Does my voice matter in a cacophony of voices?
For the last couple of years, I’ve been struggling with my creative output. I call myself a writer, but I have not written much lately. Point of fact, I’ve never really struggled with doing the writing so much as with the need to publish. That goes for social media as well.
For a long, long time I had a blog. I wrote pretty consistently on it about whatever was important to me at the time. Movie and music reviews, productivity tricks, relationship and family stuff, politics, sports, and probably far too much personal stuff all were ripe for the wordsmithing. I didn’t have much of a filter and some of those old posts are cringe-worthy. For a couple of years, I explored having a Tumblr and posted nothing but images and videos. Inspired by Dave Pell, I had a newsletter and commented weekly on the news that was important to me. At some point, I’ve just kinda stopped all of it―blog posts, newsletter, everything. Put it in a drawer and hid it all away. Mostly because I thought my shouting into the void was really sound and fury signifying nothing (Apologies to Bill Shakespeare).
The writers I look up to write and post a variety of things. Wil Wheaton writes essays and fiction. He has talked intimately about many of his personal demons. Early on, I aspired to be like that and tell my unique stories albeit without much in the way of demons. Roger Ebert’s blog was also an inspiration with his amazing collection of thoughts and feelings, especially post-surgery when his actual voice was unfortunately taken away. I discovered other writers and their blogs from Austin Kleon to CJ Chilvers to John Gruber. I’d go down long rabbit holes of posts from Patrick Rhone, Michael Lopp, Leo Babauta, Jason Kottke, Seth Godin, Matt Gemmell, Nicholas Bate, Michael Wade and Warren Ellis. A friend turned me on to Mark Manson. The curators at Medium showed me M.G. Siegler.
Lately, I’ve been inspired by Will Leitch. Here’s a guy who has a ton of irons in the fire. The guy puts out so much content he has to have a newsletter/tumblr page to let everyone know what he’s done each week. Plus, he has a family and a personal life where he can do things like throw his wife a birthday party and attend his high school class reunion. (On a side note, he graduated from the same high school as my daughter.)
He’s this amazing writer/editor-at-large. In one week he wrote pieces for New York Magazine, MLB.com, and SYFY Wire. That is a trio of diametrically different publications. You don’t have to look too hard and you’ll see a piece in the New York Times and then a movie thing on Vulture or a review on Paste. Then each week I’ll get his newsletter that is just like a blog post about something personal with links to all the content he’s made in the last seven days. It’s amazing.
All of these writers/bloggers/essayists challenged me in different ways. They made me want to be a better writer, find a focus, and even take better pictures. They inspired me to collect some of my assorted scribblings and turn it into a book; a project I may even finish one day.
However, I’ve been taking the easy way out and not writing much with the emergence of social media. I keep saying I wanted to write more, but my output has been light or non-existent. I kept thinking nobody really cared about what I wrote. I never felt the need to publish.
Back in June, writer Hugh C. Howey mentioned on Twitter how he’d been writing posts and only saving them to draft.
Writing for a blog is weird. It’s been really difficult for me to decide what to write about, so difficult in fact that it’s led to me not posting as much as I want to because I just have no idea what to write about. Everything I’ve posted has been surface level; the reviews, my photos. Those are things that I can just show you and be on my way. I don’t have to say much about them, you form thoughts about them on your own. So the idea of writing something that is purely my own thoughts on something for you to read is really odd to me.
If I share a recipe and my thoughts on it are, “It’s a good recipe that I recommend!” that is completely different from “Here’s all my thoughts on how the government makes people in poverty obese by only allowing them to buy junk food with their food stamps”. Everything I put on here is lighthearted, and it’s very hard for me to not be lighthearted when addressing a lot of people.
I keep wanting to post things that are more serious, like topics I care about and want to bring attention to, but I don’t want everything I post to be a rant, and I’m afraid that’s what it would turn into. I’m afraid it would just sound like I’m constantly complaining about things. And what if I complain about the wrong thing? Like if I say something about how the women’s clothing industry needs some changes, what if someone says I should be talking about bigger issues like the ICE and deportation?
And maybe I should be talking about bigger issues rather than posting songs I like or a photo I thought was nice. Isn’t that what someone who cares about these issues would do?
I’m stuck between wanting to share my thoughts and the thought of “who cares?” How many opinion pieces are already out there that sound exactly like mine? Why write it when hundreds of other people have already said the exact same thing? I want to be more than surface level, I want to be deep, but I’m afraid of being personal.
On the flip side, we have Seth Godin via CJ Chilvers talking about the importance of blogging daily.
I’m encouraging each one of you to have (a blog). Not to have a blog to make money, because you probably won’t. Not to have a blog, because you’ll have millions and millions of readers, because you probably won’t. But to have a blog because of the discipline it gives you, to know that you’re going to write something tomorrow. Something that might not be read by many people — it doesn’t matter — it will be read by you. If you can build that up, you will begin to think more clearly. You will make predictions. You will make assertions. You will make connections. And there they will be, in type, for you to look at a month or a year later. This practice of sharing your ideas to people who will then choose or not choose to share them helps us get out of our own head, because it’s no longer the narrative inside. It’s the narrative outside, the narrative that you’ve typed up, that you’ve cared enough to share.
Austin Kleon decided to blog daily starting last October and he thinks it’s done wonders for him in terms of strengthening his writing muscles and finding good content for his weekly newsletter.
Others maintain amazing content on their websites and update on the regular. That used to be me too, but now I just don’t know if it’s worth it.
I’ve already basically stopped visiting Facebook. I’m not sure Instagram was ever for me because I never really took a lot of pictures or videos. Twitter works for me, but that’s because I’ve carefully curated my feed to not see the garbage every time I take a look at Tweetbot. Plus, I don’t seek it out either.
Seduced by the beautiful simplicity of Medium, I created a publication there and transferred hundreds of posts (the less cringe-y ones at least). I finished the project and then felt empty, like I had given part of myself away. So, I made most of them unlisted and thought some more about what I wanted to do.
Back to the starting line.
I’ve been questioning everything.
Right now I have one of the best essays I’ve ever written sitting on Medium. Shouldn’t I be wanting to “own my space?” What about that old newsletter?
What if I removed myself from social media, more or less, and concentrated all my efforts on writing consistently on my blog? And then taking that content and turning it into a more personal weekly newsletter that’s partly links to what I’ve written and maybe a bit more?
I kind of want to have a massive archive of everything I’ve ever put together in one giant Wordpress site, but then what? Plus, who cares?
What if I shuttered the blog (again) and just linked out to the Medium pieces I really like? Maybe I’d write something again there or maybe not. Do I need the discipline of writing everyday? Is there a way to do something unique?
What are the goals here? What am I trying to accomplish?
Can I be better than what I’ve done in the past?
So, after careful deliberation I’ve decided to do something unique and interesting (at least to me).
I’ve re-branded seanmcdevitt.com to be a wheel. My homepage is a hub and my various sub sites are spokes.
The goal is to concentrate on creating content representative of me and my thoughts and feelings. Writing to clear my head and help me think clearly. That sounds like an easy task. It really isn’t. I want to write about big and small things. Personal and impersonal. Local and national. Can I write about pop culture and politics? Are they one and the same?
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
— Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I contain multitudes. I’m not a one-trick pony. Besides, I don’t want to just write about my love for Star Wars movies or Apple products.
Consequently, the posts from my old blog(s) are now on Medium under the Sean McDevitt | Writer publication. It’s a great collection to see snapshots of where my mind was at during those times. The import is chronologically accurate meaning thoughts I had in 2011 are from 2011 and so on. I’m not re-purposing ideas here. These are the actual writings from the time marked.
My goal is to write something everyday. That is an incredible tall order, but it is the only way to be better and keep myself engaged. It is a self-imposed deadline, but if I don’t do it I won’t ever write. I’m like Ian Fleming writing a James Bond book… lock me in the room until I finish or otherwise it will never be finished.
This one notwithstanding, I’ve made the Medium posts Members-Only. I’ve written for free for far too long. I’d like to get paid for the work and I hope you like it enough that you’ll clap and comment on all the stories even if it’s only the latest that brought you here.
My Blog links to the Medium posts and other writing that I’ve done such as the stories I’ve written for fightingillini.com since the beginning of 2018. If I write for a different publication or online outlet I’ll link to it there too. Also, I’ve repopulated the Blog back-end with a few personal photos and videos from that time just for fun.
Lastly, I’m considering a newsletter again. One that concentrates on pointing you to my projects, my writing, and few things that seem interesting to me. I’m unsure though, I’d love some feedback.
So, here I go. Time to get better.