On the Nature of Change: My Raison d'Écrire

""[Data] presents a seemingly bottomless pit of correlations awaiting discovery, often through the combination of doggedness and serendipity... [which], arguably, is exactly what makes... data so alluring." -Maria Popova, Brainpickings"
Hiking in October, 2019, my first month of writing everyday

After college, it became my decision to write whatever I wanted. Gone were the days of external constraints, and soon it hit me how difficult it is to command my own schedule. Pretty soon after I left the creative writing workshops behind, I couldn't inspire myself to write, as if my creativity itself were constrained by peer pressure and the vanity of competition. Who would I share my work with now? I can't remember a time when I even let my roommates, my friends, ready my work back then. It served my grades. I fulfilled the schedule I was given, and I gave little thought as to why I wanted to write and what I would write about, given the chance to write on my own.

Only a seedling interest remained inside me after I graduated in 2016. By some force I felt compelled to continue my craft. Was I motivated by the past time, money, and energy I sunk into learning? Or did I sense that the value of writing would later reward me and help me both commit to and complete my goals? I faced a problem. I knew I should, but whatever I tried failed like an idea you have at night but can't remember come morning. Until I took a journal and filled it with shallow observations of my day. For three years I wrote (yes, on paper) sporadic notes on my day, my findings, my feelings. Then in September, 2019 I made two distinct choices that reshaped me, entirely, as a human being: I would use Evernote and journal everyday.

Everything revolves around data these days, and maybe it was always that way, but we —or at least I— couldn't see it until it enlarged enough for the naked eye. To survey and recite meant to know where to find food tomorrow, and knowing what would kill versus nourish you. Now the list of benefits could circumference the globe. It soured my mouth to say it, until I realized my own journaling efforts were just another form of data collection, of archiving.

From September, 2019 to September, 2020, I wrote 247 journal entries. I averaged journaling 4.8 days a week, a measurement made possible by sheer fact that Evernote counts the number of notes I have in one notebook. And this year I plan to make it past 280. But the evidence goes far deeper than that, offering glimpses of intuition, innovation, color, and emotion. The full depth of exploration I can accomplish with my archive is still unknown to me, but I am beginning to understand its vastness and intrigue. Something I couldn't conceptualize even four years ago.

None of this is new. I would be mad to claim I am an innovator, but it is new to me. I used to hear data and immediately think of Google, Facebook, and governments mining me for analytics. And, oh yeah, that's there, too. What am I to do? DuckDuckGo and scatter dirt across my digital trail with a VPN? Maybe. But as I do that, the data they're collecting from others still outmatches my efforts to stay secure. They'll crawl underneath all our skin soon, if they haven't already.

It isn't all hopeless. The data we mine daily culminates in new, better ways to live our lives, too. After all, one needs only to read one good line in a crappy draft to spark a paragraph of inspired writing. That’s why this moment matters. We are building a blueprint together, a schematic for our shared future. We were brought here by history, by the archives amassing in books, music, painting, and now in bits and pixels.

One of the best RPGs to have come out in recent history is Horizon: Zero Dawn. Of the many things the game did well was the simplicity with which humanity fucked up. Our gravest error: to view our history—with all its mistakes and bloodshed, triumphs and art, innovation and understanding —as worthless. Yet it is only through our history that we can hope to achieve sustainability, and a future in which we not only live but thrive! My own sustenance as a musician, writer, and programmer is through the mistakes I've made not just in those respective pursuits, but in the culmination of every moment that has died behind me. To that end I think I've found my reason for writing. But who knows? Maybe I'll read this in a year and think, "how wrong was I then? I know so much more now."

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by Isiah Fletcher. Last updated 17 Oct, 2020

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