Exactly one year ago, I made the decision to establish this blog and start writing on a consistent basis. Since then, I’ve written 83 posts on topics ranging from the Seattle Mariners to Les Misérables. I know I’m not an expert on blogging after a single year but as I reflect on these first steps into a larger world, there are three things that come to mind. I’ll call them lessons but they’re more like thoughts about writing and blogging that were shaped into a coherent list.
1. Writing is hard work. I should have known this already. Maybe I already did and was just reminded over and over again this year. I tried building time to write into my schedule, devoting time every week to putting words to paper (or words to keyboard?). Then I learned that it’s really hard to force yourself to write when there are no creative juices flowing. One of the things someone told me before I started this blog was to have a bunch of ideas ready to go for when the going gets tough. Well, now I’ve got 15-20 half-started ideas that need a bit of love and no love to finish them.
I think the lesson here is, when I don’t feel like writing, write anyway. When I’m writing something that I think is terrible, write anyway. If the hardest part of content creation is actually creating content, then getting words on the page—no matter how bad they may seem—is the first step towards finishing something. I’m always free to come back to something to edit it into something better or, heaven forbid, just trash it. Even if I end up trashing it, simply the process of writing it makes it worth the effort.
2. Writing is therapeutic. I’m not an overtly emotional person. I tend to keep my emotions below the surface most of the time and talk about them only when pushed or prodded, usually by my wife, Megan. Writing has been a venue for me to express some of these emotions and thoughts in a productive and meaningful way. I’ve tried journaling in the past but was overwhelmed by the expectation to write something every single day. This blog has been an excellent alternative to a daily journal. I’ve been able to process though some deep emotions here, a process that might have otherwise taken much longer to go through.
That’s not to say that everything has been an emotional paradise over here since starting to write consistently. Writing is an inherently vulnerable act, especially when it’s associated with a public forum like this blog. There have been moments where I’ve been too vulnerable here, expressing something that I hadn’t even talked to Megan about. That’s dangerous. Yes, writing has been therapeutic. No, writing shouldn’t take the place of the relationships I surround myself with.
3. Writing for an audience is dangerous. There was a point during this last year where I was more concerned with the amount of page views I was receiving than the actual content I was creating. My goal had shifted from writing for myself to writing for an audience. At that point, my pride took over and I was now trying to perform to a certain standard. I thought that if I was writing things that were cool enough, controversial enough, or deep enough, that I would somehow become more popular and gain a wider audience.
Man, that was a mistake. If I had continued down that road, it could have developed into full-blown sin. I had to take a break from writing and reevaluate why I was doing the things I was doing. I started this blog as a way of chronicling the ways that I have been written into a story. That’s still the goal. But I think the way I phrased that is deeply important. I’m not the one who is writing my story. My story has already been written. It’s the story of a broken man who was given a gift and now he’s working to let everyone else around him know about that gift. I’m just a supporting character in the story and when I tried to make myself the main character, everything fell apart.
So, here’s to another year of writing. Hopefully, I’ll take these three lessons to heart and become a better writer. I’ll probably still struggle with all of them. But I will struggle knowing that I’m not the main character in my story, knowing that I can make mistakes and it will be okay. The Knowledge: Boats Overture has ended. Now begins the first movement.