On writing personal journals and some other only slightly elucidated existential questions revolving around the subject of writing

Every writer seems to say the same thing: just write. They say, “don’t worry about the final product, just get your words down and move on from there. In that manner you become accustomed to writing regularly and you also develop your technique.” I have trouble doing this because of my need to give purpose to everything, because of my desire to have a perfect product without any of the rigors of the through journey. I am setting those concerns aside right now to not only improve my writing, but also to lift my boredom. This boredom of mine is destroying me, making me feel the full impact of my existential musings because I just can’t think of something worthwhile to do. But I intend to avoid the self-pitying so common of myself in my depressed and anxious state. I have become disillusioned by the realization that I am not at all unique in my “suffering”. I am just one more distraught soul feeling I have the entirety of the inspired spirit within me.

Anyway, to return to writing about matters other than depression, I will consider the merits of writing diary-like, stream of consciousness entries. It seems just as shallow to me, and as pointless, as posting infinitesimally edited clips of yourself talking about some subject on YouTube. I find the individuals who do that lacking in any true talents as their words are spliced together opportunistically to present the viewer with the desired image of themselves and for achieving the desired effect. But I suppose writing is no different. This is an entirely random thought, though.

Back to the question of writing to oneself. What benefit does it confer? To answer that question it is necessary to determine what the desired outcome is. Writing, especially through blogging and other published mediums, is done for the “others”. It is written to be presented and validated by “externals”, thus providing the writer with a sense of self-worth which may or may not be substantiated or valid. In that sense it has a very explicit purpose, one of integrating the writer with the world at large and fueling her or his ego.

But what happens when a writer writes on his or her own on a medium that only he or she has access to? What purpose does the writing serve, then? It almost feels like you are writing redundancies, speaking out loud your own thoughts and then trying to swallow them again in some perverted, cannibalistic circle of philosophical “linguism”. Are you writing to yourself to understand yourself? Are you writing to yourself to release yourself? Either way, what good does it do to place words on paper that are only meant for your eyes? You already know everything that is being written! It is not as if you are enlightening yourself, you are just regurgitating your thoughts and then consuming them in an endless, egotistical cycle. Your thoughts go nowhere. But do you go nowhere, as well?

It is with that question that I return to the initial writers statement of “just write”. I suppose there is the possibility of chancing upon a moment of clarity or inspiration that appears to come from somewhere else, even though the words are written by your hand. Then it is for those moments that one ought to write to themselves, for in the endless stream of spat out crud there might appear a small jewel, a surprising combination of words whose origin is not sure but which you can claim as your own. But now I wonder, what good do those “jewels” do you? In what way do they validate you, for lack of a better expression. This is most definitely becoming more and more existential.

Let’s use a hypothetical situation to sort these thoughts out. Let us imagine a being locked away in a barren cube with only a never-ending supply of writing materials. This being begins to write his thoughts, continuously for all eternity. Through his diaries he comes to elucidate on the entirety of his existence within that cube. He understands everything there is to understand, answers all the questions he can possibly ask. Yet at the end of the day, despite all his knowledge and all his writing, he is still just some dude alone in a box for all eternity. What good do all his efforts do? Make him infinitely wiser? To what end? How does that serve him? How does it make him a more valid and substantial being?

I suppose this is the conundrum I face when sitting down to write to myself, ostensibly to lift my boredom. If I write a journal, what the hell kind of good does it do if it doesn’t leave the confines of my perceptions?

This is all assuming, of course, that the only valid human entity is the social human entity. That consideration is inescapable considering how numerous we are and how inclined we are to sociality. So, is the only thing of worth that which affects society? Or can you amass knowledge and inspiration though journal writing and still have some form of existential merit?

Then, of course, there is the question of what the final social outcome is supposed to be. Let us assume that all writing, all action for that matter, ought to be done in the name of furthering humanity, whatever that is supposed to be. Let us say furthering humanity means ensuring the continued comfort and survival of all human beings. So in this sense, any writing should be done to positively or negatively affect humanity by increasing well-being or removing discomfort, respectively. What a noble cause! What a noble effort! But if that is the case, then personal journals are utterly useless as they do not extend themselves to the world at large. So I suppose that the ultimate point of writing is to be read by others, for better or for worse.

Additionally, it seems that no matter which you way you turn, writing, at least in the form I am doing it, is inherently an egotistical matter. This makes me wonder if what I am choosing to do really has any value in a world that is so tightly woven together by disparate yet communicating and interacting parts. Does my writing contribute to the world in any meaningful way?

It appears that my initial question about the merits of writing to oneself has morphed into a question of the merits of opinion pieces on potentially trivial matters. Do such “op eds” have any real world value? Do they have any existential value?

To think that I began this as a means to overcome my boredom and desperation, without any endgoal in sight. It’s incoherent I think, yet slightly engaging. And best of all, my desperation and boredom has been lifted! Now replaced, however, with a smug yet admittedly dubious sense of intellectuality. From one extreme to the other. Which one is valid?

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Zoë Tersche

Freelance writer focusing on internet freedoms and surveillance along with sexuality and gender in media and tech.

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