It's been five months since I launched this blog. I've written 14 articles, generated a whopping £2.68 in Amazon referral fees, and built a staggering 19-strong subscriber list.
But I wasn't an overnight success. It's taken me a long time to get to the point of publishing these posts. For years, I amassed notes and shared nothing. I was held back by a multitude of fears that pin most people down when they consider sharing their creative work.
Writing alone is tough. Kurt Vonnegut summarised it quite well:
“When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”
Going on to share your writings piles on a whole other layer of vulnerability, self-doubt and fear of rejection.
But as with most things, getting out there and doing it anyway dispels most of the doubts. Here are the top fears I had going in, and how things have actually turned out:
(At the end of this post I'll offer some advice on proving all the fears wrong)
1) No one cares
Honestly, everyone seems to care.
I’ve had nothing but encouragement since I started. Friends want to chat about things I’ve ranted about, old acquaintances have reconnected, family are keen to know more, and on the whole, I feel like I am more authentically connected with all kinds of people.
It's a talking point wherever I go and—as a small-talk averse introvert—this makes me very happy.
2) You’ll run out of stuff to write about
The precise opposite is true: each time I write one article, ideas for another three are born.
Sometimes it’s difficult to finish a piece as several others begin carving themselves out from my tired mind.
Each time I write a summary of a subject, I want to write smaller posts delving into the specifics. Each time I write about something specific, I want to link it to the other topics I've written about.
Creativity multiplies. Publishing begets more publishing.
3) People might not like this post
This one is true. You can’t tell what’s going to go down well and what sinks until you share it. But that's by design: this is the social experiment that all writing must go through and a valuable learning experience.
I am continually surprised by what gets people excited: who shares, who pipes up to comment, who private messages me. It’s never who I guess. I often have a friend or peer in mind when I’m writing, and it’s invariably someone else who engages.
Articles I build up as masterpieces in my head release to resounding silences, whereas the more spontaneous scrap heaps get all the attention. It's an ongoing experiment, and it never fails to surprise me.
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide whether it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they’re deciding, make even more art.”
—Andy Warhol (via Austin Kleon)
Publishing is wildly unpredictable, and that’s what makes it fun. All you can do is put it out there, and then sit back and watch.
On that note, I just enabled comments at the bottom of each post on this blog 👇 Come say hi! (This will either become another cherished source of interaction, or a decision I deeply regret in a few short days. Play nice, Internet.)
4) Writing will become a burden
Sometimes I don’t want to write and rarely is it effortless. As any writer will know, what reads as a short concise article often requires a ridiculously disproportionate amount of editing behind the scenes.
I thought the burden of writing would grow, but as I write I understand better what I’m trying to convey, and I feel it unfolding more fluidly. Even the mediocre content lubricates the way for the gold to flow forth.
Each article is part of a bigger process that is unknowable, but simple to engage in: just keep writing. It is a participation in the unknown.
I often feel some compulsion to write about a topic, but it takes a few hundred confused words before the actual point I was unconsciously reaching for suddenly reveals itself in glorious clarity. I didn't know I would end up there: writing isn't just reflection, it is thinking itself. I write to think well.
5) It's too personal
Writing stops me hoarding ideas. My Evernote has thousands of notes, quotes and contemplations. For some reason, they weigh heavy there until I do something with them.
When I sift through these notes, I’m forced to ask the question: who am I saving them for? What do you mean to me? Is there any benefit to you sitting in the darkness, rather than living online?
Sometimes they need to just go in the bin.
I occasionally still start my day with 750 words. This is a habit I adopted to ramp me up to launching the blog. Quite a few of my first 750 word experiments became blog posts, but many more are just emotional downloads. The trick is just to write what you're thinking without any editing or structure.
That might be what you've done today, how you're feeling, how you dealt with a situation, what you're looking forward to, what you ate for breakfast. Writing down what you’re feeling is remarkably therapeutic.
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”
—Julia Cameron (via Tim Ferriss)
Writing down those vague fears and preoccupations gives you distance and perspective. Breathing space. Give it go next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed—it's backed by research.
I don't share these personal downloads, but they really do help in clearing my mind, staying sane, and learning to distinguish writing from editing.
6) I have to maintain my writing voice
When I started sharing my writing I was overly worried about creating a consistent voice and making sure each paragraph abided by the same style and principles.
Writing on a public blog is a perfectionist's nightmare. Endless possibilities, and the eyes of the entire Internet there to judge each sentence.
I worried that every line I wrote would have to be moulded to fit this "voice." It sounded like an incredible amount of work, even for short posts.
But when I started just writing, I grew in confidence that the voice is already there. Many of my best pieces have come about when my own unedited voice has come through. When I've given up on some tortured paragraph and just said it like I saw it.
There are definitely ways of refining your voice and improving the craft of writing great sentences, but fundamentally your "voice" is a channelling of the passions and feelings that are already alive in you. That's a relief.
The fears don't hold up. They're the same voices that pop up any time you put yourself out there and do something worthwhile.
If I could sum up what do instead:
Dedicate to the process instead of obsessing over the finished product. In terms of getting going, the act of regularly writing is far more important than the particular results of the writing.
Write and share a little every day, and the good stuff will emerge, in spite of you. Don't worry about composing your magnum opus, just let your voice out in stutters and squeaks, and eventually, it will grow into a refined roar.