I loaded up my Chromebook with a sampling of PyCon talks to watch on a recent plane trip. Of course, there were many interesting Python talks, but the one I found most interesting was, “If you code, you should write” by Brian K. Jones. Surprisingly, it had nothing to do with Python and had everything to do with writing.
Brian dispelled some common myths about writing, one of which is along the lines that “it’s all been written before.” I agree with him in that this is a depressing outlook. One of my favorite short stories, is Jorge Luis Borges’ The Library of Babel. This story is about a library (which some call the universe), that contains all written knowledge. In fact, I’m not sure if Borges intended this, but this library can be described in formal language theory. All of the books only contain 25 unique characters, but contain all possible combinations of this language. Everything that can be written, is written. Your biography is contained within the library.
James Gleick in The Information, cites this same Borges story. In that book, Gleick argues that knowing how to access information has become more important than the information itself. Even Borges refers to the man who has read the meta-book a god. While instant access to information is enabling, the adventure is the serendipitous discovery that occurs when browsing the library. The story, your story, is the sequence of which those discoveries are made and your reactions to them, which when written down and shared contributes to the universe.
While I can empathize with those who hold the belief that everything is already written, this is not a good excuse. Like each book in the library, no voice is identical and each is a unique permutation. For some this blog is a random collection of meaningless characters and they quickly put this book back on the shelf. Many more will probably never even pick it up because they never know it exists. But the library is infinite and contains every story. However unlike Borges’ library, you have to write your story and submit it to the universe.
If Brain’s talk isn’t enough to inspire, read Scott Rosenberg’s Say Everything. If you really don’t think you have anything important to say, follow Steve Yeggie’s algorithm on how to get smarter, and blog about what you find along the way.
I ran across this post, “You should blog even if you have no readers,” which also talks about the benefits of blogging.