Ambition to Write

William Styron once said this about formal education for those that are considering writing as their profession:

For a person whose sole burning ambition is to write — like myself — college is useless beyond the Sophomore year.

He goes on to say, to his father via letter, than real wisdom comes from simply “getting out in the world and living.” There’s a lot of truth to this, even in today’s economy. If writing was something that I was dead-set on doing out of High School I probably would have felt the same way.

In fact, I do nothing but write these days; I write code and I write public blog posts. I am, in many regards, first and foremost a writer. I think this comes before startup founder, entrepreneur, CEO, CTO, (all the C-level suite bullshit), “investor,”, and all of those titles which mean almost nothing to me (and shouldn’t mean much to anyone else).

You see, the latter titles are easy to acquire and for many people it doesn’t require that one does anything to obtain them. I can easily call myself one (I can pick any of them!) and be generally self-assured that it could be defensible.

But, the former, the title of “writer,” requires that you do something. That is, namely, write. I have been writing blog posts publicly for nearly 14 (going on 15) years, every single day. I am a writer and I accept the title proudly and yet, at the exact same time, sheepishly and near-apologetically since I still have a lot to learn about this fine art.

Was college “useless” since writing is where I eventually landed “officially?” It’s hard to say. Even Styron eventually graduated from Duke with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Regardless, I believe that writing is a fundamental part of my so-called “success” as a professional. Perhaps more importantly, though, is that it has been an uncompromisable part of how I understand the world and in that way it has proven to be salvific. My accomplishments have been founded on my ability to understand the world and writing has been the channel through and by which my understanding was born.

Writing is even more important in today’s digital economy. Although we have more public writing than we have ever had in the history of our species most of it is absolute shit (including, chiefly, much of my own). But I don’t think contribution to the mass body of collective work is and should be the point.

Writing is, by nature, introspective. It is reflexive. It demands self-review. It requires the very best and worst of us to be brought into the light. It is accountability made manifest. It is ugly and beautiful and it is most certainly you. It is glorious.

You and I should write more this year. I will continue to blog daily, per the usual, but I want to write differently than I have in the past (that is my “more”). You, on the other hand, should just write more, pure and simple. Even if it means one more post than you did this year. That’s as great of a place to start as any.

Make it your ambition.

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