Thinking through and writing about issues that rouse
If not for money, what motivates?
I am a writer, not as hustler
I am lucky to be financially stable and debt-free. I am not rich, but I have resources. Unless the country completely collapses, including pension funds, the stock market, and the banks, I will be okay for a while. In this time of the pandemic, I count my blessings and thank all the essential workers, especially those working in the hospitals. Because I don’t have to, it is hard for me to do anything that requires hustle. I had been spending a lot of time and energy grueling over Medium articles about how to make money on this platform, and am glad I came across this one, that advised me not to worry about that. I needed to read it. It reminded me that this is a community of writers. So, I follow his advice: I write for me, for the reasons that serve me.
I write to create
It fulfills the urge to be creative, to make things, to make something where there was nothing before. An idea comes, then the idea becomes something — a song, a painting, an essay. I have been a writer since I was a teenager and poured out my angst in a diary and in letters to my pen pal. I chose to major in Psychology rather than English in college (a decision to be somewhat practical) but I aced papers in most of my classes. I wrote my first play when I was a senior in college and have been writing plays ever since, though not prolifically. Over the years, writing has been my means of expression. Recently, I’ve been dabbling in all kinds of creative endeavors: watercolor painting, mixed media art-making, creating a comic book, calligraphy, songwriting, singing, playing ukulele and guitar. I think of myself as a Jill of all trades and master of none. But then I gave myself more credit and realized that writing was the one thing that I knew how to do. So rather than putting most of my time into learning new things, I decided to give more time to writing. This is when I started to write on Medium.
Secondly, I write to think
We are in this world, this society, this country. So much that is happening in my country and in the world worries and angers me. So much. Yes, our current president is the source of much of my anxiety, but more than that, his supporters, and more than that, his supporters who are my friends and family. I live with my elderly mother and she is hard-of-hearing, so she has the television on super loud. In this time of the quarantine, it is the permeating background noise when I leave my room and go into her space and the rest of the house. She listens to news all day (rarely Fox, thank goodness), which includes the pandemic briefings every day. I find myself yelling: “What an idiot!” and “Oh my God!, he’s such a narcissist!” My brain explodes with the magnitude of his derangement. The news in general triggers me -- the racism against Asian Americans, the ugliness and implications of the “reopen” protests; the travesty of the millionaires getting tax breaks in the CARES act supposed to benefit struggling citizens; the tragedy of communities of color being impacted more than others ; and how that is related to the mainly white protesters to the “reopen” protests, as described in this Medium essay.
That is just a part of one day. It goes and on.
There’s a story about lion tamers and why they use a four-legged stool in a circus. The stool is used because the lion tries to focus on all four legs at once, and because it is unable to focus, it is confused and controllable. That’s how I feel about the world — there are too many legs and I can’t focus on “the man” who is keeping me under his power. Writing helps me to take apart the stool, one leg at a time. In my thinking and writing about these issues, I attempt to go deep and come to what I think is the essence of an issue. Follow the money. Follow the values. Follow the world view. Which brings me to my next reason to write.
Third, I write as a citizen
I know highly-sensitive people who do not want to know the news. It is a matter of survival for them to be insulated and not think about these issues and injustices. I find satisfaction in thinking and coming to clarity about an issue. It is not enough to be a critical thinker and to know what values you stand for and how your world view shapes your perception. It’s not just about voting, although our voting stats are shameful. You need to be open to the research, the facts. That’s responsible citizenry, but easier said than done.
For example, I have a friend who posted a chart on her Facebook page that compared Covid 19 deaths to deaths from the seasonal flu. It cites a source as CDC, though it did not look like a government report. It bothers me that people continue to spread this misinformation, so I tried to find where she got this information from. I could not find it on the CDC site. I asked her about it, and rather than try to verify her source, she retyped it. Whenever I have asked her or other Trump supporting friends to back up their claims, they either ignore me or tell me “you do the research, I don’t have time to do the research for you.”
This also was the same response I got from a Bernie-supporting friend who was so mad that Biden has become the presumptive Democratic Party nominee that he said he preferred Trump over Biden. I asked him to stack the two side by side and compare who is the lesser evil. His response was the same — you do that work, I am done!
My plan is to write about the issues that bother me. As a citizen passionate about these issues — social change, the environment, justice and democracy — I will use whatever tools I have at my disposal. It could be a song, a painting, a play, an essay. We do what we are inspired to do.
Finally, I write to be read
I want to share and connect. Sometimes I feel lonely with my own thoughts, especially in this time of physical isolation. When a reader reaches back to me to tell me they appreciated what I wrote, that I articulated what they had been thinking — that is it! That is the reason. I used to think that if I had even one person who liked what I wrote, I would be happy. Well, one is good, but more is better. I love the writing process and not so much the effort it takes to share. I made that leap of faith when I started writing on Medium, and also when I redesigned my website. Putting in the work to increase readership is now on my weekly list of things to do.
Many paths, one journey
When distilled to its essence, the reasons I write transcend writing. It comes to this: be creative, be a thinker, be a citizen, connect with others. Everyone is creative — just find your medium. We all need to push ourselves to be critical thinkers. We have a responsibility in a democracy to be citizens unafraid to look at the facts and then to take appropriate action. And in the family of humans, we need to share and connect with others. Writing allows me to merge these distinct paths into one journey.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.