One Million Words
I’ve written over one million words in my life.
That’s not an estimate — I actually checked my Evernote and plugged in all of my entries into a word counter. I’ve written 1,281,133 words since January 2013, and that’s not including the blogs on my Medium, my philosophy papers from school, the words I’ve written by hand, or anything else.
There are 1,023,559 words from my Evernote journal alone.
That’s more words than War and Peace, East of Eden, and Moby-Dick combined.
I’m not saying that my journal is more interesting than these books (though I’m not not saying that 😉), but it’s shocking to me to realize the sheer volume of text that I’ve produced. However, the prolific are often prolixic, and part of me thinks I should stop being so wordy and just dedicate my life’s work to producing a single haiku instead.
Words a light snowfall
Flurry, fleeting, fail to stick
Far too many flakes
I’ve also destroyed a lot of text. My to-do list lives on a single Evernote file, and its text gets deleted every day to begin anew — a daily phoenix, rising to the Sisyphean tasks that never stop coming. I suppose “Everything I’ve Ever Done is in the Trash” could be the title of my memoir.
Most people (until recently, myself included) don’t usually think of themselves as writers. But we totally are!
Between emails, text messages, journal entries, school and professional communications, etc., we’re all writers to varying degrees.
Writing is unique in the animal kingdom — some would argue that it’s the defining invention of homo sapiens. We owe so much of our success as humans on this earth to our ability to transmit information, first via stories from generation to generation, and then across time and space with the advent of writing.
Writing can be a huge gift to our descendants. I remember tearing up and feeling closer to my grandfather than ever when my grandma showed me some of the letters he wrote to her when they were young. When he passed away, he left us troves of his writing — from the mundane to the meaningful — and I feel connected to him whenever I read his words. Writing makes this possible, and it is writing that keeps his memory alive. I think there’s something transcendent about creating a durable record for the future — it fulfills a similar longing to the desire to have children.
Above all, the written word is a way to help us clarify our thoughts and feelings. Putting pen to paper forces us to think linearly in a way that is transmissible to others (or at least, our future selves), and that can be incredibly valuable when thinking through a complex issue.
Around a year ago, my friends and I went to an event in Brooklyn called Skip the Small Talk. It was just a normal hangout at a bar, but instead of asking “So where do you work?” we asked questions like “So what gets you out of bed each morning?” “How do you articulate your sense of self-worth?” and “If you were to die in three months, how would you spend your remaining time on this earth?”
That last question was the one that really got to me. I surprised myself by answering that I would spend my time writing.
A few months ago, I listened to 100 audiobooks in a month, and afterwards, I felt as if my brain were bursting. There was so much content that I needed to write in order to process all of my thoughts and reflections. That’s when I started writing every day: for the 100 audiobooks blog.
Since then, I’ve developed a habit, and I’ve been actively writing for an average of 2 hours everyday. I’ve posted ~40 blogs on Medium in the last 2 months, and the muscle has been getting stronger. I’ve even started to try my hand at writing fiction, which is a first for me!
I’ve come to really enjoy the practice — I find it meditative and therapeutic — and sometimes Medium “curates” my blogs and puts a little star next to them. They even call me a “Top Writer in Venture Capital!” (Ok, so I only had to post 4 blogs with the VC tag to be considered a top writer, but still, the ego boost is nice! 😅)
A lot of people look at the rise of blogs and services like Medium with a mixture of admiration and disdain. It’s awesome that everyone has a platform to broadcast their ideas, but by that same token, some may come to believe that it’s harder than ever to gain recognition as a writer given the sheer amount of content out there. After all, if anyone can label themselves a writer, then what does that label even mean anymore?
I’m not sure if the invention of blogs has made it more or less difficult to become a widely known author — there are certainly writers out there who never would have been discovered were it not for their online writings — but there’s no counterfactual evidence in either direction. For better or worse, the internet isn’t going away anytime soon, and blogs are here to stay.
Personally, I think that’s something to be celebrated. True, there may be a higher signal to noise ratio, and there may be more competition to become a famous author, but we shouldn’t be writing for the glory anyway.
Writing is about so much more than recognition — it’s an integral part of who we are as humans, and it is an aspect of our shared heritage that we should want to spread far and wide. Writing has been profoundly helpful in my life, from blogging to keeping a journal, and I think everyone would benefit from developing a practice of writing.
We should write because it helps us make sense of the wild world around us.
We should write because it eases our worries that we’ll leave this earth without a trace and be forgotten.
We should write as a gift to our future selves.