Writer’s Apathy

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.


I Wrote Fake News

After Trump got elected I started thinking about the millions of people who voted for him. To this day I still feel a mix of anger and empathy towards them.

You want to use your vote to make your healthcare less affordable? Fine. You’re voting so that I’ll pay less taxes and you’ll pay more? Fine. But Donald Trump? Fucking Donald Trump? You made that guy our President? This clown represents me now? Fuck you.

Then I remember they’re victims too. They got duped because our education system failed them, and that’s not their fault… But it is a problem. They’re getting their information from dubious sources, and they believe anything as long as it sounds like their brand of conservatism.

Then I thought, alright, if they’ll believe anything that sounds conservative, no matter how credible the source is, maybe that’s a way to reach them. And that’s how I decided to create a fake news site.

First I needed a name. It had to sound both conservative and unbiased, which is paradoxical, except in the alternative world where my target audience lives. I settled on Real Right, America’s best news source.

The idea was simple, could I use fake news as a weapon against itself? Any person who believes a made-up story hastily written on a brand new Medium account is clearly unfit to vote. And so my first article announced that the Electoral College has decided to reelect Donald in 2020. No voting required.

I thought I’d instill some empathy and magnanimity by imagining Trump offering food to protesters.

This whole creative endeavor lasted just a few weeks, enough to help me cope with the aftershock of the election. Still, my favorite fake news story was the one I wrote about Crocs, the footwear company, endorsing Trump. It was inspired by a real story about a New Balance exec favoring Trump, which prompted some of his supporters to call for buying New Balance shoes.

If one more Trump fan bought and wore those hideous crocodile shoes because of me, then it was worth it.




Whole World Writing

There’s something stopping me from writing with the intention of publishing on the web. It’s silly because, well, nobody really reads what I’m writing anyway. But anybody could, and that’s always in the back of my mind.

The voice in my head says “since anybody can read it, it has to be as good as something that everybody would want to read.” Which is nonsense. I don’t believe that intellectually. If I can write something that affects a single other person positively, that’s great. That’s a win. Even if it doesn’t, or nobody reads it, or everybody hates it, that’s still a win because it helps me shape and articulate an idea.

But no matter what I think or believe, I feel as if I can’t survive a single person judging what I write negatively. Because shyness isn’t rational. Because really that’s what it is: I’m shy. I worry about what other people think of me much more than is useful.

As self-conscious as I feel in groups, or when I’m writing to the entire world [sic], I generally feel very comfortable talking to just 1 or 2 people at a time. So my writing hack today has been to write like I would a good friend.

Speed Writing

Writing is badass. It’s an accessible and indelible way to make a point. And you get to polish that point for as long as it takes. I enjoy that process, and admire the product. Simple, clear, penetrating words that propagate new ideas and change minds.

But I suffer from perfectionism. I write slow, edit a lot, and often give up midway through. What I share must be worthy of my romanticized view of writing, or so I feel. And yet, what I’ve realized today compelled me to write and share this as fast as possible.

My expectations are too high. Amateur musicians don’t compete with Yo-Yo Ma. Nor do they expect to delight their early audiences. Getting good takes practice, lots of it. I’ll never learn to write good essays if I never finish them. I won’t learn to penetrate people’s minds unless I share what I produce.

And so my experiment begins: Anything I publish I will write in one hour or less. Anything I start writing I will publish. No expectations, just determined practice.