Tag Archives: journal

#15: Something is Better than Nothing

Even in the darkest of times, I still commit myself to maintaining the two-post-a-week rule for this blog. If any bloggers’ muse won’t come to me, then I’ll always have to make one, especially during midnight. I support this dogged persistence by a pet theory of writing. A truism, but worth posting in one’s bedside in my opinion:

It’s always better to write something than to write nothing.

Bad writers are still called writers even if they write badly. Those who fail to write, however, can be called anything else, but they’re not writers. Writing is a verb before it becomes a noun. The action of writing precedes the title, in contrast to many job-holders today who get the title first before they partake in the action.

Established writers always suggest that we carry a journal where we can record scattered thoughts. (The practice has trickled down on English class, but I don’t believe students take it seriously unless they can get away with a decent grade by doing it.) They need not be organized or grammatical; the main purpose of the journal is to record observations and thoughts in a flash. Although writers who do this do not necessarily improve the way they construct sentences, pen down figurative expressions, and organize paragraphs, they sharpen their perceptive powers. They improve the way they see the essences of commonplace things. They learn how to classify, analyze, and compare stimuli more quickly. Best of all, they learn how to treat no situation as mundane, no action as arid.

Even bits of writing that are hardly publishable for now can still have value. They can serve as inspiration for future writing, especially at the unfortunate day when Nature seems to have run out of gifts. (Don’t worry, Nature never does, but we sometimes feel a sort of respite for claiming that we can’t write because Nature has dried up.) With some tweaking, they can serve as the beginning, middle, or end of a written work. You need not start from nothing every time you do your main-course writing – think of the journal or blog as one of your take-off points.

Journal writing or blog writing solely for the sake of writing something than nothing is analogous to running. Think of a journal or blog entry as a practice race for a big race. When you are in an actual race already, you need not cherish the memory of any particular practice session, but you’ll look back to the practice as a whole and figure that they’ve strengthened your muscles, improved your stamina, and raised your normal confidence level. The same goes for writing. There are some practice effects going on.

Upon reading the biographies of many writers, it is easy to notice that their works we remember today may be a small fraction of their total published output. The total published output, again, may be a small fraction of all the words they have written. Certainly it is possible to improve the odds of becoming a published writer by writing more words than anyone else out there. Somewhere on the mass of your accumulated writings, there will be something that can garner an audience who will get wildly interested, and you will get readers.

That recalls the Garbage Can theory of organizations, a theory involving “choices looking for problems” instead of the conventional problem-identifying and solution-posing. Here, it is the writing seeking out an audience, although as a writer you always need a feel for your ideal reader. At the times when you know your audience in advance, you can churn out written work smoothly, and you will be thankful for your continuous practice that somehow strengthened your mind and prevented the rusting of your writing prowess.

What do all these boil down into? As Henry Miller wrote: “I am a writing machine.” It’s good that writing machines can self-oil themselves – by writing more.


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