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Writing To Remember

When I make the same amount of money if I blog or if I don’t, why keep going?

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The SCMP was the first big publication that I ever regularly wrote for, and my editor there provided me with my first lesson in big journalism. I wrote a story about how expats in China were transitioning from running export based businesses to service sector businesses and how this mirrored China’s broader economic transition. I framed this story as a narrative — I included myself.

“Uh, can you make it more like a news story,” my editor requested.

No problem, I removed the “me.”

The same thing happened on my next article, and I got the point. It was an important lesson to learn.

As the years have rolled on I’ve found myself taking on more and more positions in big media, and the subsequent work load meant that more personal, narrative stories have been getting delayed — often to the point of never being written or published.

I’m realizing now that I’ve missed a large part of the story.

I’ve built up such a large body of stories on Vagabond Journey that adding a few more — or a few hundred more — doesn’t really alter the balance of how much money I make. Earnings waver with the winds of advertising, not anything I do. If I don’t write here it makes me X amount of money. If I do write here it makes me X amount of money. There’s really no substancial difference.

It seems to be a common assumption that the writer works for the reader, and should strive to give them what they want. To a large extent that’s true. But there are other reasons to write. It’s not all commodity.

This is my collection. It’s just a story… so that I can remember.

Writing preserves time. It’s like taking a sequence of observations, conversations, thoughts, experiences, and emotions and enclosing them inside of a plexiglass box. Every once in a while you can stumble back through your own museum and look at the little exhibits you’ve stored there. This is why I do this.

I want to have a storage facility for conversations, impressions, and experiences. Sometimes they are eventually extracted for sections of articles; most of the time it’s just something for my seven year old daughter and I to look through and talk about

If someone can follow this and like it, maybe read it each morning on the way to work, that’s excellent; but that’s not really why I’m still doing this.

On Vagabond Journey, I’m just writing to remember.


Filed under: Blogging, Journalism, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3687 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Papa Bay, Hawaii

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