First things first, let’s understand that everyone writing a think piece is just talking to themselves.
I know I am. How could I not be? Writing is an exploration of ideas inherently focused through the lens of the author. Better writers are able to focus on unique fully-formed characters. I can’t. I write shades of myself and, in the non-fiction field of essays, I write as me. I write for me. Usually, the reader can adapt and vibe enough to take it with them. I am not such a unique flower.
What I think and feel probably has commonalities with enough people to be worth reading.
Cool, dope, awesome. But think pieces make stretches and leaps all too often, especially when you consider both the youthful authors and the youthful audience. Ill-earned smugness prevails.
People — and here, people means me, among others — take third-hand good ideas and make them fourth hands. I explain a topic or idea a smarter friend explained to me and earn social credit online.
I am not an expert.
Online, that claim is rarely made. Confidence pulls people in like gravity, and the opinionated and loud create a circle jerk and it loses authenticity with each pass. It’s increasingly artificial and impersonal. People have learned through practice what works and have tailored their writing to it. They know the numbered lists to open with. They know the titles. The framework. The hate-reads. The cloying “I like Netflix, lol” fake-humility that is endearing and universal.
Everyone knows the shortcuts. They’ve become universal. That means that the only thing that distinguishes pieces and thus their authors is the near-accidental quality of their writing.
Why wouldn’t it? Thoughts have been thinned out. On the internet there’s an increasing scrutiny that reduces us to a handful of correct opinions to be worded carefully, lest you be overly basic. Also — we don’t call people basic anymore. Catch up. That’s so late 2014.
We’ve become a nation of experts, and the ceiling of expertise has been lowered proportionally. It’s a terrible thing when looking for objectivity but a great opportunity as well.
That, for me, leaves two main takeaways.
First: do not trust think-piece writers. Do not trust any source or self-confident Twitter that staggers you with bold declarations. Don’t allow pure devotion or a cult of absolutism or cloud the complexity of the world around you. Even if you think or feel something, others feel otherwise.
Sometimes that’s frustrating. But sometimes it can set you free.
The second one is that with the loss expertise, you can become an expert yourself. No, not in the topic people claim. But at least you can be an expert of yourself.
For me, writing is like having a journal and a therapist. It’s empowering and it’s never been easier to be empowered than now. You can be published! You can self publish. And if nobody reads you, who cares? You wrote it. You found a piece of yourself and polished it. That’s worth more than clicks.
And, more importantly, it’s the only real way to challenge yourself left.
When everyone agrees with each other, when the reverence for a fixed truth seems laughable, the likeliest source of growth if from within. But writing lets you challenge your ideas. It forces shape to feelings and it gives it form. And I’ve changed my article so much I’ve changed my own mind while writing it.
Next time you want to think, don’t read.