What do I write about today?
Finding an answer to my demons
It always lingers in the back of my head, haunting me as I go through conversations, meals, even sleep: “What do I write about today?” I dream about my audience turning into mobs, coming after me, yelling “WHY DIDN’T YOU PUBLISH ANYTHING?”
This irrational fear constantly haunts me. I’m afraid that I won’t write anything. Yet at the same time, this fear doesn’t help me write anything because I’m unable to find something to write about.
Everything just seems mundane. Repetitive. It’s a burden to come up with a “good idea” because everything seems so far from the truth. I’m trying to write a manifesto like George Orwell, poetry like Rudy Francisco, stories like J.K. Rowling. But I can never reach it.
That dream that I first started out with; being the biggest writer on Medium, getting the most claps, writing better prose than Orwell, has faded. The excitement that I once had disappeared.
Instead, I’m left with mediocre ideas, writing mediocre prose, and having mediocre insights. Unsurprisingly, this leads to a mediocre article. If I’m lucky, I might find a small publication hoping to grow who’ll take my article, but most of the time, it’s rejected; “Sorry Nathan, this isn’t what we’re looking for.” I know what that means. It almost never means you have a bad topic, unless you’re writing an angry letter to your ex in a self-help publication. It really means, this article doesn’t meet our standards. And I continue to face more and more rejection. So, my frustration only grows, and I’m forced to reflect on the dreams I used to have.
“Was I naive?” “Inexperienced?” “Idealistic?” I know the answer is yes, yes, and 100% yes, but there still seems like there’s something missing. I look back at the prompts I’ve collected, hoping to find inspiration. Some of them are extremely helpful, like “write about what you’re embarrassed or uncomfortable about and how you’re trying to deal with it.” (That one is from Tim Ferriss, because of course it is). But some, just don’t help, “write about what you know.” (Every writer on the planet has said this at least once). I wasn’t going to talk about my obsession with Hugh Jackman or Tom Hiddleston, though they were and are very interesting.
What do I do?
Then, a thought occurs. It seems stupid, but I let it form. It continues to form, editing parts of itself until finally it prompts me: “If today was my last day on earth, what would I want to write about?”
It initially seems repetitive. Every day, to ask myself that question. It feels like I’d just write the same thing every day. But I figure it’s worth a shot, and I start typing.
At first, the words don’t flow. The ideas are too messy, and the story isn’t that visible. But in it, I also see truth for the first time. I see authenticity. While I see mediocrity, I also see hope. So, I continue to write, hoping. Hoping something good comes out of it.
When I finish, I reread everything. I’m silent, observing each little detail. When I reach the bottom, I think about it for a second and realize, “that was some of my most inspired writing ever. Definitely not my most inspired grammar, but most inspired writing.”
The hope’s real. So, I edit the article, polishing it around the edges, keeping it raw where needed. When I think it’s done, I go back to the title and ponder it for a second. I needed to show its relatability, but also make it personal. So, I title it, “What do I write about today?”
It’s not perfect, but it’s my truth. I add a subtitle and then hit ‘add to publication.” The platform does it’s fancy little processing and it’s submitted for reviewing.
I smile. It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my heart. “I could do this again,” I think to myself. “Maybe even the day after that. For a long time really.” I could. Every day, just writing my manifesto. Then, editing it to the brim until the clock hits 7:30 for me. Then, I’ll add it to a publication and hit the sack. Repeat it again the next day.
There’s hope this time. For the first time, it feels like I’m writing what I want to. Like I’m starting to fulfill that dream I had when I first started writing, but in a practical way.