The Worth of Writing

I’ve never identified with being a creative. I can’t draw. I’m afraid of color (hence the black and white, monospace site). Typography is a bit of a mystery. The “grid” reminds me more of graphs from Algebra 2 than it does of layout and spacing. Perhaps most importantly, people rarely call me creative.

More than I’d like to admit, I’m influenced by the community and opinions floating around me. Some days I like to blame my DNA. Homo sapiens evolved to be tribal and cooperative – it’s their damn fault I find it hard to ignore others. Other days I like to blame Big Tech and society. Something along the lines of “Down with social media! You’re making us jump like monkeys and compete for likes and re-tweets!”

On my most honest days, though, I recognize that it’s a problem inside me. It’s a problem with the story I’ve been telling myself and my emotions related to the narrative that, “I’m not creative or good enough to do something like this. I should just stick to math.”

In high school, I want to say this narrative was driven by impostor syndrome. I was surrounded by people smarter, more creative, and more proactive. I looked up and thought, “why try and play their game.” Why write when you know 20 people who write more than enough (and in higher quality) for the people you want to reach?

The achievement I saw around me reminded me that I’ve already lost before even trying. I should just use my time somewhere else, somewhere I have a better shot at winning.

Now I’m a university student, the illusion I’ve given myself is that I don’t have enough time. There’s too much work I have to do that my side project needs to wait. What I write isn’t good enough to provide value to others, and more importantly, it doesn’t pay.

There are adult concerns and adult actions I need to take. Writing “for fun” is a child’s game I can’t afford to play right now.

I hope it’s clear why these veins of thought are so toxic. What might not be so obvious is why they’re fictional.

High school Tommy was probably right. There were (and are) writers much more prolific and much more honed in their craft. If he wrote, it probably wouldn’t get read and it probably wouldn’t bring joy to a lot of people.

College Tommy (and I’m quite familiar with him) is also probably right. He has a degree that he wants to get and that requires him to spend time doing work. Food isn’t free either. Even if he can avoid rent by living with his parents doesn’t change the fact that he needs to help pay some bills.

These are unavoidable realities of life. And although I’m talking in the personal and at the individual level, I’m hoping that you’re starting to see narratives in your life that are like mine. Stories that are similar, if not quite the same.

The part that I got wrong in high school, and that I’m getting wrong now, is how I’m evaluating the “worth” of writing and publishing it to show to others. Writing has inherent value in all shapes and forms, many of which are not obvious and rewarded by the communities and systems around us.

Even if my writing isn’t widely-read or well-received doesn’t make that act of writing any less valuable. And just because it’s not tangible in dollars or claps on Medium doesn’t make my writing worthless.

Writing helps me think better. Writing helps me feel better. Writing archives my present self so one day I can look back and see how much I’ve grown.

I can’t put a dollar amount to any of this, but I get the feeling that writing is probably worth doing.