I don’t know if this is just me, just Harvard, or if I’m on to something of an actual truth here, but it seems to me that everybody’s writing. Were I more cynical, I would actually say everybody’s just writing. And writing is great; it’s an absolute necessity in my life, and no matter what I’ll be dedicating my time to, writing will be a part of it, even if just for internal or personal use. But as much as I love writing, there’s a whole lot more to life than writing; at some point, I want to stop writing and start doing.
I have definitely articulated this before, but writing to me is thinking. If I have a tough problem to solve, an idea to formulate, a goal to reach — chances are writing will get me a little closer; it’s a means to an end rather than an end itself.
It is important to me to clearly state at this point that I do not mean to undermine writing as a practice. It’s very real, an important and necessary job, one that is incredibly difficult and without which, there is no doubt in my mind, the world would be worse off. However, most writing I encounter today is theory, and, more aptly, most of my writing is theory. When I say “everybody’s writing”, I’m really saying most people I know write about creations rather than creating themselves.
The three creative fields I have a passion for are technology, fashion, and film. Based on personal estimates with no legit statistical evidence, I’d say more than ninety percent of the people I encounter with these or similar interests only write about these topics, if they actively engage with them at all (where passive engagement is simply using, consuming, and reading) — which leaves a mere ten percent to be true creators. Writing in this ninety-percent-sense is, at its core, referring to the practical aspect of the field rather than being the practical aspect itself.
As of today, I am a part of those ninety percent. I launched a thing that is all about writing about fashion; most of my writing here concerns either tech or film. But besides the occasional small project, what have I really created? And what does it take to become a creator? That’s something I’ve been struggling with to some extent. How much theory do I need to start practical work? I have some big ideas, but where do I begin, especially if my really big ideas are a little too big to create out of nowhere?
I obviously don’t really have any answers yet. All I have are some thoughts, some ideas, some plans. When I started reading about Apple and got into podcasts, I wondered why some of the seemingly smartest people in tech (to me at the time), the Grubers or Siracusas of the world, don’t have senior jobs at large companies, or why they haven’t started their own. I have since realized that, even if they were the kind of person who desired that (which I am assuming they’re really not), it’s also because theory is very different from practice. Just because you know a lot about something, doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at it; and it doesn’t matter, whether it’s tech strategy, development, design, or filmmaking — great theory doesn’t guarantee great practice. I would go as far as saying the two are barely even related at all.
I truly believe that cinemaphiles (i.e., people who are likely to have seen even the most obscure movie you throw at them, know every actors face and name, and will leave no opportunity behind to see any film) don’t make great filmmakers per se; they could be, but more likely than not they won’t. Likewise, I don’t necessarily think great filmmakers are cinemaphiles; they might be, but it can’t be assumed. Both care intensively and extensively about film, for sure, but in the Venn diagram comparing theorists and consumers (which I am shamelessly throwing into the same category here for they are both comparably passive) with creators, the overlap is very limited.
Theory has been a part of my life for about as far back as I can remember consciously thinking about objects and media as being created rather than simply existing; and for a good chunk of that time, I’ve also been writing down my fair share of thoughts. Although there has always been an urge in me to create, it is only recently that I have come to truly realize that my obsession with the theory has been for the purpose of practice. I am intrigued by people’s stories about their craft and the theory behind it, because I care so greatly about creating great things.
Well… almost. ↩
I’ve been working with outlines a lot lately, and they are of great help to me structuring and expressing complex thoughts; most outlines are turned into some form of more extensive writing sooner or later. ↩
This makes perfect sense, of course; more people will care about creations than create themselves, but I can count the number of creators in my circles on one hand right now… ↩