It’s 11 am. It’s the last day of the year. I just had a cup of black coffee. And a three-egg omelette. And I feel like writing.

But chances are high I won’t write.

I mean, yes, I have already typed the words you just read, but chances are high I will stop somewhere in the middle.

Not because I am lazy. (How dare I accuse myself of that? Lazy? Me? Get out!)

But because I will convince myself that whatever I am writing is not worth writing, because who the hell cares?

Or because I will look at the sentences already written and feel terrible: they don’t look nice, they don’t sound right, they don’t deserve to exist in the world.

Or because I will have that rare moment of self-appreciation where I pat myself on the back while my mind looks at the prose and goes: ‘boss, you are so much better than this; you know the technicalities of the craft, you know this sucks, so why would you put this out in the world.’

Or because I will feel I am doing a disservice. Do more research. Think more clearly. Say something new. Because I want to believe I can say something new in a world where someone is always saying something. (Why I believe that I don’t know. Misguided ego, perhaps.)

I can go on. So many reasons not to write — and bury whatever this garbled prose will become in the morgue of my unpublished drafts. So many reasons.

But only one is needed to write: the want to write. I write because I want to.

If you are reading this piece, the want won. Which is wonderful because I desperately want this want to win repeatedly. Every time this want is losing to sometimes rational but mostly irrational reasons not to write.

This silly battle stays rent-free in my head. I have tried hard to stop this nonsense and settle things. Totally useless effort. It continues.

So as I think through where I want to spend my time in the new year, clarity is needed on these conflicting forces. They unnecessarily complicate my life. What better way than to write about it?

I started reading “Barley Patch” by Gerald Murnane last night which starts with advice that a twenty-eight-year-old writer offers a nineteen-year-old aspiring writer. Rilke tells Kappus:

Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. Murnane pushes his students to ask this question: must they write?

“It would be no bad thing,” he writes, “if several at least of the persons present were to decide at some point in the future, in the stillest hour of their night, that they need no longer write.”

What about me? Must I write? Why do I write?

I have thought about this question over and over again. I hunt for interviews and essays from writers I admire to know their “why”. I document in my journal how I feel at different moments — especially after publishing something — to uncover what’s happening underneath. Inside me. To uncover the source of this desire.

The exact answer varies depending on what’s happening in my life at the moment.

But one thing is constant, the unifying factor independent of everything else, which I increasingly believe is my ultimate driver: living the life of the mind.

Yes, writing is my way to live the life of the mind: learning for the sake of learning and seeking the truth — whatever that means.

I want to find my own answers to questions that have bugged humanity for thousands of years. To understand the world, the universe and our origins. To understand the human condition. And human behaviour. And animal behaviour. To identify the roots of my moral values. To make sense of suffering. To figure out why things are the way they are. To know exactly how things work. Ask great questions. Contemplate.

Long list—you get the drift.

And why this?

No idea. Someday, perhaps, I will know. I do know I want to live a life of the mind.

And what is this for? What good will my explorations do for the world?

I don’t know. And while I want to know, I don’t need to know. Because even if my writing and my existence are not doing any good to the world, I will still write. Maybe writing is a selfish act. Maybe building a career as a writer — where you get paid to be interested in the world around you — is a selfish choice. I don’t like this image of myself in my head, but I have made peace with it. For now.

Because I want to learn for the sake of learning. It’s an end in itself. It’s not just a preference: it’s core to my being.

I am happy to be the model of a perfectly useless person with nothing to contribute to the world. Whose existence produces no social, economic or political outcome. And I am absolutely comfortable being forgotten. I can happily survive in the company of my words.

This, I believe, is the primary thrust. But my journal tells me there are two more drivers which appear time and again.

One: Writing to discover myself and my place in the world.

Two: Writing as an extension of my politics, principles and morality. Fight the wrongs. At least speak up, if nothing else. All that.

I am not elaborating on these two points now. Because already it’s January 10 — ten days after the first sentence was written — and I almost didn’t write this piece as I had predicted in the beginning. Haha.

More soon.