I work on posts for this blog a couple of times a week.
Reading the blog, you would literally never know that. There is zero indication on the actual blog itself of the countless woman hours and stray hairs pulled in frustration that go into this thing. (Or rather, *don’t* go into this thing, which is the problem.) I’m forever inventing and discarding ideas for posts. Beginning posts and then deleting them, or emailing the partial remains to myself along with a mantra of “I’ll finish this one when I can figure out how to make it suck less.” (I must have six thousands words of unfinished blog posts, not counting the ones I never bothered to save.)
In the interest of achieving actual productivity one day (rather than the illusion of productivity) I sat down over a lunch of taco lasagna and analyzed my bizarre, perceived inability to blog. I mean, a mantis could blog, given the right, tiny, specialized tools. Therefore, I can’t actually be incapable, which means that somewhere, in the corn maze, haunted house of my brain, I’m really just unwilling.
So I wrote myself some advice, because that’s the kind of person I am. The writing, self-advising, making-uncomfortable-subjects-comfortable-through-the-nerdy-lens-of-LOTR type person.
Quick side note: I have anxiety. And a simplified version of the conversation I had with myself could be summed up as “Your anxiety is holding you back; take some steps to overcome that anxiety.” If you’re reading this and you don’t have anxiety, I don’t think that necessarily means parts of my experience won’t be relatable. I suspect that many of them are pretty common thoughts and attitudes, and the real difference comes in degrees. If I’m wrong, well it won’t be the first time and feel free to let me know.
Also I am hella not a mental health professional.
1) I need to stop the cycle of negative self-talk.
I’m going to spend the most amount of time with this one, because it represents my biggest roadblock. Examples include: “No one will find this interesting.”, “This has been done a million times before.” and, “Oh God, my blog posts sound like something a twelve year old Saruman would have written on his Livejournal.”
All of which are thoughts that are totally unhelpful. They were originally meant to serve as a “healthy kick in the ass” style motivation. But it turns out that negative mantra’s only end up feeding off my imposter syndrome, growing bigger and meaner, like Shelob getting fat on gritty old goblins.
It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. I can’t think of anything cool for a post because I’m telling myself I won’t be good at it, and then I feel affirmed in thinking I won’t be good at it because I can’t think of anything cool for a post. I’m trying to create something under the assumed certainty of failure, which is kind of ridiculous.
It’s like my negative thoughts are the eye of Sauron, right? (Are you ready for the sheer cheese of this metaphor? This is twenty-four carat cheese coming up.) And he’s bearing down, trying to immobilize me by making simple projects seem impossible, and if I give in to his crabby, negative thoughts all the time, I’m never going to make progress. I’m gonna just lie on the couch, marathoning Criminal Minds on Netflix until Sauron destroys the world.
I need me a Samwise. A positive voice picking my cynical ass up off the ground. And it can start as a friend if I need it to start somewhere external, saying nice things to me and giving encouragement, but from there I have to internalize that positivity (as I have certainly internalized the negativity) so that it can generate change in my behavior. (In this case, giving me enough confidence to follow through on the small act of writing a regular blog post.)
How does a cynical grouch like me internalize positive things? By telling them to myself over and over and over. “My ideas are valid and legitimate, and I have just as much a right as anyone to voice them.” “I’m totally cool and people think I’m funny.” “I find this topic interesting, and this is my blog blblblblb” “I AM THE DARK LORD AND I WILL RULE OVER ALL.”
Okay maybe not that last one.
2) I should stop holding myself to ridiculous standards of perfection and let the blog be imperfect.
I gotta give myself permission to suck occasionally. I’m not going to get any better at blogging (or at anything) by sitting around and waiting to get better. I need to let the blog evolve naturally. Let my craft evolve naturally.
As a sidebar to that, I really need to start taking everything a little less seriously. I’m in the (rather unwise) habit of treating everything I write (from stories to emails) like it’s heart surgery. Which it isn’t. Like, at all. The only thing living or dying by this post is my ego.
Ways to help myself take this thing less seriously: Write the blog post like a wild fire, just burn right through from one end to the other instead of hyper-analyzing every paragraph as I go. Then, go back and edit the Big Suck out of it at the end.
Remind myself that this isn’t trying a work of literary genius, or even a marketable story. Which isn’t to say that some people’s blogs aren’t, or that some people aren’t blogging toward that goal. But in my case, I’m aiming for a blog that’s a little more casual than my stories. And as a result, I don’t have to go into every blog post asking myself “WHERE ARE MY CLICHES AND ARCHETYPES AND HOW CAN I DESTROY THEM?”
I’ve also started writing the blog posts directly into the site text window (you know, the box where the words go before the magic makes them appear on the webpage? whatever that thing is called?), rather than perfecting it in Word first. This sort of tricks my brain into chilling the fuck out.
Finally, I don’t need a freaking road map of all the places I intend this blog to go. Because it’s not a story. It’s a free-wheeling expression. A fly the the seat of my pants endeavor. So it’s totally cool if I figure it out as I go along.
Not all those who wander are lost!
3) I should embrace the fact that I have literally no idea what I’m doing. That’s a GIFT. It will be a light in dark places, where all other lights go out.
Having no idea what I’m doing or where I’m going gives me license to make mistakes. And mistakes are how craftsman improve.
So yeah. That’s cool and I should remember that.
4) I should worry less about writing what I *think* people want to read.
I’m forever slowed down by trying to figure out how to turn lead into gold. How to make this blog entertaining and enjoyable. Which is still a good thing to strive for, but I’m probably using some really strict, unfair criteria. Because, first of all, I have literally no idea what other people want to read. The market has no idea. Publishers have no idea. Gandalf has no idea.
And moreover this is my blog, on which I do me things. And if at the end of the day, I’m the only one that’s entertained, so what? I’m happy. No one else has been hurt by it. And anyone who thinks I should be doing me differently can just deal with it. Because I don’t have to worry about them.