In the past year I’ve done over 100 word vomits of at least 1000 words each, which adds up to over 120,000 words. It has been an interesting experience, and I think I’m growing and changing as a writer-and-thinker.
When I started, all I knew is that I would be a different person at the end of it, and that I would have learned a bunch of things along the way that I couldn’t possibly anticipate.
While I still want to reach the 1000 x 1000 milestone, there are a few other things I now want to do as well. A few pertinent “side-quests” have popped up, and I feel like I can’t fully commit to the “main story mission” (1,000,000 words) unless I get these out of the way. I feel like the experience and powerups I’ll get from these side-quests will only add to my main mission, not subtract.
For a couple of years, my blog was centered around my Singapore-centric social commentary. A good 80% of my top-grossing hits are about Singaporean politics and media.
Since then, I’ve gotten married. I become a homeowner. I got a full-time job. I had a blogpost reach the front page of Hacker News. I became a Quora Top Writer for the 2nd year running.
My perspective has changed. My priorities have changed. My interests have changed. My blog has largely remained the same. [See: Derek Sivers’ Why am I here?]
I still care about civil society in Singapore, and I will probably continue to speak up when I feel compelled to do so, but I don’t think I’ll be devoting as much time and energy towards staying on top of everything. There are others who are more qualified than me who are making a meaningful difference.
What will I devote myself to, then? Here are some thoughts on my mind:
1: I want to write about my vision for the future of education. I find a lot of the discussions in this area to be painfully myopic. Almost everything I’ve seen involves some rearrangement of familiar elements such as “student”, “classroom”, “teacher”, “curriculum”, “degree”… all of which I think are assumptions that need to be questioned. We need to reason from first principles rather than think by analogy- I anticipate that education will be disrupted rather than reformed.
I will need to be careful when writing about this, though, and my word vomits are anything but careful. Vaguely, I think that I am the recipient of such a modern education. I don’t have a degree, ut I got headhunted to work with some really cool people nevertheless. I have skills and perspectives that not everybody else has, and they’re valuable enough for me to pay the bills with. Of course, I might be an exception or an outlier of sorts, but I don’t believe that is the case. That would be awfully presumptuous of me. At the very least, the path I have taken is open to thousands of others.
2: Related to that, I want to write about what I perceive as “modern illiteracy”. Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic are necessary (and horrendously lacking in some parts of the world) but insufficient. What differentiates the “modern literate” is the ability to think, process, expound. That’s just the half that I’m familiar with. Lately I’ve found myself feeling very illiterate. I know far too little about large numbers, about businesses and corporations, about law, about nation-states, about computers and how the internet works, about financial systems. What is money? What is debt? What is insurance, and how do you make good decisions? I am incredibly unqualified to write about any of this- all I have is my curiosity, which I will have to use as a compass of sorts.
3: I want to write about marketing in a way that is meaningful to me. I already write about marketing for work, but I do that in a way that is more… “professional”? Since I’m working in this industry, I want to see how far the rabbit hole goes. I want to really sink my teeth into it, unearth the viscera.
I have a nagging suspicion that a large proportion of internet marketers or even marketers in general don’t really know what they’re talking about. I can’t just say that, of course- that’s irresponsible, accusatory, naive, ignorant. Again, just following my nose here. Why is marketing as convoluted and chaotic as it seems to be? Why are so many people simply mouthing platitudes and feel-good quotes? Where is the real work happening, where is it making a real difference, and why isn’t this data easily and readily available? I want to write about that.
4: I know that I don’t want to keep writing about the same things. I know that I want to review movies and books, but I’m not really sure why. I just have faith that I’ll be able to connect the dots when I’ve made significant progress.
5: I know that I want to do real-life experiments and document them on my blog. It’s funny, but one of the biggest epiphanies I’ve had from writing like crazy is that writing can only do so much. My writing guided me to realize that writing is inherently limited as a tool of exploration. It’s a fantastic tool, but ultimately it can only show you where you need to go, what you need to do. I attempted to do this in a very simplistic, superficial sense when I first started blogging here. You can dig into the archives and look for them if you like. They’re pretty embarrassing, vapid wannabe-motivational/lifehacker nonsense. But I’m keeping these posts around to remind me that you have to get the crap out of the way so you can get to the good stuff.
6: I know that I want to be useful. I’ve always wanted to be useful. My best writing and my best living, even, happens when I’m trying to be useful. Things start falling apart when I lose sense of that and start trying to impress people, or boost my ego one way or another.
I’m still figuring it out along the way. I know that I have a whole bunch of other things I want to write about. I want to write a history of Singapore that I personally find interesting. I want to write… there’s a lot of stuff I want to write.
The main quest still stands. I wonder what I will have changed my mind about at word vomit 200, 500, 1000. We’ll see.
Oh yeah, what have I learnt?
1: The early stuff is always crap.
2: Sometimes I’ll think something will take off, but it won’t.
3: Sometimes I don’t think something will take off, but it will.
4: Usually, if I find myself sweating (the sort of high-tension sweat I get in a high-stakes social situation, or even in poker), and I’m sort of frightened to publish, it’s a good sign. But sometimes it’s a total miss.
5: As I write more, I find myself able to sort my thoughts better as-I-go. I’m publishing this post without editing. I find that my unedited thoughts today are better than my edited thoughts a couple of years ago.
6: I warned my readers/audience that I was going to severely bore them with incoherent rambling. I expected the readership to drop. While the raw numbers did go down, I was getting great engagement. People were increasingly messaging and emailing me to tell me that they enjoyed reading my incoherent rambling. They found it more honest and compelling. I realize that my earlier numbers were entirely vanity metrics- I was getting clicks from people who just wanted to read controversial, anti-government rhetoric without engaging me. One of my most popular posts is “Sex in the ACJC”. I doubt those readers were very interested in what I had to say. Any regular reader of my word vomits, though, is a valuable asset to me (and probably a little crazy).
There ain’t no getting offa this train. I hope to do at least 200-300 vomits in 2014 as I make it a more integrated part of my routine.