Writing Challenge

I have been thinking about taking the 100 days writing challenge for a while. Not just for a little while, but for at least a few years by now. Within these few years my blog have been destroyed and restored multiple times, I graduated and I moved -- basically, everything has changed. Yet I have never really made the decision to attempt to write every single day.

Not surprisingly, the main reason I have not done so is due to the big commitment I have to make in order to complete it. Writing everyday is not something very easy -- it's certainly not hard, but it still takes a non-negligible amount of time and energy out of every single day. Like any "beneficial" habit, it is simply hard to make up one's mind to make the initial commitment, just like many have not made up their minds to lose weight, or to try a different kind of diet.

To me, though, there is something more about this unwillingness to commit to writing as a habit. One of them is the idea that all writing has to present a well-supported argument with eloquent words and beautifully organized structure. If I am writing stories, then they have to at least be interesting to someone other than myself. They need to have an eye-grabbing beginning, a twisted plot, and a satisfying ending. Moreover, they have to try to show readers some takeaway through the story-telling. And of course, as English is my second language, I was basically trained to be extremely careful about grammatical errors by all the tests and exams I have been through. The result is simple -- every time I try to write, this pressing anxiety begins to creep into every single nerve of my brain, and, well, it makes writing, at least in English, a somewhat exhausting process. Every time I publish a blog article, I have to go through a time-consuming process of trying to organize the article in a bunch of different ways, figuring out what exactly to say in each paragraph or even each sentence, and so on. As you might be able to see, this means that I was really only willing to write about things I consider "important" for more people to know about, for example, technical challenges not solved by Google-fu.

I could simply not write in English, then, if the problems come from my training of English as a second language. Except I can't. First of all, the idea that writing has to be formal is not limited to just English. I did not get this from my English training, but rather, from the fact that all writing training I received is under an academic setting. Obviously, for something academic, one would want to be as formal and structured as possible, because you would not get too far in the academic world without some nice, cough, papers. Secondly, although my mother tongue is Mandarin, I, somehow, feel even more pressure when I try to write in Chinese. It might be from all the Chinese exams I had to take during my high school years, which forces me to come up with something nice for the writing task, taking up almost half of the total marks for those exams. What's the result of scratching my head over and over again for more than 3 years in high school? Every single Chinese exam, every single one of them, gave me just the passing mark for all my effort. I might write another blog post just about my current inability to write in my own native language. The takeaway here is that if I were to try the writing challenge in Chinese, it would be even harder.

I am trying to work my way out of this mindset, for both English and my native language Chinese. I need to stop thinking about what others would think of my writing. I of course write for others to read, but what I write needs to reflect me, not what I expect others to expect from me -- that, is too many levels of "indirection" to make sense. When I have something well-supported to argue about, fantastic, and I should definitely write a nice long article for it. But when I don't, it is no shame to simply admit that I am not sure. It is okay to not be that most knowledgeable guy. It is okay to make mistakes. Because these are all part of me -- and through writing, I'd like the readers to know me.

Will I ever take the 100 days writing challenge? I am not sure. Even if all the problems above are resolved, I might still not want to write publicly every single day. When you write that much, it is inevitable that aspects of your daily life will eventually be leaked into what you write, either directly through your own words when you have nothing else to write about, or through the patterns visible from your posts. I, coming from a background where everything can be used against you, probably will never be comfortable with such a possibility. I want to record my thoughts, and I want my readers to know me as a person, but not the entirety of me -- and I feel that taking on a challenge like that is the perfect opportunity not to do so.

What I will do, though, is to write more. Like, more than how much I did before. When I have blog ideas, I will try to force myself to get something out of them, even if the resulting product is not well-organized to my satisfaction. I am also going to start a private diary that I will, at least attempt to, update every day. It will not be public, but hopefully some great writing ideas can come out of it. It would also be a nice archive of who I am now and how I am changing over time, which is always nice to have. To be honest, I hope I have had a diary way earlier. When I was younger, I never thought that I could change so much one day, but here I am, almost a completely different person from who I was 10 years ago. It would be nice to be able to see how I changed, which could also serve as a guide for myself, or even others, in the future. Hopefully, this time, I will have such an archive.

You'll only receive email when they publish something new.

More from Peter Cai
All posts