Why I [Don’t] Write
George Orwell opens his 1946 essay “Why I Write” with a confession: “From a very early age, perhaps the age of five or six, I knew that when I grew up I should be a writer. Between the ages of about seventeen and twenty-four I tried to abandon this idea, but I did so with the consciousness that I was outraging my true nature and that sooner or later I should have to settle down and write books.”
Amen. From the age of six or seven, I knew that if a doctor told me I had one month left to live, I would spend the entirety of that month writing a book. I am now 24 years old, and not only have I not yet written a novel, but I don’t even publish a blog. Yes, I am a writer, but as Thomas Mann said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
In order to conquer my own fear of being heard, here are some of the myths that I tell myself that prevent me from writing, truths with which I hope to replace this mythology, and intentions (the softer version of a promise to myself and to my readers, if ever there should be any) that will guide this infant blog as it learns to crawl.
Myth 1: Only perfect sentences, concepts, and essays deserve people’s time and attention.
Truth 1: If you put yourself out there, people will judge you. Haters will hate, just as surely as potatoes will potate. So what? Write anyway. If others want to hold you back, that’s their prerogative. But don’t hold yourself back out of fear of what others will say.
A dear friend recently reminded me that there are plenty of passages of Catcher in the Rye and To Kill a Mockingbird that aren’t perfect, but thank God J.D. Salinger and Harper Lee had the guts to publish them anyway. The world would be so much less rich if these authors and artists had lacked the courage to share.
Intention 1: None of my writings will be perfect, but I will publish them anyway, in the hopes that they might spark conversation, provoke ideas, and contribute to broader discourse.
Myth 2: No idea is ever complete, no essay ever ready to publish.
Truth 2: Ideas evolve. Beliefs evolve. Nothing has to be complete in order to be worthy of conversation. If I share 1% of my thoughts with the world, then that is 1% more than I’m currently sharing. That’s enough. The other 99% will be expressed when it’s their turn.
Intention 2: Share anyway. Even if it means reducing complex ideas to listicles. Even if it means not re-reading what you’ve written. Even if the syntax is as chaotic as startup. Even if I have only written one grain of sand of my full perspective and wish I had the time and patience to write the whole world. Share.
Myth 3: Critics will discredit everything that I say because I am a heterosexual, white, college-educated American, and am therefore writing from a place of privilege.
Truth 3: Critics will discredit everything that I say because I am a heterosexual, white, college-educated American, and am therefore writing from a place of privilege. So what? See fact #2.
Intention 3: Understand that feedback is important, but trusting oneself is more important.
Myth 4: Words are beautiful and should not be dishonored by being strung together haphazardly or without regard to their aesthetic potential.
Truth 4: Words have many abilities. Sometimes they are a manifestation of beauty, other times they serve simply to convey a message. Pass the salt. I’m running late. Good morning. Many people publish blogs without regard to their aesthetic contribution to the world. While I hope that style never becomes an unnecessary casualty that is completely absent from my literary expressions, I also hope to forgive myself when efficiency trumps aesthetics in my writing. The reality is that I could spend weeks obsessing over the perfect word, but in the spirit of fact #2, my current goal is just to write and post, sans obsession.
Intention 4: Remember that if I want to write a literary novel in the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, then I will write a literary novel in the style of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Perhaps there will be sentences scattered throughout this blog that are reminiscent of the field of wild poppies in which Fermina Daza buried her love story with Florentino Ariza, but there is a time and place for everything, and today it is time to write a blog.
Myth 5: There needs to be a cohesive theme for any blog to merit readership.
Truth 5: No there doesn’t.
Intention 5: I will write about whatever is on my mind. Sometimes I think about social justice, sometimes I think about big life choices, and sometimes I think about what to eat for dinner. I am inviting you into my home to share a meal, but I might cook zucchini and I might make pancakes. Don’t be alarmed; variety is good for your diet.
Time to stop aspiring to be an eloquent intellectual with big ideas to share and recognize that even the most erudite, nuanced thinkers need a good turmeric milk recipe from time to time. Off with the tweed jacket and nerdy glasses, on with the naked authenticity!