Ending 2019

This blog achieved multiple minor but personally enjoyable milestones in 2019:

  • It was read by people in 143 counties, the highest in a single year since 2008 (when I started blogging)
  • It was the second busiest year by traffic (after 2015)
  • It was the year with the highest post engagement (as ‘likes’ on WordPress and shares/comments on Twitter and Facebook)
  • It crossed both 1,000 and 1,100 published posts
  • The number of subscribers breached the 5,600 mark
  • 2019 was my third most productive year by total number of posts (169) and average post length (793 words)

Some notes

1. In 2019, most of what I learnt about writing had to do with straddling the thin line between populist and heterodox writing. Where populism dictates giving the people what they want, and progressively enclosing them deeper within echo chambers, the heterodoxy here refers to giving your readers something they don’t know they want but consume once they discover it. This is harder than it sounds largely because interestingness is a vague goal. Lots of things are interesting, and most people interested in interesting things aren’t interested in all topics. So if I’ve been as productive as I have this year, it’s because I think I got better at identifying what kind of heterodox content Root Privileges‘s readers like and which I also like.

2. I hit multiple rough patches in my personal as well as professional lives this year, and experienced at least three extended periods of writers’ block brought on by an overwhelming sensation of irrelevance on one occasion, of disgust and world-weariness on the second, and a protracted period of mental illness on the third. While I resent the occurrence of these episodes, I’m also grateful and delighted for having found a way on all of them to get back to the writing habit, one way or another. So if in future I find myself stuck in a similar rut, I will have one more way to motivate myself beyond discovering the specific antidote to the circumstances: to simply tell myself I did it before so I should be able to do it again.

On that note, I hope you have a great, happier, more productive and more gainful year in 2020!

Fear and delight

Earlier this week, I published my 1,100th blog post on this site. It hasn’t been a long and great journey because it hasn’t been a journey, per se, at least I haven’t seen it as one. After publishing each blog post, I don’t know if there will be another one in future, nor do I plan in advance. All I know is that when I think of something to write about, I write about it. In fact, each blog post has been a journey – from conceptualisation to publishing – and so 1,100 such journeys together is… what? A meta-journey, perhaps.

Many of my readers expressed their best wishes and hoped that I would continue writing. In this post, I would like to express gratitude to myself in acknowledgment of a truth that not many know and even fewer understand. The reason I have never been able to plan any of my blog posts ahead is not because I am careless but because I have never been able to fully control my writing habit.

When an idea strikes, a usually dormant inner self awakens and begins to unpack my bolt from the blue; unlike the conscious self that I (claim to) control and its cluttered internal mind, this inner self draws upon the prowess of an external mind and its own memories, experiences, morals and agency – a mind that manifests almost exclusively when I write, letting me come into a clarity of thought and conviction of purpose that I don’t otherwise possess. Indeed, this ‘super-mind’ vanishes almost as soon as I stop writing (i.e. after clicking ‘Publish’; being in deep thought about how best to articulate an idea between two drafts is also part of the writing process).

And I fear that one day, this inner self – like all good things – will come to an end for no reason other than to further glorify its own lifetime, and its own mortality. Until then, I must get as much writing done as possible if only because the outer self may never be able to glorify itself for anything other than having harboured the inner one. As The Correspondents sang,

You’re an addiction pulling me to a grave end
You’re an enemy who I’m keen to defend
Down the black hole of my lust I descend
It’s wrong but I want you tonight