When I flew to Japan in April 2016, having just left my job and completely uncertain about my career, I had a feeling it was an opportunity to start writing. Writing was never a strength of mine in school. I lacked whatever patience was needed to organize my thoughts, or even identify a subject worth diving into. Opinions came easily during conversation. I was confident that learning to bring that energy to the page and widely share my perspective would provide an outlet for a lifetime.
Having an opinion has always felt like the prerequisite for writing. People certainly read unoriginal works, but it’s never felt worth my time to regurgitate an idea that’s been captured already. The uniqueness of my life and experiences has built a lens that colors every moment. I see Chinese food in London differently from others, because I travelled to China and experienced the flavor they’re shooting for, but also because I grew up in a New York suburb, and because I cook myself. The list goes on. Every little nugget of my past, along with my distinct genetic makeup, paints my opinion.
Travelling through Japan and China allowed me to figure out if there was value in that unique perspective. It sounds like a foolish question at this point. Thankfully, the writing habit I built since then has informed and affected some of the people closest to me, a better prize that I could have expected. At that time, though, my confidence was completely derived from in-person interactions. Sharing my thoughts beyond a conversation was a line I hadn’t crossed.
I spent time walking through the Olympic Park in Beijing. I ate in a tiny, quiet, shoeless restaurant in Hakone, Japan and meandered around Kyoto in the pouring rain, ingesting one of the world’s most beautiful cities through photos and journaling. I took directions from guide books and hostel employees, setting destinations while looking to be sidetracked. Every step, every photo, every pause to read about a building’s history or speed walking sprint to beat the crowds, was my own choice. I took advice, mixed it with gut-feelings, and observed.
The bulk of my writing came weeks after returning from the trip. Leaning on thousands of photos and dozens of journal entries, it became clear how much this foreign culture affected me. Obvious differences came quickly and stood out. Soon, nuances in the culture reframed my understanding of friends and colleagues who had spent time in the Japanese and Chinese ways of life. Conversations exposed the unawareness of some and highlighted the reality of others. The lens that I viewed my trip through had itself been reimagined.
As I begin a new journey into writing, restarting nearly two years since discontinuing my blog about all my random opinions, I find myself fighting to remain unique. How-to guides and listicles about morning routines promise readership and attention. There’s a formula to satisfy the modern, dopamine-hungry audience. Thankfully, it’s a grind I don’t need to participate in. Writing remains a hobby, a space to explore my perspective and not a precursor to life. Clicks and retweets and shares, if they come, represent nothing if they’re attached to unoriginal trash.
I treasure the responses and engagement I get for original work. Good writing has always required two things, an opinion and the ability to express it. Every step, interaction, and conversation cultivates my perspective. Every morning at the keyboard sharpens my tools. Optimizing for internet points wouldn’t be selling out with my writing, it wouldn’t be writing at all.