Why write?

Why, when I rebuilt this website, did I include a blog portion fairly front-and-centre? In 2018, it seems that everyone just shoots an unfiltered stream of consciousness onto the internet or maybe has a Medium account for slightly more fully-baked ideas. Sure, there are a few blogs still around, but they mostly seem to be historical artefacts left over from a bygone age.

I’ve never been a prolific blogger or writer of anything much in particular. At school, essay subjects were my least favourite, and after my English GCSE, the most words I put together in one go were in my UCAS personal statement. Over my undergraduate degree I ended up writing more, as higher level maths leads to more involved proofs needing more explanation, but it’s a very different style to general prose.

On the other hand, from a young age I was a prolific reader. I think I mostly inherited this from my mother, but it became an important part of my personality growing up. I wasn’t fussy: novels, short stories, popular science books, random magazines lying around the house. My reading habit has waxed and waned over the years, but I was always aware of the existence of people who put words together for a living.

Now I’m a PhD student, and for the first time I have to write journal papers and eventually (though a lot sooner than I like to think about) a full thesis. The most consistent piece of writing advice I’ve seen is simply to write as much as possible and not care that the first x thousand words will suck. So one reason is definitely to get to the the point of being able to explain complex topics clearly and engagingly, at least to expert audiences.

With that said, merely practising the art of writing isn’t the only motivating factor. I haven’t come up with a title or tagline for this website mostly to leave myself the freedom to write what I, and hopefully others, find interesting. Granted, so far that’s been weird parts of category theory and overcoming very specific technical issues in little-used software, but I have some thoughts about the broader world of modern society and technology that I want to get to very soon. In fact, this post is at least the start of unravelling all those issues.

Another aspect is to rubber-duck my life in some sense. It’s a common experience to start asking some question (technical or otherwise) and realise that the act of structuring it into words makes the solution clearer, and I hope to be able to apply this to real-life situations I find myself in, ideally where I can come up with some novel or useful observation. I don’t have anything particular in mind in this genre yet, but it’s something that I want to leave myself open to.

And finally, I may eventually have some political or philosophical opinions I want to clarify and share. This builds on my previous point, as the aim is to not only rubber-duck myself into some sort of coherent thinking, but also force myself to do the research. I’m a big believer in intellectual humility, and there’s a lot that I freely admit I don’t know enough about to have even a private opinion of.

So this post will stand, at least for now, as my justification for this exercise in putting words on the internet. As always, if you have any comments, feedback or anything else to say to me, I’d welcome it via email, Twitter, carrier pigeon or any other means of contact you have.