Unlocking Writer’s Lock
How I learned to stop worrying and say “fuck it”
This is a follow-up, of sorts, to:
I’m having a strange bout of reluctance to hit “publish” lately. I’ve been writing a lot, but only publishing the…medium.com
So, until recently I’ve typically published at least one item a day, often more, not crap filler, but things I have, for better or worse, genuinely written with care and craft. It’s not about how much I can produce, it’s that I always seem to have an over-abundance of things in my head I want to write.
Of course I think it’s good stuff, but I’m not totally objective, even though I try really hard not to fall in love with something I’ve written before judging it’s qualities.
That said, I’ve written quite a few things as musings, personal reflection (as in the link above), and once or twice I’ve raged incoherently while out of my gourd on some (legal) substance or another. While I considered them rambling self-centered pieces that I would probably not even put in my archive, those are the ones where a publication will come to me for it, which shocks the shit out of me.
Any of you remember my September meltdown? That was some humiliating shit right there… and it got requested by a publication with 16,400 readers. I was, at the same time, floored, and terrified of that mess being seen by more people than it already had been. In the end, I made some minor edits to save a touch of my dignity, and agreed to have it included in that publication.
The link at the beginning of this piece was also just requested by a decent sized publication. I didn’t write that as good writing or even really interesting writing but just a bit of worried self-exploration in a space where I might actually be understood by like-minds. Let me tell you, that was not in my list of experiences growing up or even through young adulthood. I’ve met very very few like-minded people in my life, but here, on Medium… wow. Seriously, it’s like every time I turn around I’m meeting a soulmate (I know, ick). It really is amazing (and a little scary) to understand and be understood so thoroughly, and it has taken some real getting used to.
I’m rambling again… it is somewhat pertinent, though. I’m allowed to try and fail here. That’s not something this world offers a lot of, once you’ve grown up.
Look at the music industry. One of my favorite bands in existence is Rush. They released their debut, self-titled album in 1974 (yes, I’m a huge fan of music from a time I have no business knowing much about; I’m a huge Beatles lover, too :p ) and “Working Man” caught a few ears when it got played on the radio (back when the radio was actually a platform for launching unknown but talented artists) so it got picked up by a label. The album barely sold.
The follow up, the magnificent Fly By Night (yes, I know that link is not the song Fly By Night, but instead one of my favorites off the album and one which I’ve played live many times) fared better, but not well enough for them to even live on. It was considered a thorough failure. This was the first album with Neil Peart on drums and lyrics.
Then they followed that up with “Caress of Steel” (linking two songs here as one will not do it justice, here’s this and this) which sunk like a rock that even other rocks did not like. The tour for this album was referred to by the band as the “Down the Tubes” tour. They did not expect to have another.
But, God love the 70s, they got another chance. They were asked to create something more radio friendly, like their Zepplin-esque first album. They said “fuck it” and recorded what they wanted… an album that opened with a 20.5 minute concept track. They pretty much knew they were only giving the finger to the universe and sabotaging themselves to stick to their vision and integrity.
2112… if you haven’t heard it, I urge to go, right now, and listen to this shit. My mind was blown when I first heard it, oh…. a decade and a half after it was released. It is so far ahead of it’s time (1976) that it’s mind-boggling. This is musical legend, and it worked! HUGE tour after tour followed. Bada bam bada bing, a few releases later, you get Moving Pictures. If you haven’t heard that (or at least Tom Sawyer, from it) and you are over the age of 30, you have been under a rock.
All because they got another chance.
These days if a band is lucky enough to get backed by a label, they have exactly one chance to chart well. No second chances. That’s some real modern world shit, right there. Like most things in life that you work hard for, when you get that shot, chances are, you’re not getting another if you flop.
Not so on Medium, though it does happens in small doses; someone reads one of your not-best pieces, thinks Ugh, not my style and doesn’t look back. The cool thing is, though, with the community and feeds and recommends, if that writer has good material, that reader is likely going to bump into it through recommends and after a few times of the reader seeing friends or writers they love recommend it, chances are curiosity will win out, and that’s the worse version of things. More often you keep writing, get better, and then after a while you realize people are actually reading your stuff. Second chance, third chance, fourth chance, and so on.
So, with inspiring examples in mind, and a reminder that even great writers misjudge sometimes, it’s time to say fuck it and blow the dust off of some drafts.
What have I got to lose?
Oh shut up.