Although my career background is exclusively technical as a software developer, these days I’m much more interested in foreign policy, defense, security, governance, economics, finance, civil society, basic science, and philosophy, with my interest in technology limited to only a much higher and abstract level. I don’t imagine that I will ever gain employment in any of my new areas of interest, but I do gain a lot of satisfaction from writing about them.

To be clear, I do not consider myself a “real” writer. At best, I am an amateur hack, which is all I seek or aspire to. Formality and polish are characteristics that I seek to avoid rather than revel in.

My reasons for writing

Although my writing earns me no direct income, I write for these reasons, in no particular priority order:

  • To clarify my thinking. Just putting ideas into words helps a lot.
  • To complete my thoughts. I can only juggle so many thoughts at a time in my head — writing lets me include more thoughts and more details in the same thought process.
  • To clarify concepts, to put them plainly and simply. As an ethical obligation.
  • To help me think. In general.
  • I enjoy describing complex (or simple) matters clearly. Beyond mere ethical obligation to do so.
  • To enlighten. To shine a light on dark, gloomy, vague, and complicated matters.
  • To give my imagination room to explore.
  • To clear my head. All of these crazy thoughts stop bouncing around inside my head once I put them into words.
  • To explain myself and my interests.
  • To free myself from my past. To put negative, unpleasant, or disappointing thoughts in a box and put that box out of my mind so that I can move on.
  • Others may give me feedback to help me make some progress.
  • Others may get some value from my thoughts and experiences.
  • I enjoy writing. Sort of. Sometimes. At least in my imagination. Mostly I enjoy finishing a writing project. In truth, sometimes the writing flows freely and is a great joy, while other times… not so much.
  • I enjoy the research and thinking associated with a writing project. Discovering and working with ideas is a great joy.
  • It makes me feel calmer.
  • It helps me feel more relaxed.
  • It makes me feel more satisfied.
  • It makes me feel productive.
  • It makes me feel creative.
  • I enjoy creating things, but my limited physical dexterity and social skills dramatically limit what I can physically or socially create, while writing permits me to create anything I can imagine.
  • I enjoy working with ideas.
  • To propose new ideas.
  • To propose fresh approaches to old problems, issues, and ideas.
  • I feel much more comfortable and unconstrained when writing than speaking. I can write, review, and edit until I am satisfied, which I need very much, but which is not possible when speaking, or at least it’s extremely painful to watch, let alone experience.
  • To build up a writing portfolio of my ideas to enhance the prospects of my employment or association with an organization like a think tank or research lab that values ideas and written expression.
  • I feel that some matters are not covered at all or that existing treatments are incomplete, misleading, unclear, vague, or poorly integrated, so that in some way I feel that I can cover the matter or more adequately or clearly describe or explain the matter, including by distilling the essence from existing treatments.
  • I like to distill, winnow, and sift. So many writers write in such a strained, obtuse, pompous, or extended manner, that I feel like I’m doing people a service by searching for the few needles in the monstrous haystacks and simply writing the same ideas but in simpler and plainer English. I see my mission as a matter of winnowing wheat, separating the chaff of noise from the grains of fact. Sifting the chatter to discern the hidden truth.
  • To focus attention on overlooked aspects of a matter.
  • I enjoy expressing truth. It’s my thing. Truth and expression of truth are their own rewards. Of course, one does have to discover truth first, which is the really hard part.
  • To help me understand things. I read and research, but only when I write on my own do I finally realize what I don’t understand. I consider reading, research, and writing as one combined process, one project.
  • To communicate my ideas and thinking to others.
  • To provide plain and clear descriptions for reference, for others and for myself.
  • To focus on reason.
  • To incite reason.
  • To circumvent passion. The enemy of reason.
  • To deter passion — from overwhelming reason.
  • I can’t help myself. I feel compelled to write.
  • There are only a few things that I enjoy more than writing.
  • I’m Mr. Practicality. In contrast to political writers and social activists. I’m focused on practical, realistic solutions, not idealism.
  • To facilitate human progress.
  • To point out difficulties with what others are saying, what they seem to be missing.

What’s not a reason why I write

I don’t write for these reasons, again not in any absolute priority order:

  • To make money.
  • To appeal to a broad audience of average citizens or mass markets.
  • To seek affirmation.
  • To gain attention.
  • To be loved.
  • To persuade people.
  • To manipulate people.
  • To incite outrage.
  • To escape from the real world. Well, maybe just a little. Sometimes.
  • To tell a story, a narrative. I’m a just-the-facts kind of guy.
  • To make things up. I don’t do fiction.
  • To entertain. Not when enlightenment is at stake.
  • To make the world a better place. I haven’t yet mastered that sense of delusions of grandeur. Sure, it’s a nice sentiment, but so much of it is commonly little more than posturing and… delusions of grandeur. How about a little more live and let live rather than meddling in the lives of others?
  • For change. I’m all for change and improvement, but my focus is on truth and enlightenment rather than change per se.
  • For justice. Ouch. Not that this is not a great objective for others, but it’s not my personal interest. I’m in pursuit of truth and enlightenment, which may or may not impact justice per se.
  • For (partisan) political purposes. I’m roughly politically neutral, centrist, moderate, middle of the road, so I have no urgent (partisan) political motives in one direction or the other.
  • Outrage.
  • To appeal to outrage.
  • Out of anger. Maybe that’s a lot better than acting out one’s anger. I’m just glad not to be so angry.
  • To critique political affairs. I am more apt to describe and point out opportunities, rather than to prescribe and take sides.
  • Passion. For me it is simply interest.
  • To incite passion. I choose to incite reason.
  • To appeal to passion. Passion seems to thrive well enough on its own without needing my assistance.
  • To enjoy reading what I write. Once I trudge through the final edit pass, I never again reread what I write, other than to occasionally refer to specific details.
  • For the beauty of the language, prose, form, style, or individual words or phrases. They are all merely means to the end of communicating ideas.
  • In pursuit of beauty. I defer to others and refrain from judging them in pursuing beauty. It’s just not my personal interest.
  • I’m a natural. NOT! I do enjoy writing, but it’s never been something that feels completely natural. It doesn’t happen smoothly and consistently. Words do flow freely on occasion, but not with any great frequency. Writing is just too much effort for me to say that it’s natural.
  • A need to write every day. I write when I feel like it. I don’t feel any compulsion or obsession to write every single day.
  • To show off my vocabulary. I’m mediocre at best. I am satisfied with simple, plain, and merely descriptive words.
  • Language as art.
  • To pass judgment on others. I won’t deny others their own reasons for writing or not writing.
  • To prove that I can write.
  • To prove that I can write better than others.
  • To show off my wordsmithing skill. I just try to keep things simple.
  • To show off my communications skill. I’m skeptical about how many people I can truly effectively get through to.
  • To echo what others are saying.
  • To make people feel good about themselves.
  • To foster a sense of community. Ouch. Not that this isn’t a great objective for others to pursue, but I am much more focused on truth, even if it has the collateral damage of dividing a community.
  • To make peace with… whatever. I seek truth and enlightenment, no matter how upsetting or discomforting it may be to me or others.
  • To add color to life. I’m not opposed to that, but it’s not my personal objective.
  • To make friends. If that’s an incidental benefit, fine, but I’m not going out of my way to make friends.
  • To make enemies. I’m no radical, no revolutionary. You won’t find me starting fires and pouring gasoline on them or throwing firebombs — except when it comes to discovering and protecting truth.
  • To heal divides, to look for common ground. That’s nominally a laudable objective, but my role is truth and enlightenment.
  • To rant, rail, and rave against authority. We should be encouraging respect for authority and responsible authority, not rejecting authority per se.
  • To recover from melancholy. My condolences to those who have that need. Thankfully I am not one of them.
  • To cope with loss. Again, my condolences.
  • As an act of desperation. Thankfully, I’m not that desperate.
  • To escape from fear. That’s a perfectly valid reason for one to write. It’s just not my reason.
  • To escape from inner demons. I recognize and accept that as a psychic need for some writers; I’m just not one of them.
  • For a sense of purpose. Discovering and working with ideas, before they get translated to words is my purpose.
  • As a call to action. I’m more of an idea guy; let others worry about the action side of the equation.
  • To cure social ills. That can certainly be quite laudable; but that’s not my interest or forte.

Would I still write if income was not an issue?

Great question. My ongoing financial anxiety and lingering fantasy that maybe my writing could lead to income is a rather powerful motivation to continue writing. But would I still have any powerful motivations to write if my money issues were fully resolved? So hard to say. I mean, yes, I think I would still have plenty of reasons to write (see above), but how many of them are really just crutches to justify writing rather than powerful motivators in their own right? Unknown.

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