I was submitting an application recently and I name checked some individuals that have had a significant influence on my writing and to whom I greatly admire as writers: Joan Didion, George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Lewis, and Marilynne Robinson. This in turn led me to re-read essays Didion and Orwell had written on why they wrote and it got me thinking, why do I write?
When I look back on my life to date, it appears to me a series of attempts to i) find out who I am; ii) find out generalisable truths about the world; iii) avoid causing harm to others and add positivity in the world; iv) maximise the range of experiences I expose myself to. This approach has partially shown me what I am not. Fortunately I believe that I am coming to one realisation about who I am, in part at least. I am a writer. This is not to say a good one or a bad one, just one. Putting words on pieces of paper is the way for me to make sense of both the external world and my own internal world. It is one of the few activities I can think of where I completely lose all sense of time. What modern neuroscientists call “flow”.
Writing represents many things to me. It documents the present for the purposes of posterity. It gives tangible form to feelings and emotions. It helps make sense of things. It is a form of creative expression. It provides an outlet of meaning. It can expose lies and draw attention to pertinent social and political issues.
When I look back on much of my published writing to date it is focused on the realm of abstract ideas. What is philosophy? The good life? Blockchain technology? The purpose of political institutions? But, to echo the words of Joan Didion, “I am not a scholar, I am not in the least an intellectual”. Yes, I thoroughly enjoy engaging with ideas and find them very intellectually stimulating. But do they stimulate my heart or my soul? No. What does? Learning about the human condition; predominantly through real world interactions, interpersonal relationships, and ordinary individual stories. While society hurls towards the digital, the metaverse, and imagined reality, I’m gravitating the other way towards the analog, the tangible, and nature.
Empiricism is my preferred methodology for learning. My whole life has been driven by curiosity and an adventurous spirit driven by a desire to expose myself to the full spectrum of human emotions and potentialities. This domain is far more specific, messy, complex, and contradictory than the world of highbrow intellectual abstract ideas. I am fascinated by accounts of others’ lived experience. I enjoy the contradictions and paradoxes of this often irrational realm.
During these past few months living abroad and travelling — putting myself into new exploratory environments, shaking up my comfortable existence, being semi-permanently confused and unsure of myself — I have inevitably made mistakes (“learning opportunities” I like to frame them as). Most will only have seen the curated highlight reel that made it to Instagram. Yet the amount I have learnt about myself has largely been in direct proportion to the number of mistakes learning opportunities I made. “Nothing in any life, no matter how well or poorly lived, is wiser than failure or clearer than sorrow”. Our virtues are shaped and refined by adversity. This period has been one of condensed and accelerated learning. 5 months has felt like 5 years.
In this time I also fell in love (romantically speaking, for what I think is the very first time in my life). This was the polar opposite of a mistake. The experience has been so transformative that it will take me a long time to fully process it. It showed me a part of myself I never knew existed. The fullness and height of emotion was beyond anything I could ever have imagined I was capable of receiving. Yet these staggering highs imply equally — if not worse — corresponding pain and suffering. When I think of what our Ukrainian comrades are facing now, it’s impossible to imagine. I cannot comprehend what the feeling must be like to be forced to say goodbye to my mother, father, sisters, lovers, and close friends knowing I was going to defend my land to the death. At the same time, I am in complete awe and admiration at this display of heroism and sacrifice.
This is a long-winded way of saying that my writing will hopefully start to gravitate towards these areas that better reflect my interests as a writer, framed in my grounding in philosophical and abstract ideas. I don’t know what this form looks like. I would like to write about my life experiences and those of others, and maybe even conduct semi-journalistic investigations into the lived experience of groups or individuals on a more rigorous scale.
My recent romantic experience has shown me that your whole life can change in a single instance. Concepts, conventions, and expectations are figments of our collective societal imagination. They are not physical, immutable laws of nature. Beyond the constraints imposed by physics and mathematics, concepts can be broken, bended, reconfigured — and should be. Life is crazy. But it is also wonderfully enriching, if you look in the right places. I hope to shine a light on those crevices one word at a time.
“From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I would have to settle down and write books” — George Orwell, Why I Write, 1946
 Joan Didion, Why I Write, 1976
 Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts, pg. 872