I would be surprised if you immediately understood the title of my blog. That’s probably not a point in it’s favor, but if you’ll bear with me for the explanation I hope you’ll agree that there are some such points in the offing.
There is an idea in academic work that in order to be publishable, an idea must be original. This is, of course, not a sufficient criterion, but it sets the bar quite high already. In an academic context, Thumper’s admonition becomes “if you can’t say something new, don’t say nothin’ at all”
What I expect to say here, if you can even call it work, is certainly not academic, and yet I fully intend to publish it in this tiny, quiet corner of the internet. Still, I better say something new! Right?
Immediately, a problem presents itself.
If I adopt originality as a criterion of publishability here, I will spend far more time scouring the web for ideas that resemble mine and far less time writing.
I am starting this whole thing because I want to write, so I take is as given that I am probably not the first person to come up with a particular insight, argument, or explanation. But suppose I am the second person to do so.
While I don’t actually believe this (it would take just as much scouring to convince myself that I am the second person to say something as it would to convince myself that I am the first), it is a delightful position from which to write.
Not only is one released from the burden of originality, there’s also less pressure for the idea to be excellent. This is where the ‘slightly worse’ part comes in. Yes, someone already probably said more or less what I am about to say. Yes, they probably said it a bit better. Is it still worth saying?
That I hesitate to answer that question with a ‘Yes’ is exactly why I need to do this. I know that there is value to be gained from thinking through something interesting, taking the time to articulate that thought, and sharing it with people who might enjoy it. But I struggle to overcome the voice in my head telling me that an unoriginal thought is not worth sharing.
For each day in the month of September, I will write a post that’s about 500 words long. I don’t have any set ideas about unifying themes or a structure beyond that. I’ll probably write a good deal about books, TV shows, movies, and video games. I also like bikes and music, so I expect I’ll have thoughts to share in those arenas at some point or another. I care a lot about race, gender, environmental, and economic issues; I might take up a topic or two in that space in the next thirty days.
We’ll see where things go from there.