When I actually make it to a cocktail party, I don’t always introduce myself as a writer because the other person might feel sorry for me.

When you tell someone about a major pursuit in your life, they often have one question on their mind: what does it mean for you socially? Of course you care about what you’re doing — that’s a given — but what do other people think?

If I’m a writer, then how many readers do I have? Who’s talking about my writing? Where is it published? What recognition have I gotten for it? Do I get paid for any of it?

If I’m not getting paid for my writing — not in money, not in recognition, not in influence — then the other person can’t help but think that I’ve gotten lost in a fruitless endeavor and perhaps I need to be rescued from it.

But I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t fruitful.

I’m writing to learn.

For me, writing is fruitful if it helps me understand something that matters to me. Writing is fruitful if it helps me grow as a person. Writing is fruitful if it helps me carry what I’ve learned into the future.

When I decided to make meditation a part of my life, I began practicing it every morning. But I’m a writer. So what did I do in addition to meditating? I wrote essays about meditation. Those essays were my vehicle for working through the challenges I faced. Those essays are my way of remembering the lessons I learned.

What was the value of the hundreds of hours that I invested in toiling over those essays if I didn’t get paid, praised, or even noticed for writing them? Well, I got better at meditation.

Just this morning, when I hit an obstacle in my meditation practice, I remembered an essay I had written about that same obstacle and it gave me a path forward.

All those essays – and the countless hours I spent writing them – are a measure of how much I care about meditation and want to make it a part of my life. Thirty essays worth. A thousand hours worth. That’s how much.

It’s the same with anything I write about. Writing is my gym practice away from the actual game. But the benefits of this practice don’t come from brainstorming or journaling alone. The benefits come from going through all the steps to shape, revise, and finish an essay and make it public, and there’s a struggle in that. Writing is hard and it takes a long time. So it can seem like a really bad deal.

A bad deal is when you invest a lot and you don’t get much in return. If you’re not learning when you write, then writing is the worst deal there is.

But writing can also be the best deal. That happens when you write about something that you really want to understand or remember. If that question or topic is important enough to you, then all the struggle — all the scribbling and revising and getting stuck and finding your way forward only to get stuck again — all that is a pittance to pay for the riches of insight.

When I’m writing about the things I really want know, I’m getting a good deal. When my reasons for writing are solid, then writing never lets me down.

But my essays are more than tools for my own education. My essays are more than “savings” that I’m passing on to my future self. The magic of writing is that I can do it for myself but it might benefit someone else as well.

So what’s why I publish here. I’m sharing my writing with you in the hopes that if you and I have a few things in common — some of the same challenges and potentials — then some of the same insights that have helped me on my path can help you too on yours. ■

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