Making a habit of public writing

Earlier this year I wrote about my approach to writing in public. This post from Kathryn at Press Publish on perfectionism got me thinking about this topic again.

An habitual approach to writing doesn’t correspond to consistent value. Obviously there will be lots that either immediately or over time that will become dated or irrelevant. But I think the process is important to embrace, because it builds a useful habit. Ideally it’s a habit that contributes meaningfully to civic or family life.

I’ve talked through the idea with friends of less frequent writing that’s tighter or higher impact in some way. Basically that’s more “perfect” writing on a less regular basis. But even for great writers, I think the idea that less frequent writing might lead to higher quality, albeit rarer pieces, isn’t realistic.

And I think embedded in the very idea of “just write less and spend more time on the meaningful stuff” is a problematic way of thinking. That problematic way of thinking is the idea that anyone knows in advance what’s going to be meaningful. Great works of art can speak to someone as powerfully as a simple but elegant everyday object. An off the cuff comment or insight at a cocktail party is as likely to impact someone’s perspective as a well-crafted thesis.

“The art of writing,” writes Mary Heaton Vorse, “is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” We can’t know in advance what will make an impact, but we can guess at the habits that might lead to making an impact. And I think making a habit of public writing is one way to make an impact.

Making a habit of sharing some of our interior life helps shape our public life.