I often find myself paralyzed when I try to write. I mean, when I try to Write. Not physically paralyzed, of course. It’s mental paralysis, an inability to connect one sentence to another. More than anything, this paralysis is due to wondering what the effect* of my Writing will be on the world. (I never stop to ask who that “world” comprises.) Will it be read? If I’m weighing in on some topic, will my contribution be relevant? Will it be insightful? If I’m writing a short piece of fiction, I wonder if the story will be meaningful, if it will be entertaining, if it will capture the atmosphere that I set out to capture. *Will it be any good?* *Everyone asks themselves this question sometimes, but those who try to create capital-A Art on a regular basis ask it all the time. Scratch that. We beg for the answer.
When I take a photo and plan to post it on Instagram, I don’t suffer from paralysis. I blithely shoot and post away, happy to even approach taking something that resembles a good photo. I’m not a photographer, so I don’t care to compare myself with other photographers, which means that they are irrelevant to me except as sources of inspiration. I don’t worry whether my photos matter, because I don’t care what the world thinks of them. If I think a photo is passable, and if it resembles the photos of professional photographers, and if I like it, I’m happy.
Let’s take these two scenarios and cross the wires. What if my writing didn’t matter? I’d be free from the pressure of writing something insightful and interesting, something that would make a person stop and think. If the writing doesn’t matter, there’s no need to worry about what people think of it. In fact, there’s no reason to even show them. With that pressure off, I’d have an easier time putting words on paper. And well, once the words are there, I might as well show them around.
Problem is, words do matter. Unlike an Instagram photo, a paragraph carries meaning, argument, attitude, personality. A poorly written paragraph reflects on the writer in a way that a bad photograph does not reflect on the photographer. At least, that’s what I tell myself. I’d be happy to be proven wrong.