On Writing With Others

John Kaag in the New York Times:

0624DRAFTlahan-blog427Sometimes I need some guarantee that another human being will actually read this little thing I’m spending far too much of my life creating. The silent covenant that I make with myself before writing anything — namely that I promise not to destroy it in the end — is simply not enough to prevent self-sabotage. On these occasions, the loneliness of being a professional philosopher is more intolerable than usual. This is why I frequently write with others.

I become a co-author because I can’t stand writing by myself.

Margaret Atwood has said, “Perhaps I write for no one. Perhaps for the same person children are writing for, when they scrawl their names in the snow.” Perhaps she’s just wrong about this. Many children may scrawl their names in snow — and in sand, on dirty windows, bathroom stalls and old desks — with the secret hope that someone will take note. At least some of these children go on to become academics whose feverish scrawling belies the fear that all of it will go unacknowledged. If they go into the humanities, as I did, this fear may never go away.

If I’m really honest, I’ll acknowledge that it’s this fear that drove me to do the unthinkable, at least for a philosopher. It drove me to write with others.

More here.