Over the last few years my writing output has slowed to a trickle. While there are plenty of reasons for this, the most notable is the ever-larger stack of unfinished drafts littering my desktop, my notebook, my phone. The general thrusts of something to say, but left incomplete, unpublished. Why?
As I've gotten older, I've become increasingly hesitant about publishing, concerned with saying something "true", when perhaps instead I should be focused on saying something "interesting". Potentially profitable thoughts putter about in my head, hidden from daylight, when they could be out there, comingling with others, provoking interesting feedback and evolution of ideas. Is it a fear of consequences, of being Wrong on the Internet?
Trying to say things that are not only Correct, but are also Interesting, is a tight needle to thread. Most things that are Correct are Obviously Correct, and thus are not interesting. There's a large space of Interesting out there, but things are usually Interesting because they are not obviously true OR false -- they instead lie in the intriguing middle ground, of things which feel perhaps Truthy or Insightful, but which cannot easily be proven True of False (and perhaps are Unprovable).
It's worth contrasting Interesting with Provocative. Provocative writing aims not at insight, but exists instead to elicit a reaction, generating value by exploiting controversy and furor. Provocative also lies between in the ambiguity between truth and falsehood, but it cares not how close to True it lands, and indeed does its best work far from either extreme. It may seek to upend a widely-held belief, but its success does not rest on how much closer it gets us to truth post-debunking.
The best writers are fearless, and we delight in reading them not because they expound us with Truth, but because they boldly tread new ground, illuminating paths previously just outside our field of vision. Perhaps they don't reveal the whole Truth, just a little portion, and perhaps we even misread and draw the wrong conclusions from such partial information. But the attempt is the thing -- to "essay" is to try, after all.
So I shall try.