The End of Worry-Writing

I’ve had a lot of ideas for blog posts lately, just not for this blog. When I started it I was so excited at the thought of finally having a never-ending reserve of things to write about, because I’m always having troubles with writing. But then I realised something.

Writing about things I should be doing only distracts me from actually doing them.

This, of course, includes writing. It hit me today when I was sitting on the balcony, writing in my journal (which I update regularly). Today is Saturday, and I was really enjoying a sense of freedom from having the whole weekend ahead of me, and filling it with things I want to do. Though I also felt like I should exercise and write something other than a journal entry, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.

So I wrote about it. What’s the problem? Why don’t I want to write and exercise? Which precise thoughts are causing me to not want to do it? On and on it went, and I felt more and more lost, until I started feeling just a hint of crazy. How can you write about things you want to do until you want to do them?

You can’t. At least I can’t.

I don’t want to write and exercise because I don’t want to feel uncomfortable. And the only way to fight that discomfort is by getting to know it. How do you get to know it? By facing it, of course. By doing the things you don’t want to do.

Not by exploring your worries in the hopes that it’ll make you feel safer and more courageous. It won’t. But surviving the discomfort you fear will.

Admittedly, I haven’t had ideas for this blog for quite a while. It just sort of sat there and made me feel guilty for not updating it. But now that I see how pointless it is to write about worries to make them go away, I can’t defend the point of the blog anymore. Unless I see another angle to write from, I’ll be ditching this blog completely.

And in a way, that’s a good thing. It means I’m ready to abandon an unproductive habit. If I don’t feel ready to face my fears just yet, at least I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m facing them when I’m actually just trying to save myself from discomfort – discomfort that it’s best to confront.

I’ll give myself a little time to think of another direction the blog can go. If nothing turns up, I’ll see what I do from there. Maybe I start a new blog, maybe I try to write privately instead. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m done with worry-writing.

Saturday Despair

Oh, how I’ve been ignoring this blog. Not that I’ve forgotten it. In fact the thought of it has constantly stirred the guilt in my stomach.

I know what happened: it became a chore. Letting people read my bad writing lost its appeal. Because why would anyone keep reading this? Right now I can’t see its value beyond training myself to keep writing.

I’m pushing out words now. Just forcing myself to keep saying something so I won’t stand still. Dance, dance, dance. Just keep dancing. Today I tried freewriting for ten minutes – hardest thing I’ve done in a long time. Losing control like that scared me half to death. I like to think before I write, but then when I just want to write without knowing what, I get completely stuck at the thinking stage.

Sometimes I wonder if writers ever just let the words flow out of them without regard for anything other than to keep writing. Does that make the writing better or worse? Does it make editing even harder? Does thinking before you write actually improve the writing? I have no idea, and right now it’s killing me. I feel so lost.

Thank God I’ve still got journaling.

From Bad to Better

Since I’m dreading it so much, it’s time to write in here again. Immediately my mind goes blank, just as it’s been doing at work lately. In the last few months writing at work has been a real chore, and most of the time I’ve been about 10 000 words from the mark. It sent my mood right to the depths. I’ve still been writing steadily in my journal(s), but that’s an entirely different type of writing – there I can just detail my thoughts and feelings and the things that are happening in my daily life.

At least I recently discovered that that’s the sensible way to journal. Writing in my journal, too, felt like a chore for many months. In fact, I was actively dreading it. When writing down my thoughts and feelings it often just made me feel like none of my mental life made any sense, and when I was finished writing, I had this confused, chaotic feeling buzzing around inside me. Like there was no point in trying to tidy my thoughts. Like I wasn’t even meant to be journaling.

When I’d underachieved one too many times at work, my boss threatened to fire me. Well, it wasn’t as much of a threat as a warning. After months and months of oversleeping and staring up at the office ceiling with bug-eyes I finally decided enough was enough. I was angry at myself, and at at how hard it is to live well. Three weeks later that anger has deflated into a resolve I’ve aggressively used to accomplish things. Such as getting up in the mornings, eating healthy, working out as much as my will allows me, and forcing myself to write no matter how hard it is.

So here I am, doing the same in this blog. I reckon that if I can make demanding changes in all those areas, I can probably do it with my own writing. Though for me, finding the will to write for myself is perhaps the most demanding change of all.

Which brings me back to journaling. A few days ago I was writing in my notebook when I realised I don’t ever write about the stuff that happens in my life. Catching up with friends, quibbles with my boyfriend, things happening at work – none of it. So I thought, that’s weird. I should try writing about some of that. What if I just write about my morning?

So I did, and it instantly relieved some of that terrible sense of chaos. I wrote about more mundane things, and felt even better. What the hell was going on?

I think what I was discovering was that I needed a context for my feelings and states of mind for them to make sense. I needed to be aware of what was happening in my life, properly aware, to see the relations between my inner and outer life. Journaling about things I’d normally just internally analyse and then push out of my mind made them much clearer to me. And better yet, they made me feel like more of a person with a story. Like everyone else.

That’s my latest discovery, and I’m relieved it came. Doing anything at all was starting to feel too tiresome, I was so scattered in my mind.

Now I can connect the dots a little easier, which gives me the mental space I need to start writing about not being able to write again. (Wink.)

I’m at a totally new place. Let’s write about me.

I’d like to say that being in Austin for SXSW didn’t allow me to write, but it’s not true. I went to SXSW for work and had some spare time when the classes and workshops were over, typically around 6. But then we’d have dinner, and we might have a few beers, and then when 9 rolled around we were most often beat. Going out to discover the city and nightlife didn’t really inspire any writing in the moment, either. And then it’d be bedtime x 100.

I should have so much to write about both Austin and SXSW, but I’m intimidated by the prospect. I mean, there’s so much to say. I don’t know how to organise the boatloads of information I’ve taken in during the trip, and I don’t know how to write about the things that stand out either: odd pedicabs with odd (but friendly) drivers, good food, “You got it”, real gun-totin’ Texans, sun-bleached buildings, business cards (oh so many business cards) and 6th street, to mention a few.

I wrote on paper while I was there, but nothing I would type up and publish here. Too many of my private thoughts and feelings were entangled in the observations I made. It made feel inadequate to not be able to write purely about the place I was at. Instead I was reflecting on myself meeting Austin, and the things I discovered along the way. Not that that’s a bad thing – it’s just self-centered, and I doubt anyone would want to read it. I don’t think I’d like them to, either.

I hate that I always end up writing as much about myself as the things I experience. To me, it’s a weakness. It’s a sign that I can’t forget myself and focus on the topic at hand. While some parts of the writer inevitably shine through any writing, the fact that I sat there thinking about my personal challenges while in Austin, at SXSW (for the first time, I might add) just makes me wonder if I’m too self-centered to write anything other than a journal. It’s a horrendously depressing thought.

At one point I actually forced myself to write a bit about Austin without adding myself into the mix. It brought relief because it felt like writing the ‘right thing’, but it also felt uninspired. I was feeling a pressing need to write about the challenges of traveling with colleagues and being me in a foreign place. So I did that, and felt better. But I also felt worse, because I’d given in to the allure of writing what’s closest – and easiest.

So maybe that’s what it’s all about: ease. Writing about anything other than what’s currently buzzing around in my mind is a huge challenge to me. Despite being in Austin and at SXSW for the first time, other things were on my mind. It genuinely felt like I had the choice between writing what I needed and writing what I ‘should’. I chose the former, and now I’m thinking the latter might come around on its own when there’s room for it. To an anxious mind eager to fix, fixing problems will be at the forefront. Even in a fresh, new place full of fresh, new impressions.

I don’t like what I just wrote, but I’m keeping my promise. Out this goes.

This was difficult to write

I promised myself I’d post something today, so here goes.

Of course, I predicted correctly. What was an exciting new project turned intimidating in a matter of days. Last night I caught myself thinking “My next blog post needs to be amazing”.

Still, a couple of things differ from the usual paralysing anxiety. Since I’ve decided to keep blogging despite the discomfort of letting people read my writing, I have an easier time actually starting to write. I know now that even if I don’t like the result, I’ve made myself a promise that I don’t want to break. So I just write and see where it takes me.

I also notice a slight shift in my attitude towards writing about different topics. Usually I doubt whether my writing could do any subject justice, but knowing I can force myself to write about this makes me wonder if I can force myself to write about other things, too. Y’know, without trembling at the thought of not knowing exactly what to say.

I didn’t know what to say when I started writing this, but I’m still enjoying it. Worries about whether the writing is clear, concise and in my own voice still niggle at me, but I’m ignoring them and letting my thoughts flow a little more freely. As I become more comfortable with time, I suspect I won’t be constantly editing as much either.

It’s a weird project, this. For once I feel like my worries can’t stop me, because the whole point of this is to write through the worries. The biggest challenge will undoubtedly be to publish this, and I’m excited to see how I’ll feel. Relieved that I actually published something? Embarrassed that it’s not a stunning piece of prose? Experience says both.

‘Til next time!

Making blogging mistakes

I just wrote about my blogging history when I realised I’d rather write about making mistakes. More specifically, what happens when you don’t allow yourself to make mistakes as a blogger. I’m not very well versed in making them, as I’ve never given myself the chance to.

Instead of posting consistently to the same blog, I’ve been migrating from blog to blog since I was thirteen. My hope was that the next platform would inspire me to actually keep posting, but of course it never did. When you’re paralysed at the thought of making mistakes, you don’t keep posting. Instead you might do what I did, which was to create a fresh start for myself each time my old words felt stale and uninspired. And they always, always did after a very short amount of time.

Even though they still do, I don’t migrate as much anymore. Instead I keep silent. What’s the point in posting when I’ll be embarrassed by what I write immediately after I’ve written it?

I’d call that embarrassment growth, but growth happens over time. This was me wanting to be better before I actually was. I didn’t want those clunky sentences and the obvious self-consciousness to represent me, but that’s where I was. That’s the way I wrote. I just couldn’t face the level my writing was at, and my inner critic made sure I knew right after (and often during) writing.

So I was denied the blogging mistakes almost everyone makes and grows from, like not carving out a clear enough niche and not connecting with other bloggers, because I couldn’t keep a blog long enough to make them. I really wanted to be seen for the good, but couldn’t stand the thought of people seeing the bad.

Thing is, I really, really want to correct this. This time around I want to weather the discomfort like a friggin’ cactus in a sandstorm. I’ll live with bad to mediocre writing and try to become a serious blogger in the process.

Consistent blogging, here I come.

(If you want to try the same thing, please do let me know. Company is awesome.)