Self-Evidence and Credibility
The most well-received pieces I’ve written during this project have often been the ones I thought were unimaginative or boring. To me, I wasn’t saying anything interesting; the ideas seemed self-evident.
Take this one on automation, for example. It’s clear and simply-written, but doesn’t say anything particularly novel from my perspective. There’s little there that wouldn’t come up in conversation every couple weeks at work or with my friends here in SF, and publishing it felt unoriginal — I wasn’t adding anything to the conversation. Since then, though, a few people have mentioned to me they thought it was interesting (a simple but useful measure of value).
I’ve been thinking a lot about credibility lately, especially with regards to writing. I wonder whether that feeling of self-evidence, when something seems obvious and is easy to write, can be a helpful compass for finding good starting points for credible writing. That automation may have an outsized effect on employment and politics might be self-evident to me, given where I live and work, but novel and interesting to others, just as there are countless ideas and arguments that would be self-evident to a teacher, for example, but would be novel and interesting to me.
Good writing happens when the writer pushes past the obvious into uncomfortable or challenging territory, when they push themselves to think past the self-evident. But starting from a place of credibility is important, and the feeling of clarity and understanding that comes from familiar material is worth paying attention to.
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