I’ve been writing every day for the past 80 days.
Of those 80 blog posts I’ve written, I’m pretty sure that my future self will look back and cringe at about half. I know this because I already have that reaction to much of my writing from a few years ago.
“Past James writing” as a genre will always be more naive, more simplistic, and more arrogant than future James will be able to stomach. I’m going to change my mind and experience things which knock me off my high horse multiple times in the next decade, and rest assured – I’m always on my high horse while writing publicly.
So I think the question is this: why should I continue to write? Why not wait until I’m older and wiser?
Here’s how I justify this nasty habit of blowing smoke on the internet daily:
1) By writing, I complete the inevitable cycle from “knowing I’m dumb” to “thinking I’m intellectual hot stuff” back into “knowing I’m a complete ignoramus (relatively speaking)” more quickly. If I was simply absorbing ideas and sitting on them, I would have a much higher opinion of my knowledge and wisdom. By being outright with an idea (i.e. posting it on the Interwebs for all eternity), I get to test the waters and see if I am really full of it. I get to see the usefulness and correctness and full-on stupidity of my ideas in real time.
2) If all goes according to plan, I’m going to change my mind quite a few more times before I die (so help me, God). That means if I wait to write until I settle on all my FINAL OPINIONS, I’ll never get around to writing. Or maybe I’ll be like 117. Either way, if I wait until I’m unable to change my mind anymore, I doubt I’ll be a very interesting person to talk to, let alone to read.
3) I need to learn how to be criticized publicly and how to be wrong publicly. My ego needs to be stronger than one which is afraid to be seen as mistaken and so is afraid to speak up.
Writing is a little like facing down a dragon (public opinion = big scary dragon) to get at a pile of gold (gold = self-realization, writing skillz, actual gold, etc). I have to bait the dragon to move its scaly rear out of the way of my gold one way or another. I can’t be mad when it actually moves, even if it moves in my direction. *Crosses self and descends into the comments section.*
4) There is right and wrong, but there is no state of being you can achieve called “being right about everything.” When I’m 80, I’ll think my 70 year-old self foolish. I’ll continue to learn and be wrong even then, so I’d better orient myself around a different ideal. Maybe writing isn’t about being right and bringing the world around to your opinion. Maybe it’s about having integrity, internally and externally, rationally and emotionally.
Like nothing else, writing has helped me to organize my own thoughts and values. Like nothing else, writing has helped me to communicate my thoughts and values and myself to the outside world. That process alone – more than any satisfaction from “being right” – is something worth doing regularly. Like exercise, it’s a healthy routine, and the pulled muscles, cramps, and embarrassing gym self-comparisons along the way are the small cost for the real prize.
5) Occasionally, I’m totally right. Like in this post.
I think I’ve made my case. You’re stuck with my words for the time being. And if you’ve let your own changes, your own self-judgment, or a fear of past beliefs/thoughts/words/selves keep you from creating, I wish you wouldn’t.