The difference between what you say and what you write

Some people love offending people, but I don’t. Offending people makes me feel bad. In theory, I don’t care about causing offense if I’m sure I’m right. But I’m never sure I’m right. I just sometimes run out of time to deliberate.

When I’m talking to friends, I don’t care that much about whether I’m right or not, because I know I’m not going to offend anybody. Talking without being right is even a genre of talking. If I say, “People who don’t like Paul McCartney hate happiness,” or “Young parents have contempt for all the humanity that isn’t their kid,” it should be pretty clear that I don’t actually believe in what I’m saying. I’m just expressing my feelings and amusing myself.

Friends can listen to you say crazy things and trust that you’re not actually crazy. But if you write something crazy, and someone who doesn’t know you reads it, they’re not necessarily going to trust that you’re not crazy. So, if you don’t want to offend anyone, don’t write crazy things.

Sounds easy peasy, but it’s actually complicated, because not all the things you say to your friends are totally crazy. Some are only half-crazy, like “Men these days are bums.” That statement is a bunch of crazy orbiting a bit of truth. I think.

You can riff on things for years without ever worrying about the crazy in them, as long as you’re just talking to your friends. But when it comes to writing that stuff down for people who aren’t your friends, I think you should try to separate the crazy from the not crazy. This sounds like a no-brainer, but tons of people don’t do it. Also, it’s probably easier said than done. If you try to separate the crazy from the not crazy, you might start to wonder if you’re just plain crazy. Every opinion you have is crazy to someone.

To take a strong position on anything is crazy, in a way, because no one has all the answers and it’s crazy to pretend that you do. But no one likes a waffly joe. That’s why there are deadlines.


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