If there were a pageant for writers, I would would be the former Miss Self-Shamer. I would be the 1st runner up in 2014 and would take home the title in 2015. And as I wave to the crowd with a tiara on my head and a bouquet in my hand, I would realize that I’m being crowned as writer who has an audience kind enough to offer encouraging, supportive feedback yet manages shame herself behind closed doors.
For example, there are only a handful of times in which my blog posts took 20 minutes to write at the most. (If you’re curious, they include this one and this one). After having conversations with some other bloggers, I found out that a 20 minute writing process was their normal. And given what seems to be the instantaneous nature of the online content mill, I would be frustrated at myself for not always having a writing process that was so short.
Little did I know that comparing my work to theirs was akin to comparing apples to artichokes; two completely different types of work meant to satisfy human consumption in completely different ways. They were the curators, DIYers, lifestyle bloggers, often creating content in order to highlight life’s simplicities and/or fun tidbits. Meanwhile, I was (and am) the storyteller, the cultural observer, the healthy debater, mostly creating content in order to highlight life’s complexities and attempting to thoroughly navigate them. None of us were more important the other; we just assumed different roles. In fact, they did not even consider themselves writers — only bloggers. They were the bloggers who just so happened to write. I was the writer who just so happened to blog. We chartered the blogging path in completely different ways.
Now this mistake was obvious; I was comparing myself to others who did not do the same work I did. But remember, I also mentioned that I shamed myself because of those moments where drafting my posts took longer than what I thought was ideal. My perfectionistic tendencies arose because of my desire to be excellent throughout my entire writing process. But my perfectionistic tendencies were not the problem. In many ways, my perfectionism is actually my super power. My problem is when I implemented my perfectionism.
And if you are a fellow writer who happens to have a blog, perhaps we share this in common.
The moment I begin to put words to a page or post is not the time to hope that the perfect words come to me all at once. More often than not, the words in my fingertips will travel faster than the words in my head and I have to trust myself more than wait for my writer’s muse to give me the most precise, soul punching words to say. But the former often results in a bigger mess to a clean, a more tedious revising and editing process that is more difficult than when I hear my muse loud and clear. The cleaning up is when my perfectionism is most welcome. If it comes earlier than that, my perfectionism is crossing boundaries. And the moment that I realized all of this was the moment that I was more at peace with the writing process. It was at this moment that I removed my crown and took off my sash. This is not to say that I am never unhappy with my writing. I just no longer attach my self-worth to it.
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Some conversations with some of my writing coaching clients and others writers have revealed to me a part of my old self that is in some of them, that part of myself that begged for a mildly difficult drafting process at the very least when I was struck with the need to write. But I am no longer that person, not because I finally reached that ideal standard of perfect drafting and revising, but because I realize that every writing session is unique. I am not writing about the same topic all the time. And even when I do write about similar topics, I am at a different point in my life every time it happens. With each passing day, I grow. I change in some way. I learn more. And the combination of topics and where I am in my life — no matter the consistent rituals that I may implement when I write — will yield unique writing experiences every time.
The truth is writing is rarely, if ever, a pretty process. Stories, commentary, ideas — whatever it may be — will not arrive into your highly imaginative mind in the same way every time. There are times the drafting process is a lovely sprinkle of clicks on your keyboard. There are other times that the backspace key is too involved and a cacophonous ajfgdhloiaeuro;kjm; is frustratingly typed out followed by yet another backspace. There are moments when you sift through your old notebooks and find gems. And there are moments you read your work and think “Wtf?” All of this is completely okay. All of this is part of the madness we call writing.
It is interesting how this truth seems to slip out our minds once posting our work online becomes a normal part of our lives. The constant exposure to others’ work can do that to you, I suppose. But we must remember that so much the internet is a highlight reel — a noisy, often curated thing that can be just as much of a source of inspiration as it can be a source of frustration. The blogosphere is no different. We publish our best on here, hanging up our pretty words along the threads of the interwebs in hopes to leave the world, both cyber and literal, better than we found it. And even when we post our work alongside our fellow creative writers, essayists, and personal bloggers, we don’t see the hours researched or time meditated in order to bring their posts to life. We read some of their work and might assume it was effortless for them when it might not have been. And was it worse is when we use our perception, whether correct or otherwise, to shame ourselves.
I say all of this to say be gentle with yourself when you write online. Aim for excellence while understanding that you are a different beast altogether when it comes folks like you writing in the blogging world. Your writing may be just as meditative and self-reflective as it is as it is logical and analytical. And just because your type of brand or niche is not as saturated or mainstream does not make it less valid. Keep playing your heartstrings and continue to let their songs spill over on your blogs. Whether 10 people or 1000 people hear them, they still make a sound. And in the end, that is what truly matters.