120 Days of Blogging
14 posts, which is about 3.5 a month… almost once a week.
14 posts, which is about 3.5 a month… almost once a week. About 83,500 reads, and 157,000 views, which I guess is about 73,500 who showed up and were like “no, no, no” and left.
But HERE I AM WRITING AGAIN. Five months ago I wasn’t sure that I would ever start again. SO MUCH INERTIA. Here is what has helped me start writing and publishing again.
Writing has changed and you have changed too and it’s okay.
When I was but a child, if you wanted to write, you worried more about “getting published” than “self-publishing.” This was a better and a worse world. I had a thing or two published, but the only way to find them is in boxes. That way is certainly dead or at least much reborn.
Originally I would get completely faded on Cali bud some poor juvenile delinquent had hauled back to the Midwest, listen to anything by James Maynard Keenan or Trent Reznor, get high on the despair and possibility of one’s late teens, and write poetry for hours in between college classes. A bit later in life I abandoned this strategy in favor of a Moleskine and a new-age diet and exercise ritual that left me a little too close to God for comfort. But now I have no process left. I’m trying to find one, but I’m not there yet.
So I default to whatever it takes to write. What it takes might be a bottle of wine in the mid-afternoon on a day off, or a few hours alone and sober very late at night, or 30 minutes in the morning before work. Nick Cave, or a good movie, or a good cry. Whatever it takes to get there.
Connect with the urgency in your life.
From the perspective of pursuing writing as a hobby, a life-long passion, a source of peace and meaning and joy in my life, I have wasted the past five years doing almost no writing and instead dedicating myself exclusively to startup jobs that just weren’t worth giving up nearly so much for. I started writing again not from confidence, or inspiration, or even having something to say, but more out of a horrible fear that five years would turn to ten would turn to an early grave and a lasting regret.
I do not feel any pressure to be good at writing. When I do, I resist it. That is for another time, when I’m not four months back into something I abandoned for more years. Should tragedy not befall me, there are decades left in my life . In ten years, or ten more after that, if I have kept it up and tried very hard, I think I will be a good writer. But in the meantime, the journey.
Don’t just write what you think people will read.
Which means that while publishing has been important to me for momentum and growth, not everything I write or publish has to be something that will be interesting to a lot of people. I’ve published personal essays, thoughts on being a vegetarian, movie reviews, rants, cultural analysis. Not all the ones that I enjoyed writing the most were the most widely read, which is fine. Fuck it. We have many goals when we write — reducing that to readership as the ultimate outcome seems shallow and shortsighted. It can certainly be one goal, and I am incredibly and especially grateful and thankful for the readership I’ve had of my posts on company culture, team dysfunction, feminism and equality. Still, that’s not the only reward or the only meaning.
But it can help to find a theme that is unique or interesting to you and your readers.
My major theme has been applying cultural studies, semiotics and feminism to the experiences of workers in the tech industry. Applying these perspectives to talk about dysfunction, team dynamics and inequity in the workplace with honesty and critical consciousness is something that resonates deeply on a personal level and seems to also resonate with many of my friends, colleagues and readers. Having this theme — something that I’m passionate about and can write a lot about — has helped me to keep up my writing. For others, their theme may be a style, an approach, a subject matter… whatever. You don’t have to do it forever, but it can get you through the rough times and inspire you to be more prolific.
Take all the joys and fears of publishing with levity and grace, if you can. It helps.
Publishing — if that is a component of your writing — is very weird and nerve-wracking and hard. For one, there is the awful embarrassment. I can’t re-read most of my stuff even a few weeks after publishing because it makes me blush and want to crawl into a hole and hide from the internet and people forever. There’s the anxiety about what people will say, what people you work with will say, what your parents will say, what your friends will say. Or worse, that everyone will silently think you suck. And of course, there is the ugly and scary part of publishing, which sometimes looks like horrifying threats, hate mail, obscenities, sexist comments about how you look.
Once, I got a series of emails so frightening I could barely leave my apartment for a week, and I wouldn’t walk alone for a month. Sometimes that still keeps me awake at night. And of course, if you’re a woman writing critically in a male-dominated industry, or any marginalized person writing in any industry or any community whatsoever, there are professional and personal ramifications to consider and even fear.
There, of course, can be highs. Thousands of people reading your work. People may send you messages to thank you for writing. People may ask to republish your work or to see you speak.
But if you can — if your circumstances, whatever that may mean to you, allows — then it can help to take it all with some levity and grace. I try to laugh at myself and the people who say mean things. I look after my personal security in ways that make me feel more comfortable. I am flattered, but not proud, when someone praises me highly. I forgive myself the bad sentences and the unconvincing arguments and the spelling and grammar problems. I try to just to do some writing every day and a post or so a week, because that’s what matters to me now.