TFV #3 – Write like the wind!
6 min read

TFV #3 – Write like the wind!

Note: This is one of a small series of emails I sent as part of an email newsletter project in 2015-2016 called Tales from Voyager. Learn more, or browse the full collection.

Most people who have met me (even acquaintances) are not surprised when I describe how much I like to preserve data for data's sake. Perhaps it's my pack-rat mentality, but I'm one of a dwindling number of people I know who still checks in religiously on Foursquare, I track all of my music on, I track every beer I drink, I log every book I read, and I have intentionally typed up handwritten high school essays for fear of losing them 10 years from now.

But despite all of that data (which you and I both could argue I collect for no real reason), most people who know me relatively well are still surprised when they learn that the most valuable data of all is collected through a written journal. They're even more surprised when I explain that I've maintained a journal regularly since 2006 - for the past 9 years (36%) of my life.

When it comes to the data, the reasons are sometimes practical. I've found legitimate use from Foursquare, for instance, by viewing a calendar of my checkins when a friend can't remember the name of a place we visited together.

But I have come to realize that the real value in collecting data--and particularly in collecting the qualitative data that my journal has come to represent--is for reflection.

I first began my journal on a complete whim, in high school, as a simple low-tech Word document. I would title every post in bold (the word "entry" made the whole exercise seem overly childish and diary-like), and then write about whatever came to mind. As the years passed I wrote about everything: going to prom, that tough history paper I had to write, the surprisingly impossible IB math exam I was sure I failed, applying to college, making new friends, experiencing new (and old) relationships, getting my first job, and beyond. My journal quickly became my extended memory bank.

I sometimes deviated from the norm in an effort to preserve specific memories, as if to isolate the purity of a specific experience from the "normal" drudgery of the journal: when I spent two months in Tanzania on a volunteer project during a college summer, I started a new journal file so I could preserve those memories separately, and when I came back to the U.S.A. I switched back to the original file. I did the same when I went to Europe for the first time in 2013.

I told myself early on that I wouldn't set a schedule for my journaling habits - I was convinced that enforcing the habit would deter me from the effort and so instead I wrote whenever, and wherever, I felt like it. I have posts written in the middle of college classes when I should have been paying attention to a lecture, on flights across the country and around the world, and even some that I initially mashed out on a cell phone keyboard while nestled in a sleeping bag on someone's floor. I've gone weeks and even months at a time without a new post, but the journal itself has persevered.

I also didn't set any limits for myself on structure, but over time I subconsciously adopted a common format across all of my posts: I would always title a post with the date and time, begin by writing about the most significant activities in my life since the last update (the "recap"), and then spend some time reflecting on those activities, or noodling on whatever had my mind occupied at the time.  

Ironically it was my lack of desire to take the journaling experience "seriously" by creating habit and structure that has made it  useful, and the most organic representation of myself over the past 9 years. As I wrote more and more, I started to realize that while in the middle of a difficult problem or when confused emotionally, writing things out helped me to think through whatever it was I was dealing with, big or small. A lot of my journal posts have me at some point saying "I wanted to write through X," and concluding with how I felt more certain about a particular course of action. I also learned to learn about myself through my (very) informal journal posts, as I periodically browsed through old entries and bonded with "past Roshan" in ways that I never expected when I started writing back in high school.

To this day I still follow the same process I began using back in 2006, but not without some changes. My titles now include the location where the post is being written, often in a descriptive manner such as "corner chair in the back of Tryst", or "fight from STL - DCA". I've switched to Evernote, instead of a Word document, which helps both organizationally and from a cross-platform standpoint. The topics are less "teenage angst" and more "millenial life crisis".

But the intent and impact of my journal are the same - regardless of how I have changed over the years, my journal is still very much mine. I can write in slang, invent phrasing, and use obscure references to events. "Future Roshan" is my only audience, and so the entries are personal in a way precious few things are: seeing a souvenir from Prague evokes a memory associated with a time and place, but reading a journal entry written in a coffeeshop in Prague allows me to go deeper by reinterpreting the ideas and thoughts that I myself had at that time and in that place.

If nothing else, my journal has proven to me that for me, writing is a powerful tool. Now, when faced with a particularly sticky problem or the fear that I am losing sight of the things and people that have made me who I am, or the uncertainty of what will happen next, I write.

And usually, when the keyboard dust settles, I feel a sense of clarity.


If you haven't ever done any written reflection that was not motivated by a school assignment or application, I'd highly recommend it. Don't worry about "starting a journal" or making a commitment to write, just try writing 500 words about your week (or a friend of yours, or something that's bothering you) after you finish reading this newsletter. I think you'll be surprised what you find.


Emirates Airlines recently made a super awesome commercial featuring a few guys who fly ACTUAL JETPACKS next to a plane. 'Nuff said. Click the picture below for the video

This week I have for you an article which is titled "Et Tu, Too?: Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” and the Revival of Black Postmodernism". .

It's a very dense, hopelessly verbose article about Kendrick Lamar's latest studio album. I would not call this well-written, but I would call it an attempt to apply philosophy to rap, and I can get behind the latter. Here's a small excerpt:

"Lamar’s multivalent metaphors and penchant for morally ambiguous scenarios allow him to employ a postmodern relativity in teasing out the difficulty of his own desires, and moral codes, granted by success. A telling example is the song “How Much a Dollar Cost,” which, if you aren’t paying close attention, you might miss is a parable about giving God, incarnate as an addict, money for crack."

So yeah. Dense. But if that seemed interesting, click the link above for the full text.

I discovered Punch Brothers this week, which was a group that appropriately enough formed in 2006. Great music, and better late than never I suppose.

Julep is one of my favorite songs in a long time. I have thought a lot about how best to describe how Chris Thile's lyrics in this song, and the best I can come up with is "open-ended enjambment" but I'm sure a lit person would correct me or provide a better phrase. The words are beautifully structured such that ideas are spread across lines and stanzas (i.e., enjambment), but in a way that requires the listener to fill in missing thoughts to link those pieces together.

And the instrumentation is also beautiful. Click the picture below for the song.

I found on Product Hunt a little while ago and it's a really nifty website with some gorgeous mobile wallpaper images which are all actually satellite images of Earth. Worth a click if you like seeing pretty and/or fascinating things.


Until next time - see you space cowboy,