I don’t write for months or even years at a time. Every now and then the stars align and I’m back at my keyboard. First I need to want to write. I often don’t feel like expressing myself. Then I need to have something to write about. (Duh.) It happens that I want to write but have no good subject in mind. And vice-versa, I might have subject ideas but feel otherwise apathetic.
Finally, I need self-confidence. To feel that, somehow, my words add something to the billion others published every day—or to be indifferent whether they do or not.
I once talked to a mentor of mine about this very subject. I hold him in high esteem—he has a lot of valuable insights and stories to share. But he doesn’t write. He feels, like I do at times, that writing on the Internet is like yelling into a black hole. And so the circle of people benefiting from his knowledge is much smaller than it ought to be.
And so, you’ve got to wonder, how many others?
Say someone discovers the answer to a major mystery about our universe. It seems they would quickly tell others, perhaps out of pride, perhaps altruism, probably both. Or would they? We are biased towards thinking great ideas and discoveries are shared because the ones we hear about always are.
How many legit geniuses have we never heard about because they’ve been either too self-conscious or completely apathetic towards sharing?
I jumped straight to geniuses, of course this applies to anyone who has something worth sharing but doesn’t. Who would blame them? The last time I wrote a piece which became popular the first comment it received was “who cares.” (I wish that person had been a little more apathetic towards sharing their constructive comments.) We live in a pretty judgmental world, it’s quite natural to feel self-conscious.
Which brings us to apathy. As in feeling no particular inclination to write or to share one’s thoughts and discoveries. Honestly, I wish I had some of that. My motivation for writing comes in part from seeking validation. I try to write clever things so people will find me clever.
What I’d like to say is this. If you feel self-conscious: good, you’re human. In fact, feeling self-conscious about your writing might be a signal that you’ve gone deep and personal. This tends to make the writing interesting. Embrace it if you can.
And if you’re apathetic, if you’ve freed yourself from the need for approval: congratulations. As far as I’m concerned you’re Buddha. Go to Nirvana, then write anyway. I bet it’ll be good.