Irrational Exuberance!

Writing for Consumption

September 29, 2008. Filed under writing

When was the last time you wrote something just for you? It isn't something we do often; writing for ourselves. The only familiar concept is that of a diary.

Sometimes people refer to blogs as a kind of public diary, but these days that isn't the case at all. We write blogs for professional development, to teach others things we have learned. We target buzzwords and analyze traffic. We write for vanity, we write to practice writing, we write to contribute to communities.

Do we ever simply write for ourselves?

I remember once reading a comment lamenting that Steve Yegge used to be so much better when he only wrote for himself. What a damningly useless complaint that was, like bemoaning that the nightclub was best before they started letting people inside, or that the Old Facebook was actually different from the New Facebook.

But did Yegge ever actually write for himself? Did I? Has anyone?

Lets turn back to the diary concept. I wrote a diary last year, so why didn't I post it online somewhere in all it's manifold glory?

Mostly because it told a predictable and sad tale: I went to Japan, I was confused a lot, sometimes I was upset, I often drank a beer with dinner. Then I went back home. A great story, isn't it? No? Ah, well, that was the point I was trying to make anyway.

Writing is a form of communication, without an audience it gets lost and meanders to and fro. Just like music, poetry, a conversation or a tree falling in the forest, without a witness writing doesn't exist. If you write a diary but never read it, you never wrote that diary. If you write an email but it isn't delivered, you never wrote that email. If you write a blog entry but even the Googlebot doesn't visit, then you never wrote that blog entry.

Writing is predicated on consumption.

Although not cursed by the fickle transience of speech, writing is nonetheless a form of communication, and communication is a dance that requires at least two partners. This is why I think we can never write for ourselves, because writing has the rarest of properties: it exists once it has been consumed.