On Writing

I am not particularly well-suited to being a writer.

That is to say, I have always loved to write, but my personality is not one that would naturally guide me toward choosing writing as a career.  And yet, here I am.

Being a writer means taking chances and going out on a limb.  Publishing words that I have written myself is something akin to what I imagine it would be like to go streaking through Central Park on a particularly sunny and warm Saturday afternoon.  Except that in this analogy, instead of running through a crowd at top speed, I would be strolling slowly, exposed and unrushed, allowing strangers to study and critique and criticize my naked body at their leisure.

When I was in college, I wrote drafts of my papers and sent them to a peer or a professor for editing and comment.  I would feel a tightening knot in the pit of my stomach until I received my draft back.  When I then turned in those papers for a grade, I would feel a tremendous amount of relief, because it was finally – FINALLY – out of my hands.  There could me no more revisions.  The paper was as perfect as it was going to be.

Writing professionally is, of course, not the same thing as writing a paper for a college course.  It is, though, a process of continually offering oneself up for judgement.  When someone reads the words that I have written, s/he is reading a piece of me.

Recently, a project that I was working on got cut short.  It was not a project that I felt particularly passionate about – in fact, it was the writer’s equivalent of a “day job.”  Even so, when I got word that the project was being discontinued, I immediately internalized it.  My writing hadn’t been good enough.  I hadn’t been good enough.

None of this is true.  The discontinuation of the project had – so far as I know – nothing to do with my writing.  It likely had more to do with the marketing strategy, the design, maybe a mistaken target audience.  I was one small part of the project. But, says my inner doubting voice, I was the writer.  When they discontinued the project, it was because people were failing to buy my words.

This blog – this website – is my attempt to be a little more brave. I am a perfectionist in a profession that strikes perfectionists paralyzed.  I’ve started half a dozen other blogs, and each time I wrote maybe one post and then wrote draft after draft that I picked over and revised and never really managed to finish.  The longer those drafts sat there, the more I felt like I needed to make those posts perfect before I turned them over to the internet with all of that public-ness.

I started this blog, really, with one goal in mind.  I want this to be a place where I write and publish something every few days, perfection be damned.  If it has been three days since I published anything, then I need to push the “publish” button on something.  In just about everything I’ve ever read on how to be a writer, the first rule is to just write.  Write something.  Write something that is clumsy and terrible that even you don’t want to read, but write it.  Put pen to paper (or the digital equivalent) and get your words down.

So here I am, writing.  I already have a backlog of drafts of posts that I imagine will go unpublished.  But so far, I have managed to write and publish more on this blog than I ever have before.  These are my words about my life, and I make all of my choices about what I write here.  (A distinct difference from the things I am paid to write. Though they are still my words, someone else has usually chosen the topic, the format, even the word count.)

These are my words.  This is my life.  Maybe I’ll go take that stroll through the park now.

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