The Thing About Writing

Starbucks in Guangzhou

I’m interrupting my post-vacation blogging with a reflection related to the act of writing. Hope this serves as a nice break also for you.

Starbucks in Guangzhou

Current Status: Seated with my laptop on a comfy leather armchair in the surprisingly expansive second floor of Starbucks next to the Garden Hotel in Guangzhou. Sipping a tall mug of cappuccino.

Just Overheard: An African speaking in impressive Mandarin asking an employee about how to connect to WiFi. Contemplating whether I should really plug in my earbuds at risk of missing out on other interesting overheard conversations. Nah. SoundCloud, it is.

Current Mood: Much more upbeat than an hour ago in my stuffy apartment.

So here’s the thing—and I’m sure other writers can relate—writing is a lonely affair.

For those of us who enjoy writing on a regular basis, we know that being able to free our thoughts can feel great. But maybe using “free” isn’t the best way to describe the act of recording our thoughts, because that would be more like a stream-of-consciousness type of writing, and if that were the case for this blog—oh, boy.

Instead, when we write, it takes so much effort to put into words what we want to say, especially when we want to sound decently poetic or whatever. Actually, anything that requires creativity—whether it’s designing or dancing—takes effort, time, and usually time to oneself.

Or maybe I’m using writing’s downside as an excuse for the harsh realities faced here. These past few days I’ve been spending in my three-bedroom apartment of one while Guangzhou’s skies pour its daily shower upon the city have made me see just how lonely it can be here. I think it’s a combination of the personal obligation to blog in detail about my two-week trip and the gloomy weather in a country where VPN makes streaming music or anything that could lighten my mood that much more difficult.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not spending all my days holed up in my apartment. I’ve actually trekked to the bustling Tianhe district (more about this place later) every day since I’ve been home. It’s those moments to myself in the morning and night, especially during a week when I don’t have to work (Victory Day in China this weekend?). It’s these moments when I find myself trying to write about my trip but struggling and not wanting to go through this struggle. Then why do I do it?

As hard as it can be and seemingly chore-like sometimes, I write because I can. And why not? Anything worth doing isn’t easy. For me, it’s too easy to let whatever mood I find myself in make me forget how lucky I’ve been to have had all these amazing adventures. It would be a shame not to record it all while I still can. When re-reading my travel posts even from a month ago, I realize how many memories I’ve let fall to the wayside.

So I feel this personal obligation because I know how much harder it will be in the future to know that I’ve forgotten some of the best times in my life. Something else that’s hard? Knowing that these times are over. I’m trying to practice treating the act of reflection as a positive thing, rather than an experience that makes me sad. When it comes to positive reflection, writing in detail rather than thinking generally helps—I find myself laughing aloud to myself when writing about some of the more ridiculous memories.

Writing naturally requires alone time, taking mental strength to power through successfully. But I guess that’s another benefit to exercising creativity in any form: It makes you stronger. The process is painful, but man, I can’t wait until I finish that final post.

Until then, I think I’ll need a few more cups of coffee.