On Writing: Or Why I Write

We write to taste life twice, in the moment, and in retrospection
~ Anais Nin (in her Diary 5, pg. 149) The Quotable Anais Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations (Sky Blue Press)

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane 💠

~ George Orwell, in “Why I Write” (England Your England and Other Essays)

Oh, the joy, the joy of writing, a joy so intense, so pure, so all-absorbing and free and all-encompassing, flooding the soul in mystical ecstasy, elevating and sanctifying, infusing beauty in the humblest subjects and a purpose in the most wayward life 🎭

~ Anais Nin (in her Diary 2, pg. 8) The Quotable Anais Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations (Sky Blue Press)

Intro 🌹

“Now tell me this, Akram, why in the world would anyone in their right mind want to listen to what you have to say on the fine art of writing? I mean, you don’t teach writing at a university or something! So tell me what got into you that you decided to pontificate on why you write?

Quick now—I mean, wasn’t it enough that legions of hapless readers were already suffering, even as they trudged through the desolate wilderness that is your essays, that you’ve now taken it upon yourself to, um, enlighten them on the bleak—and oblique—considerations of why you write essays? I mean, like, sheesh. We need to get your blog overhauled; better still, hauled out of our sight this moment, towed away at the owner’s expense, too; yours!”

If those questions and thoughts—or a variant thereof—were welling up in your mind, let me assure you that those very questions and thoughts would’ve arisen in my mind had I contemplated writing this essay as recently as a year ago. But that was then, and this is now. Today, I’m not so sure where I stand on this matter 😕

So what’s going on? Let’s give this a good look, shall we? 👀

A-Hunting We Will Go 🎣

Before we get to the essay proper, here in a nutshell are the themes we’ll be hunting for as this essay runs its course 🎯

In other words, I will try to fish out—that is, out of the writer’s swamp that is my cranium—the major reasons for why I write. Those themes will be the following:

  1. Share my Expertise as a Software Practitioner 👓
  2. Help Clarify my Own Thinking 😴
  3. A Source of Inspiration 🎨
  4. A Source of Joy 🎃
  5. Accelerates Learning New Things 🚂
  6. Boosts Relearning Things Anew 🚀
  7. Aids in Learning Things Deeply ⛩
  8. I Cannot Not Write 🎫

The Essay, Reloaded 🎬

How The Essay Got “Written”

Oh, the outlandish analogies that your blogger has a penchant for cooking up, a’ la “The Essay Reloaded”, and other stuff like that. So with profuse apologies to fellow fans of the amazing trilogy of movies that wowed us and which got their start in The Matrix—the original, dystopian movie—I sure wasn’t beating about the bush when I said that the essay will be reloaded 🎥

So I had initially “written” this essay in my head during a three-hour drive back home to Austin—I was recently traveling back to my home after visiting Mom in Houston. Well, with the essay still floating around in the nooks and crannies of my cranium, several days had gone by. And I still needed to “write” it down. I mean, an essay suspended in your blogger’s cranium wouldn’t have been of much use to you all, right, notwithstanding how the Harry Potter movies portray the utterly naive idea of somehow “extracting” memories—funneling memories out of people’s head and then pouring their glowing essence into test tubes—which seems even more far-fetched than the outlandish stuff that your blogger cooks up here in the Programming Digressions cafeteria on a routine basis? 😉

First Would Come The Essay (This Week)

So anyhow, as I sat down to write down my “virtual” essay—transfer it from its residency in my head to a slightly more indelible medium such as this blog—it dawned on me that actually not one but two separate essays were crying to be brought into existence, with this of course being the first of the two 🍒

And there you have it. Many of you at this point will quite possibly be wanting to tell your blogger something like the following, and that, too, in no uncertain terms: “Hey, since you’ve already made us suffer through the dreary details of why it is that you write, you might as well put us out of our misery by regaling us—yeah, right, as if we really mean that—with the inglorious details of how you write your ignominiously blithering tirades, and which you delude yourself about as somehow counting as essays.” 👺

To which I’ll say: Hey, hey, hey—Let’s all of us take a big, deep breath now, real slow 🐳

And Then Would Come The Sequel (Next Week)

The sequel—or prequel, or something—will be coming to a theater near you, so please stay tuned 📺  Alas, it won’t be anything as flamboyant as a marquee since I’m merely a lowly blogger on a shoestring blogging budget who writes for free 💰 Nonetheless, we’ll do another essay—to follow up on the one you’re reading, “On Writing: Or Why I Write”—and which will be entitled something like “On Writing: Or How I Write“.

Yep, the How is just as important as the Why. After all, without the Why, the need for How will simply not arise; if you don’t have something to write about in the first place, it doesn’t really matter whether you know the craft of writing backward and forward. And without the How, the wherewithal to bring the fruits of Why would not be there; you may well have what you think is the most exciting thing you want to tell the world about, but if you haven’t mastered the modicum of the craft of writing, then is anyone going to even read you exciting essay? That to me is the stark reality. Period 🍟

At the same time, to add to a subtle twist to the considerations above, I recommend that you also keep in mind how it can at times be infuriatingly hard to disentangle the Why from the How when it comes to matters as subjective as writing down the bones 💀

So I had wanted to tell you that there’s this book—bones and all—which I discovered literally during the past 24 hours. Truly great stuff though it is—I found its honest and unapologetic wisdom speaking to the writer in me—all that will have to wait for its day in the sun here on the idyllic pastures of Programming Digressions 🌞 Meanwhile, let’s move right along, shall we? 🚕

Related Musings In An Earlier Essay ☕

What I Had Said Then

It was, in fact, in an earlier essay that I had first shared some thoughts on what it is that compels me to write. There, setting the scene, I had remarked about how: First, and yes, this is for the know-it-all, right there in the back row, so he can’t admonish me by saying, Hey 😱

That’s not writing, that’s typing

Second, I generally avoid putting together (technical) tutorials, incredibly helpful as they are, simply because the internet is already awash with them; my inclination is to dig deeper, and share my findings with you, remaining mindful of the advice that 🌱

Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.

Third, I strive to stay true to the gentle guidance—at once comforting and inspiring—in these memorable words which gently remind us that 🏄

True Ease in Writing comes from Art, not Chance,
As those move easiest who have learn’d to dance
~ Alexander Pope (Sound and Sense)

Fourth, and finally, I find myself resonating with this quote from George Orwell, though with nowhere near the acuteness which Orwell surely must have experienced when he divulged in “Why I Write” (England Your England and Other Essays) how 😷

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane.

Finally, I had mentioned, too, in that earlier essay: Okay, I feel much better already, having got that out there as to exactly why I write; after all, should we all not start from the premise that “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms“? 😎

And What I Say Now

So what you got above are essentially some of my earlier musing in connection with exactly what it is that compels me to write. Today, I will elaborate a bit on all that—along with some allied undercurrents—so as to give you a more complete picture that you may peer into the orb darkly. Ahem, I mean, so that you may peer into the orb clearly 🔮

Without further ado, here, then are the major reasons why I write. They are not necessarily in any particular order; they appear here simply in the order in which they had popped into my head. Moreover, don’t expect a masters class here. What I’ve got for you today is a handful of pointers 🎒

This is very much food for thought—or grist for the mill if you will—nothing less, nothing more 🍔 Think of this as grist for the mill, which surely came from the grain that had soaked-in all the rain that falls mainly on the plains in Spain 🌾


1. Share My Expertise As A Software Practitioner 👓

Writing doesn’t get easier with experience. The more you know, the harder it is to write.
~ Tim O’Brien, quoted in Writers on Writing, ed. Jon Winokur (Philadelphia: Running Press, 1986), p. 12

The desire to share my expertise as a software practitioner is really the thing that got me started with writing—for Programming Digressions anyway—in the first place. And the best way to illustrate what I mean by that (i.e. “sharing my expertise as a software practitioner”) is, dare I say, by way of some examples of essays where I’ve tried to do exactly that:

Feel free to visit those essays, and by all means to explore any and all other essays on the Programming Digressions blog that grab your attention—Let me assure you that I’ll be the last one to stand in the wayward ways of your errant explorations 🚧

2. Helps Clarify My Own Thinking 😴

Writing is sticking your neck out. Writing sharpens your competence in your field by forcing you to commit yourself to your ideas in an explicit form. You have to consolidate vague concepts into solid concepts. It forces you to examine your ideas and material in greater detail.

~ Philip Schmidt, University of Texas engineering professor, in a conversation with Professor John Trimble (as quoted in Professor Trimble’s book Writing with Style: Conversations on the Art of Writing)

That writing helps clarify my own thinking has been a recurring thought lately for me. As they say, the best way to learn is to teach; and what better way to teach than to write about it?

And there you have it, the gestalt of how writing can help clarify one’s thinking; there it is, short and sweet 👍 🌹

3. A Source of Inspiration 🎨

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the telephone whenever you felt like it.

~ J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye (New York: Bantam Books, 1964), p. 18. Holden Caulfield, a character in the novel, is speaking here.

Most folks I know look for inspiration to get started with writing. I’m the opposite: I start writing to get inspiration—In other words, what you’ve got here in your blogger is something of a paradox; writing, as it means to me, is a source of inspiration. Go figure.

Please forgive me if what I’m about to say comes across as conceit or, worse still, as self-admiration, because nothing could be farther from the truth: The fact of the matter is that when I start writing, more often than not the sentences come out fully formed—all I have to do is type up those sentences, dress them up a bit, and that’s pretty much it. I hasten to add that the whole process isn’t exactly like that—otherwise writing would cease to be challenging and I would move on to something else—but that’s as close as it gets to the unvarnished truth. And I wouldn’t lie to you, would I ever? 😂

Speaking of inspiration,  I feel that there’s something you ought to know: My intellectual life can neatly be neatly divided into two halves 🍉  The first half was the one that that came before I discovered—and serendipitously at that, while browsing through our local bricks-and-mortar Barnes & Noble bookstore—a gem of a book entitled Plato and the Nerd 🍉  The second half of my intellectual life is the one that has commenced after my discovery of Plato and the Nerd.

It’s no accident that I’ve devoted an unprecedented three essays—yes, three whopping essays—to a book that has become a part of me in a way that informs the very core of what it means to be alive in this world 🐬

Plato and the Nerd has made for itself a place in my mind—nay, in my heart—that I could never have imagined I would give to anyone, let alone to a book 📖

But then again, Plato and the Nerd is not merely a book. It’s a call to a revolution in the way we—as humans—can go about imagining how best to conceive a creative partnership with technology; it’s a call to a revolution of the most egalitarian kind imaginable, one that is suffused with thoughtful humanism 🐰

I haven’t seen the likes of it in my life: Plato and the Nerd has been tying up for me so many loose threads and themes—at so many levels at the same time—that I’m still reeling from the heady experience of reading it for the first time 😚

Having shared the vignette above, I can only hope that it served to illustrate what I had in mind when I said that “writing is a source of inspiration”, and on both ends, too: The receiving end (where I enjoy reading the works of fellow writers) and the giving end (where I enjoy the unfettered act of engaging in writing down the bones).

And please pardon my slight disorientation in what I’ve said above; yes, it can be a roller-coaster ride sometimes, can’t it? 🎢

Come to think of it now, tell you what: I really can’t do much better than refer you to what I’ve already written, elsewhere in the vistas of Programming Digressions of course—and thus far anyway—about my inspirational experience of reading the book that we’ve just been chatting about, Plato and the Nerd:

  1. Read up at your leisure the very first deep dive into its wherewithal and gestalt 🏊
  2. Follow up that deep dive with a slightly different perspective on its offerings 👓
  3. Finally, settle down for a relaxed home stretch that’s suffused with some slight poignancy 🐎

Best of all, Plato and the Nerd is written by a fellow nerd. He’s one of us 👕 and not one of those 🎩

If this not be inspiration, I simply don’t know what else it could be—Enough said about inspiration, too, dare I add 🎈

4. A Source of Joy 🎃

Sometimes I will stay up in my room for a day trying to get two sentences that will flow, that will just seem as if they were always there.

~ Maya Angelou, in Conversations with Maya Angelou, ed. Jeffrey M. Elliot (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 1989), p.59

It’s quite possible that when you read the Angelou quote above, you were wondering to yourself, “Um, joy, Akram, joy?”—To that I can unequivocally respond by telling you, “Yes, sheer unalloyed joy”.

Right behind being a fertile source of inspiration, writing just happens to bring me great joy. It’s a kind of joy that is unlike any other I’ve ever known. Imagine yourself as a kid having fun in your neighborhood playground—that’s what writing means to me 👦

Speaking of writing and of playfulness, please allow me to paraphrase Lord Chesterfield by saying that 👧 👦

Men and women are but children of a larger growth.

I also have to add—and this is the proud feminist part of me which speaks here—that Lord Chesterfield had it wrong in what he had originally said, and part of which I just paraphrased above. He had it totally, totally wrong when he had asserted that

Women are only children of a larger growth. A man of sense only trifles with them, plays with them, humours and flatters them, as he does with a sprightly and forward child; but he neither consults them about, nor trusts them with, serious matters.

~ Lord Chesterfield

I mean, that is just blatantly wrong, what he said above. Wrong. Simply untenable. Grrr… 👺

Okay, so I’ll let bygones be bygones, but for crying out loud—and merely to take a fragment or two as counter-examples—some of the best software developers I’ve had the privilege of knowing are women 👩  Some of the most thoughtful, capable, refined, and “strong” individuals—in particular in every sense of “the latter quality” as I’ve come to understand it over the years—that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing have been women 👩

So there. You take that, Lord Chesterfield 👻

But surely I digress.

Plus I’m not sure what else I could add to this particular point—that writing is a source of sheer joy—without belaboring it and perhaps even diluting its impact and effectiveness; we will, therefore, let matters “rest as they stand”, cool? 😎

Hmm… Did I actually catch myself in saying above about how they may “…rest as they stand“, did I now? That sounds a tad paradoxical, and for all I know, it just might drag us all down the rabbit hole of fathoming how fish are ever able to sleep 🐠  I mean, what exactly goes on? Do fish stand—or float, or hover, or remain suspended in semi-frozen animation—when catching their zzz’s? 🐡 These are the things I want to know, though you necessarily may not 😆

Okay, okay. Lest your blogger—and you all along with him in his wake—get dragged down the proverbial rabbit hole, let’s scurry on to the next item 🐰

5. Accelerates Learning New Things 🚂

I write to discover what I think.
~ Daniel J. Boorstin, in The Wall Street Journal, 31 Dec. 1985, quoted in James B. Simpson, ed., Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988), p. 303

It’s been said that the very best way to learn is to teach. So whenever I set my mind to learning—and mastering—a complex body of knowledge, I more often than not simply start writing about it along with, of course, the obligatory doodling and stuff 🎨  And my goodness, the things you’ll learn in the process: For example, how little one really knows 💪

It’s always a good things, dare I add, to have a good laugh at oneself from time to time—but I surely digress ⏰

On a slightly more serious note, there’s nothing quite like writing to galvanize your learning process. Yes, I concede that there are all these other helpful accessories—mind maps, books-on-tape, YouTube videos, podcasts, Khan Academy, and so on and so forth. But if you want to truly gain mastery of new things—and master those things rapidly—there’s nothing quite like writing about the things you are wanting to master 🎱

And while you’re doing your writing, make sure to also have some fun with doodling and stuff; engage all the senses at your disposal, won’t you, please? 🎨

So it’s not for naught whereby a wise adage uses the following words—and I felt that these words paint an unmistakably stark and evocative picture of a message, don’t they?— to tell us that if you 🙌

Tell me, and I’ll forget; show me, and I may remember; involve me, and I’ll understand.
~ Chinese Proverb

Good enough? Enough said, methinks, so I won’t belabor this point any further. Let’s not tarry our sojourn much longer either lest anyone feels emboldened enough to accuse us of malingering and stuff 🚸  On to the next stop in our brief journey then 🎬

6. Boosts Relearning Things Anew 🚀

I can explain this, but it would break
the glass cover on your heart,
and there’s no fixing that.

You must have shadow and light source both.
Listen, and lay your head under the tree of awe.

When from that tree, feathers and wings sprout
on you, be quieter than a dove.
Don’t open your mouth for even a cooooooo.

~ Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi—HarperCollins)

If ever you’ve wished to relearn something anew, I thoroughly recommend giving writing a try. It’ll help you gain new perspectives as you could never have imagined possible 🔮

Do please keep revisiting the basics, too. That’s a whole new topic right there, come to think of it 💭

Imagine, if you will please, beholding a dandelion in the selfsame beauty as it offer itself—with its heart wide open, knowing that it hasn’t much longer to live—in a bold display of its near-kaleidoscopic, breathtaking existence, fleeting as its very existence is, at the mercy of the elemental wind which can snuff its life in a flash.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are
~ Anais Nin

And that is what it means to “relearn things anew.”

Should we be lucky enough, and I hope we all will be, to find that special book or two that sparks our imagination—and I sure found mine in the gem of a book that is Plato And The Nerd (The MIT Press)—then it’s off to the proverbial races with your mental accelerators wire to the floor 🐎

You may also wish to peruse a related thought which would have us become mindful of how

Books like this are temptations to give up reading, and devote life to re-reading…
~ The LA Times (Review of Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! — W. W. Norton & Company)

The related thought above, it just so happens, is one that I had elaborated on a bit as part of the vignette of David Perkins—in a much earlier essay entitled Top Thought Leaders to Follow—who is a founding member of Harvard Project Zero, a basic research project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that investigates human symbolic capacities and their development.

7. Aids in learning things deeply ⛩

The most fundamental ideas in any subject can be understood with ever-increasing depth. Professional tennis players watch the ball; mathematicians understand a nuanced notion of number; successful students continue to improve their mastery of the concepts from previous chapters and courses as they move toward the more advanced material on the horizon; successful people regularly focus on the core purpose of their profession or life. True experts continually deepen their mastery of the basics.

~ Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird, The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking (Princeton University Press)

Look, I’m an engineer and a computer scientist—all rolled into one—who has been practicing the fine art of programming for over two decades. The fact remain, though, that we all periodically need to deepen our understanding—and thereby our enjoyment—of the fine craft of programming, which we’ve chosen to practice. Yeah, it’s a circus wheel all right; loads of fun 🎡

We had other choices, yet we were compelled to seek out this craft and art that literally takes years to master. No doubt this applies, to one degree or another, to any disciplines worth its salt. I’ll go out on a limb and say, however, that the fields of engineering and computer science require a relentless commitment to learning (of the highest order) that is simply unmatched by any other discipline 🌿

And here I’ll take the liberty of paraphrasing—in the most liberal way imaginable and with no holds barred—the famous dictum of Thomas Jefferson when he had said that 💂

The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

What I propose as an analog to the Jefferson quote above is that 💂

The price of deepening your understanding is eternal learning.

Now try that on for size 👕 👔 👖

And remember to learn on your own time, not on the time of your employer 😇

Remember, too, that it never hurts to stay fresh and mindful of the basics. And here I find comfort in the wise words of Michael Starbird (The University of Texas at Austin) and Edward B. Burger (Southwestern University, Georgetown/Texas) who note in their slender-yet-incredibly-deep book entitled The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking (Princeton University Press) that

Understand simple things deeply. The most fundamental ideas in any subject can be understood with ever-increasing depth. Professional tennis players watch the ball; mathematicians understand a nuanced notion of number; successful students continue to improve their mastery of the concepts from previous chapters and courses as they move toward the more advanced material on the horizon; successful people regularly focus on the core purpose of their profession or life. True experts continually deepen their mastery of the basics.

IMHO, the secrets of the complex and of the unknown lie in the simple and the familiar. Then again, what do I know? 😉

8. I Cannot Not Write 🎫

How does a part of the world leave the world?
How can wetness leave water?

~ Jelaluddin Rumi (translated by Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi—HarperCollins)

I realized the vital necessity of art. Human life, yes, you nurse people, you clean house, you market, but then comes the moment of solace and flight. I sit and write and summon other friends, other forms of life, other experiences, and the voyage and the exploration, the delving into character, the vast expanse of life’s possibilities, contemplation of future travels, of dazzling friendships, all this then makes the chores and the sacrifices beautiful because they are diverted toward some beautiful aim, they become part of the structure of a work of art.

~ Anais Nin (in her Diary 5, pg. 130-131) The Quotable Anais Nin: 365 Quotations with Citations (Sky Blue Press)

This one is going to be the hardest one to explain, which may have something to do with how I saved it for last; then again, we save the best for last, don’t we? So let me try.

This one is straight from the heart 💖  So even if it makes no sense at first, please bear with me for a bit ⏳

The fact of the matter is—there are no two ways about it—that I simply cannot not write. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been… Writing. And reading—Swimming in a world of books and words, buoyed by the vistas which they have opened for me, reveling in the occasional rainbow or two, too.

While this point—that I cannot not write—may have been the most nebulous one, it’s one that also happens to be the proverbial ticket to a life of writing 🎫

Postscript 🏇

What’s Going On Here?

I could write more—a whole lot more—though I suspect that we’ve suffered enough already. “You took the words out of our mouth there, Akram”, is in fact what I heard one misguided soul say as if to affirm my own sentiments here 👺


So I was startled even as the waves of satisfaction washed down the deepest recesses of my soul. Have you ever had that feeling? The feeling when people and themes enter your life—all this unfolding effortlessly like when an emergent butterfly begins unfolding its slender-wet wings and marks its entry into the known world—and this all happens so flawlessly that you find yourself trying to catch your breath 🐛 You stop.

And here I do not digress—which is a first here in our reading community that we fondly call Programming Digressions—so please listen to the rest of the thought 🍭

You feel something in your throat and you try to fathom what’s happening. You sense something tugging at your heart, but you can’t put your finger on what is going on. As a writer, these are things I want to know.

The saddest song you ever heard—
the most you said with just one word

The loneliest prayer you ever prayed—
the truest vow you ever made

What makes you laugh, what makes you cry—
what makes you mad, what gets you by

You highest high, your lowest low—
these things I want to know
~ Bryan Adams (Lyrics from Inside Out) 🎧

And The Journey Began

So my journey had begun. And as they say, “the rest is history”—if there be mountains in our way, so much the better to make the journey and the quest even more satisfying ⛰

All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long, there are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day ⛰
~ Joe Cocker (Lyrics from Up Where We Belong)

I first heard this song ages ago when I had watched the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, yes the one starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger 🎬

But here I did digress.
Plus at this point, I’m sure that many—all?—of you are wondering: “Akram, aren’t we done already with your essay?” Give me the pleasure, then, of informing you that indeed we are done with the essay.

But as we part—and until we meet here again next week—there is something I wanted to say…

This Nearly Got Lost In The Shuffle

I had completely forgotten that I had ever read this delightful quote; it was like rediscovering lost friends 👫 That quote goes like the following:

My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity 👻
~ George Bernard Shaw

And I was like, wow! I recall doing a double take as I read those words for the first time: This is what has been informing the heart of my writing, and I had forgotten all about ever having read it 💘 “Slap on the wrist, Akram, right now”.

Ouch, that hurt 👀

Rolling With The Punches

Rest assured that the stuff that I write—the balderdash here on Programming Digressions that you’ve grown accustomed to—is decidedly along the lines of what the smart cookie Samuel Johnson had in mind when he had remarked how  🙊 🙈

Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
~ Dr. Samuel Johnson

Ouch again 😳

But that’s okay; I roll with the punches. I had to learn rolling with the punches to survive, especially since your blogger’s birthday happens to be—yes, I kid you not—on Halloween 🎃 That’s another, long story. And I do believe my poor—and very dear—readers have suffered enough already in wading through to the end of this essay. But hey, yay, the end is finally in sight 🔭

Gulp—Akram And His Whale-like Paragraphs!

I’m sure that at least one or two of my readers are like: “Akram, Akram, Akram—You and your whale-like paragraphs. Yo. Wait till I get my hands on you so I can teach you a lesson or two. I mean, good grief, what got into you that made you pontificate on why you write? I mean, give us a break, due. We need to tell you how to write, let alone your musings on why you write? Sheesh. You got that down now, Akram?

Ouch. Double ouch 😓

You don’t want to hear this—yep, pretend that you’re not hearing any of this 🙉

Even more telling than the George Bernard Shaw quote above is the centrality of another theme that pervades—”pollutes”, I heard a smart aleck in the back row there say as they snickered to themselves—my essays is that of circling and re-circling back to themes with ever-deepening acuteness. What? Can you explain that, Akram, preferably in English?

Explaining Metaphysics to the nation–
I wish he would explain his Explanation 😉
~ Lord Byron (Don Juan: Dedication)

That OhSo-Elusive Goldilocks Writing Style

Okay, okay, relax. We’ll give it a shot: So this other recurring theme which also informs the core of my writing came up, interestingly enough, when I was chatting with two dear friends just the other day. I was telling them about how they both have the knack for writing “Goldilocks” messages: Neither too long nor too short; just right. I’m simply devoid of that talent—I have only one style of writing, the longwinded one. And you all are like, “Akram, I mean, we are painfully aware of that, yo”.

Ouch. Triple ouch 😭

Anyhow, I told my dear friends about how if they could please bear with me if my messages tire them; I simply don’t know of any other way to communicate. Talk about a single-track mind 🚂

Maybe we’ll revisit precisely this point; why, indeed, it makes sense to circle back to the basics; and of course my beloved onion metaphor. While you may not concur, the fact remains that themes do recur, and they do so big time. It’s ritornellos all the way down 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢 🐢

So anyhow, as I sat down to write down my “virtual” essay—transfer it from its residency in my head to a more permanent medium—it dawned on me that actually not one but two separate essays were crying to be written 🍒

Many of you  at this point will quite possibly be wanting to tell your blogger: Hey, since you’ve already made us suffer through the dreary details of why it is that you write, you might as well put us out of our misery by regaling us—yeah, right, we mean that—with the inglorious details of how you write your ignominiously blithering harangues 👺

To which I’ll say: Hey, hey, hey, let’s all take a big, deep breath here 🐳

Surely You’re Kidding, Aren’t You?

The sequel, or prequel if you will, coming to a theater near you—relax, it won’t be anything that flamboyant as a marquee since I’m merely a lowly blogger on a shoestring blogging budget who writes for free. So that sequel, or prequel or whatever, will be entitled something like: “On Writing: Or How I Write”

Yep, it sure is hard to disentangle the why from the how when it comes to matters as subjective as writing down the bones 💀

Oh, did I say anything about how—if you want to write well—you have to read a lot? 📕 📖 📗 📘 📙

“Some people never learn! Hey, Akram, I thought we had suffered enough already, hadn’t we?”, you say. Indeed you have—and to stave off the specter of yet another “Ouch”, an unprecedented Ouch. Quadruple ouch 😭—let’s all of us pretend that I didn’t even say anything about reading a lot.

But if anyone so wishes, I’ll be talking about precisely that theme—the requirement that you need to read a lot if you wish to write well—as well as a bunch of other themes in the next essay, which I’m tentatively calling “On Writing: Or How I Write”.

Meanwhile, I’m outta here 👞 👟 👠 👡 👢 👣

The Land of Counterpane 💠

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head 👦

And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day 🎁

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go 🚶

With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills ⛰

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets ⛵

Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about 🌲

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill 🎐

And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane 💠

~ Robert Louis Stevenson. A Child’s Garden Of Verses (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)


  1. – Leave it your blogger, on occasion, to jump straight to passing a verdict without so much as providing the background and supporting arguments; that's like an attorney making the closing statement in a law case without so much as having bothered to provide supporting arguments (you know, stuff like: Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, here be "Exhibit A", and there be "Exhibit B", and so on and so forth) and in the process blithely bypassing the background, going straight for the jugular instead. Ahem, I meant to say, going straight for the punch line, in all his oblique obliviousness

    – As a case in point-indeed, allow me to offer some self-incriminating evidence in my own indictment of sorts; right, now try that on for size. 

    – Remember how, in this very essay, in fact, I had said—after laying out a legion of lachrymos largesse—in the essay's preamble that "Today, I'm not so sure where I stand on this matter…” 

    – Was I merely bragging? I think not: Thousands of readers come here to this reading community of ours that we fondly know as Programming Digressions. 

    – So the possibility—remote though it may well seem at first—is that I (your blogger) and we (all of us readers here in the Programming Digressions community) must be doing something right. I mean, in the last month alone, well over 6,000 readers visited our blog. Frankly, it was a long time ago, when I was starting out, when I was a tad wet behind the ears—a mere three years ago—that my curiosity would lead me, sooner or later, to check stats on my blog…. Ah, those lovely trend graphs and such. 

    – But wait!! Sorry, did I just call it (i.e. Programming Digressions) "my" blog (above) when it truly happens to be "our" blog? Slap on the wrist, Akram, slap on the wrist right there for you! It simply wouldn't be anywhere near what it is today—leading up to now and how it has organically evolved over those year—had it not been for the 56,000-plus visits by readers like you

    – Hey, yay, thank you, I say! You continue to use your most precious resource (i.e. your time) to come here… I'm speechless with gratitude, I truly am, you all!!!

    – Ah, loveliness writ large, or something like that. 

    – I'm not interested in blog-stats anymore, in fact, not at all, in full candor…

    – Today, I have gone back to my roots—though, truth be told, I never really diverged from those roots, ever—and today I write again purely to share the themes that happen to be currently circulating (with some critical, escape-velocity, of course) in my cranium, ready to escape its confines and make it into your hands via the essays that litter the Programming Digressions blog…

    – How does that grab you?

  2. Great article Akram. When I was teaching, I always thought I had a much better command of the subject when I was forced to write about what it was I was going to teach. Re-enforces what you know and often causes you to correct some of the things you thought you knew but were wrong. Stay safe and happy.

    • I beam on reading your note, thank you! Plus I’m delighted that you found yourself resonating with your eloquent sentiment which, in so many words, informs us that “The best way to learn is to teach.” Please know that it is generous comments such as this one, from readers just like you, that make my day. You, too, please stay safe and happy!

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