thinking aloud and taking notes. However, for other posts, the target reader group isn’t so clear.

On one level, as said William Zinsser’s famous quote in his book “On Writing Well”:

Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.

Indeed, by putting articles here, I was declaring that I wanted these thoughts to be heard—I wanted them to be heard in my own distinct voice. Or at the very least, I wished someone to read them as binge bank material some time in the far future. They would be part of what I’m comprised of. They would be my work and the path I have walked. They would be great stepping stones to understand who I am. These desires were all very egotistic—My intention is clearly to be read by someone later.

On another (probably woowoo-ish) level, I recently dug up two relevant quotes from my writing-related notes—though I had no memory of them. (Thanks, note!) The first one is from Martha Graham, recorded in her biography “Martha : the life and work of Martha Graham” by Agnes de Mille1 (emphasis mine):

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

The second quote is by Brene Brown:

One day you will tell your story of how you overcame what you went through and it will be someone else’s survival guide.

The cover image is the Kitsune Mask (fox mask) I bought in Tokyo. I always place it around my desk—yes, it is related, bear with me a bit here. In Japanese mythology, foxes—particularly white foxes—are the messengers of the Shinto agriculture deity Inari-ookami(稲荷大神)2. They are messengers. They are retainers.

I don’t personally serve Inari. Based on my private notes regarding these two quotes, however, I bought this mask to remind myself that I’m merely a channel for thoughts from the unseen realms—or the collective unconscious, depending on your metaphysical beliefs—to flow into this world. That mask is a humbling reminder. The words I put out may resonate with someone someday, or they may fade into obscurity. It is ultimately irrelevant. It is not my role to judge. It is not for myself.

Okay. We’ve got two seemingly conflicting views here. One idea states that I write because I want to be heard; the other one says I’m just acting as a channel to let something grow into this world. What now?

Well, actually, I don’t think they’re in conflict. For me, writing is a journey of self-discovery. It is an egotistical act aiming to gain something tangible. It is a way to make tomorrow’s me understand what I’m thinking today. It is being a conduit for ideas to find their shape in words. It is making an offering to entities I haven’t met yet. Writing is indeed all of these for me.

So, who am I writing for? I still have no clue. It might seem that we have reached nowhere through all these explorations. But that no longer matters now.

I think the real magic lies in the journey ifself. Through the act of typing out all those fragmented thoughts, I’ve discovered that I hold a colorful set of beliefs about writing—many more than I consciously remember. By the end of the process, not knowing the answer is no longer a critical problem. It’s fine that I don’t know. I may find out some day. Or I may not.

I didn’t exactly plan for this post to go here. That’s also fine I guess. It’s probably a reminder that even lacking clear direction, the act itself has value. Probably.

  1. I don’t think I had ever read this book. I probably heard it in Natalie Miller’s podcast or something. Can’t find it right now. ↩︎

  2. Note that the deity’s name is just “Inari(稲荷)”. “Ookami(大神)” means “great god” in Japanese, and it’s more like an honorific rather than a part of the deity’s name. ↩︎