Talking myself out of writing

December 27, 2022  |  Fediverse

I'm a big believer in the power of writing. Simply taking five minutes to write things out to clarify my thoughts has been one of the most effective tools for a variety of life situations. As an engineer, of course, I've grown and abandoned several different systems for organizing and prioritizing my writing, and I always come back to keeping it as dead simple as possible. The system often gets in the way of the act itself (and so it goes for more than just writing).

That aside, I have perpetually aspired to take my writing a small step further by sharing my thoughts online with others. Whether through small bits on ~twitter~ mastodon, or longer bits on my personal website, I want to share and (hopefully) provide some value. As an early and ongoing beneficiary of the vast amount of information others have taken the time to share online, I feel compelled and excited to do the same in return.

And yet, over and over again, I talk myself out of it. Despite the flood of "I should write about that" ideas that I capture in a todo or a draft file, I inevitably admit defeat and delete the captured idea that could have turned into something good. It can feel good to just let it go instead of holding on to one more thing I aspire to do but never quite find the time for.

But, as I've learned the few-and-far-between times I have followed through, it feels even better to turn the idea into something and put it out there. Whenever this happens, I'm pushing through a number of invented reasons why I shouldn't publish what I have to say on whatever topic sparked my interest that day. At some point in the process I finally say "fuck it" (sometimes out loud even) and publish it. More often than not though, the reasons in opposition get the better of me.

Some of those reasons are rooted in perfectionism. It takes work to produce quality writing, and I don't want to half-ass it. If I put something out there and it's absolute garbage, how does that reflect on me? What if I get some of the information wrong? What if I don't cover the most important points? What if I change my mind about some of the stances I take? What if the writing or ideas are incoherent?

There is an endless well of what-ifs to pull from if I'm looking for reasons to bail on the pursuit. It's good to be concerned about quality and to focus on improvement, but if I do so to the point of not taking any action whatsoever, then it's doing more harm than good. "Done is better than perfect" as the saying goes. Get something out there and iterate. But you have to start with something, one way or another.

Further reasons I talk myself out of publishing my writing are rooted in utilitarianism. Is what I have to say actually useful to anyone? Or am I just generating more noise on the internet? What actual purpose does the writing I publish have, and is it fulfilling that purpose to the best of my abilities? How do I make sure the information stays accurate and updated? Should I only focus on more timeless concepts? What does the internet actually need from me? Probably nothing, right?

As a strong believer in the messiness of human creativity, I know how detrimental this sort of merciless utilitarian perspective can be to such an essential part of the human experience. I've never considered myself an artist, but I believe that everyone has (or should have) some medium they are able to express themselves through. I've always loved the act of writing, and have felt compelled to share that writing with others, so I should do it. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that!

I feel confident that I'd experience serious regret later in life if I never let myself get past the fear of sharing a creative side of myself in some way. Who knows, maybe writing isn't really my thing and I'll discover something else further down the line. But at the time of this writing, words are a medium I thoroughly enjoy, and that's the only reason I truly need to continue this pursuit.

So, here I go. An attempt to push past some of these internal barriers by looking at the barriers themselves. Maybe it's useful to someone, maybe it isn't. I'm putting it out there anyways, and it will feel good. Here's to hoping my next bit of published writing comes soon. If it doesn't, at least you will know why :)