sam's sandbox

This piece is about why I write.

Exactly one year ago, I published my first public post on sam's sandbox. In an uncharacteristically succinct overview, it was my way of committing to both myself and others that I would figure out my voice, style, brand, and content by splashing around in a “sandbox”. I outlined a guiding manifesto anchored with three principles: messy is good, imagination is the greatest asset, play is the work. To this day, I'm happy these three factors have crept into every single piece of writing that I've attempted throughout this year.

This piece then serves as another time capsule item on the long-term roadmap of my creator journey. By the numbers, I've published 9 long-form articles so far (stretch goal = 3 more by end of year!) totaling ~25,000 words with 25 custom frameworks conjured along the way. The tail-end of the summer blessed me with another spike of inspiration, resulting in an emotionally-charged blog, little-corner-of-internet energy. The snapshot statistics reveal a significantly positive trend: 11,000 words in 11 reflections with a largely consistent weekly cadence. Of course, these are all vanity metrics — the mere act of writing and publishing is what matters most. But it still feels good to see my growing ability to identify discrete themes and express myself in sharp, surgical ways.

This piece is also inspired by an old George Orwell essay aptly titled, “Why I Write”. He details four main motives that charge his own craft:

  • Sheer egoism: Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, etc. In my words: stoking the selfish self.

  • Aesthetic enthusiasm: Perception of beauty in the external world; with words and their right arrangement. In my words: expressing life lyrically.

  • Historical impulse: Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for posterity. In my words: excavating observations.

  • Political purpose: Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other people’s idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. In my words: grounding compelling points-of-view.

If I reflect on my own writing practice, I'd like to say that it's a blend of all four. There are probably more tones that lean into aesthetic enthusiasm, and I'd like to think I'm slowly striving to embed more political purpose. Orwell admits this fourth objective is inaccessible for even seasoned writers and requires both a strong sense of self and resonance with many external environments. He considers his seminal Animal Farm to only scratch the surface of this ideal, despite the novel being a cleverly layered allegory on communist Russia.

Also Orwell on how he carries forward an authentic child-infused mindset:

"I am not able, and I do not want, completely to abandon the world-view that I acquired in childhood. So long as I remain alive and well I shall continue to feel strongly about prose style, to love the surface of the earth, and to take pleasure in solid objects and scraps of useless information. It is no use trying to suppress that side of myself."

To be honest, this piece and blog only exist because I've found many sensational online writers over the past year. These random internet strangers have not only elevated my literary game, but have also unconditionally shaped the way I think, feel, and express myself. I'm unbelievably grateful to a wide cast of recurring newsletters, which would have been unthinkable even a year ago.

(1) From the inimitable AH:

I write because I believe in resonance and universality. Whenever I have a thought I know that there’s someone else out there having the same one. But if we don’t write it down, we might never find each other. I treat writing as a place to store feelings. In other words: writing is a way for me to put memories and thoughts in a safe place instead of holding onto them or letting them go. My desire to write is part of an enduring search for autonomy. By “autonomy” I mean the freedom to make work that I think is good on my own terms.

In this way, A is implying that the process of writing as a key part of “becoming”. If we don't share our writing, who will know? If we choose not to speak, where will our voice go? If we don't trust our own eyes, how will we ever become wise?

(2) From the sharpshooting TH:

I'd feel great if someone came across my writing and believed they'd learned something new. But it may even be better that someone starts creating more after reading my writing, that they find comfort in knowing that a person can know so little, yet still bake, share, try, and make collages of a reality that's a bit more hopeful, actionable, and nutritious. I’m writing not just for my own pleasure, or to please an audience. I’m writing because that’s the way to make connections between thoughts, realities, & imagination, to substantiate the things that otherwise wouldn’t be seen... At this moment, I don't know whether what I'm writing would be of interest to you, and you don't know it's 5 AM in LA, and that I'm pouring my heart out in a dimly lit room. What I do know is that you are trying to get through the day feeling you've done your best, and you probably know that I'm trying too. What I do know is that regardless of how wild you dream and how far you've climbed, you might still be haunted by a sense of loss and a yearning for meaning, and you probably know that I'm trying too.

T manages to pin down an aspirational reason for putting words on a page and clicking the publish button: touching the souls of others. At the same time, she beautifully sketches out the insecurity of not knowing, not believing that our writing has wide relatability or applicability. But I've realized trying and striving are one and the same — I'm slowly working into a pattern of consistency and clarity that my intellectual idols would be proud of.

Sometimes I also screenshot heart-provoking snippets out of articles that I scan on my phone. I forgot which Substack I robbed this from, but I think this is a good meta-way to end this post:

"Your mind is constantly moving. You're always producing judgments, attitudes, opinions, emotions, melancholy, malaise, anger, and so on. You have things to write about. What you do is just put the things in your head on the page, in basically the order they naturally occur. Flip over the rock in your mind, type about the beetles, the ants, the piece of squashed dog poop. If you don't want to do that, it's because you're not comfortable that these are the things that you actually think. You would prefer to have more sophisticated opinions, or maybe, more reasonable opinions."

That's the sauce — keep going, keep writing, keep shipping :)

Published by Sam (samwong) 6 months ago on Friday the 19th of November 2021.

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