Engaging Writing

...When you’re writing, you always have at least an audience of one. And if you pay attention and let that person have a say, they are very good at calling you on your BS....

A few years ago, someone asked me about a particular issue and why I was on one side of it and not another. I did not do a particularly good job expressing my viewpoint. There have been times when that’s popped back in my head. If only I’d said THIS instead of THAT, or I wish I’d thought of THIS point. It’s one of the reasons I decided it was a very good idea to pick back up the blogging.
When you’re writing, you find out what you think about something. Being able to dig in and let the fingers fly, and then read it back to yourself, and sort of roll it around in your noggin a little is incredibly valuable. Partially because it’s good practice in explaining your views. And partially because at points you’ll hit something and there’ll be a little voice in the back of your head that whispers That’s not right or you don’t really think that. And being able to recognize that and make adjustments so you get down to what you really think about something is invaluable. There’s also much good that comes from exposing your ideas to the world, and allowing other people to kick them around and show you where your thinking was faulty or where you didn’t explain something. But that depends on the feedback of other people, who may or may not be engaging in good faith. Or who may not show up and comment at all. When you’re writing, you always have at least an audience of one. And if you pay attention and let that person have a say, they are very good at calling you on your BS.
The practice makes me a better advocate for the stuff I believe by helping me craft and hone my ideas, but if I’m doing it right, it also makes me a more honest broker.
That’s the ideal case. But being human, there is a concern that I’m not going to be acting in good faith myself. There IS definitely that voice that will call you on your BS. But there’s also that voice that throws BS all over the place. Say this thing and get people riled up! Do that thing and needle the people who hate you! If you concede that the other side has a valid point, you can’t make yourself out to be the Great Virtuous Hero! Denigrate! Demonize! You can be fuzzy here, or skate past that inconvenient fact. (Maybe having people who are willing to engage in good faith and call you on that is important.)
There’s one more voice. That one is that constant subtle whisper that no matter what you write, no matter what you say, a) it doesn’t matter, b) it’s stupid and vacuous, and c) no one cares. Wasted effort. Unnecessary. Unneeded. I don’t know if you have a voice that says that kind of thing, but I do, and man, it’s good. It knows every weak point. It knows every embarrassing story. And it occasionally pulls them out and parades them around. “Hey, remember the time you did that one thing, and you thought you were so good and smart? And really, you were being a horrible person, and just didn’t realize it? Let’s go over that one in detail.” “Oh HEY, having a good day, are we? I remember this one time when… oh, come on - YOU remember when that guy said that thing about you, and it totally shut you down because you’re a fragile little pansy?” Man, that voice is amazingly skilled at what it does.
The slings and arrows of the world have nothing on a subtle whisper in your own heart.
And, again, that voice might be right. But that’s not the point. The point is - figuring out what I really think about things. The point is knocking away the cruft. The Practice is The Point. The work is its own reward.