I joked with friends the other day that after transcribing several years worth of hand-written journals from my younger years, I now recognize it would be no great loss if they were all destroyed in a fire. There’s little of interest in them. They’re not deep, they’re not filled with big ideas or beautiful writing. They’re just me writing about whatever was on my mind that day.
I also realized that at the rate I’m transcribing, I will never digitize all of my hand-written journals. I still write longhand every day, and the amount I write each day outpaces the amount I transcribe. This doesn’t make me want to write any less, and it does not detract me from writing longhand. Especially now that I look for excuses to write just because my fountain pens are fun to write with.
And it hit me: I care less about what I produce, about the end product, than I do about the act of writing. I just like to write. It feels good. It’s satisfying. It helps me clarify thoughts, yes, and I’m sure that’s part of it. But there’s something tactile about it, too, the transformation of ephemeral thought into physical matter. That’s kind of miraculous, right?
Writing solidifies something that’s not even as material as air. Thought isn’t made of molecules. Not until you write it, or make music of it, or paint or draw or otherwise express it as something that can be seen or heard or tasted or felt. I guess writing is like any other form of creation in that way, and the creation of something from nothing is wondrous to me.
But clarifying thoughts and creating a thing of substance from insubstantial thought, those are bonus outcomes. They are not why I write. I write because it’s fun to write. Whatever else happens as a result of writing is sprinkles on top.
It feels nice to realize this, that it is the process that brings me pleasure, not the outcome. I always thought if I like to write I should have life goals like “write a book” or some other product-oriented aspiration. But then what? I’d still want to write. I’m starting to understand that my life goals are less about stuff and destinations and are more about feeling content and fulfilled and happy, and having love and purpose and meaning in my life. I don’t need to produce anything for those. I can just write, and enjoy the process, and that is enough.