Whenever you produce something which you want people to see, read, or hear, are you reaching out or asking them to come in? I've found this to be a useful distinction.
Last year I touched upon the usefulness of imperfection. A lack of perfection and proof of vulnerability, I said, makes others want to join you on your journey. It was in fact one of my personal and at the same time most popular posts of 2021, which proves my entire point. But I need to get some more words down so let's dig in...
When we try to reach out to people, we often attempt to be perfect: to speak well, stand right, look good. We want to offer a presentation of perfection, papering over all those parts in us we believe to be imperfect. This is good for a lecture perhaps, you need to focus on the subject at hand, but less so for the human spirit.
We all know perfection isn't a real human quality, yet we often assign levels of perfection to others. There's a reason they say you shouldn't meet your heroes.
I recently came across the writing of Zohar Atkins and he came up with a handy classification for the two types of writers out there: the 'apologists' and the 'outreachers.' I think we can apply this in many other areas too.
"In outreach, you can’t escape the question “How do I know this?” “What are my assumptions?”
In apology, you take your assumptions for granted. Your question is “What do I want to impart to my fellows in the struggle?” "
I like this classification. Poets are the ultimate example of apologist writers as they turn towards inreach. When inreach happens, we connect. Connection with a person from the inside is what strikes a match within us. That's what triggers change.
With outreach, arguments, proof of knowledge, and evidence are used to build a case. But it's an all too familiar sight to see evidence and proof carrying poorly across different political and cultural silos.
I sense too many of us think we are starting as apologists but are actually outreachers (or, worse still, we sit in between and become neither). The stakes are personal for an apologist, whereas outreachers can often lean on the arguments of others to convince you. It's really hard to be yourself, to leave yourself vulnerable.
"Outreachers want to convince. Apologists want to accompany."
When setting down to make something you want people to see, it's worth asking yourself: am I really asking them to come in? Why would that want to accompany me on this journey?