There are a lot of current events issues going on right now that I will probably never write about. It’s not that I don’t have opinions, because like every American I usually do, it’s just that they’re not particularly worth sharing, or expounding on for 500 words.
When thinking about whether or not to write on a topic I use a variant of something I heard from Craig Ferguson:
1) Does this need to be said?
2) Does this need to be said by me?
3) Does this need to be said by me now?
For me these three statements boil down to three criteria: redundancy, authority and stakes.
Redundancy or “Am I adding anything to the conversation?”
I don’t expect to have a 100% unique opinion on anything. In fact I’m hoping there’s a segment of the population that thinks like I do, or can be convinced to do so with enough coaxing. That said I don’t want to be an echo chamber. If I’m basically regurgitating someone else’s argument without putting forth my own idea, then I’m better off saying nothing. That way, when I have something I actually want to say, it isn’t lost in a whole lot of rambling about things people have heard a million times.
Authority or “Do I know enough to comment intelligently?”
I think there are two kinds of authority: inherent and learned. Inherent authority is when I write knowledgeably about something that is part of my everyday life. I’m engaged professionally in Writing and Programming (Technology) so I feel comfortable writing on these topics frequently. Similarly, if there’s a subject I’ve done a lot of reading about, or have been following in the news, then I might be able to summarize what I’ve learned intelligently. But there are definitely gaps in my knowledge. For a while I was kind of avoiding the situation in Syria, and only in the last couple of months have I made more of an effort to at least be conversationally aware of what’s been going on for two years now. I think we all have these gaps, and when we’re thinking of what to write about, we need to be aware of them.
Stakes or “Do I sound like an outsider?”
I’ve been reading a lot about “Common Core” and STEM emphasis in education lately. As a technical professional, and as a writer I do have an opinion that’s forming in my brain on these topics, but I would feel a little disingenuous writing about them, since they are issues that largely pertain to parents of children in school. Kids might be in my future, but I need a little practical experience on the parent side of school before I will write on the subject. It’s not that I couldn’t put together a good argument, but there’s an intangible quality to actually being invested in the topic. Writing about the NSA leaks has stakes for me, as I work in this industry and I use the internet like just about everybody else. The border dispute between Georgia and Tennessee has no stakes for me, though it is a bit funny to think about changing state lines at this point.
What standards do you use to decide on what posts to write?