I started this website about a year ago. By started, I mean I spent a really long time coming up with the right name- which finally I didn’t, a friend came up with the name- then I registered the domain, posted a couple of pictures and put up a short bio. Every day since, my to-do list has rudely stared at me with this entry:
- Write blog post
After suffering a year’s worth of anguished guilt, here is my first post. And what better topic to mark this watershed moment than ‘Why it took me a year to write my first post’. It’s almost poetic.
So here’s why:
- I kept looking back. I have mentioned elsewhere that I took leave of my corporate cubicle to go see Places. So funnily, after I decided to take the plunge, I didn’t. I kept standing at the edge of the diving board. For a long time. When you let go of the shore you’re setting yourself adrift in a vast, lonely ocean for an uncertain length of time till you (hopefully) find your island- and that’s just scary. Now a wise person once observed, “To be always doubting your ability to get what you long for, is like trying to reach East by travelling West.” It’s a simple thing. People should face the direction in which they wish to travel. But like all simple and wise things it’s easier said than done. Especially when you’re leaving behind your comfort zone, your security net, friends and family, your life so far- basically everything- back on that shore. You kind of get rooted to the spot, looking back wistfully. So yes, I made up my mind to do my thing. But my Made-Up-Mind was just one guy in the gang of Mighty Ego, Crippling Self Doubt, Lurking Fear and Social Survival Anxiety. He was easily outmatched. And it’s true that the nice guy wins in the end, but only after he’s been soundly beaten to pulp. Ouch.
- A website/ blog is a long haul project. You set up the base with no expectation of returns for the foreseeable future. It’s like carrying a baby- requires a high level of commitment and the stomach for delayed gratification (pun totally innocent), till the baby gets born eventually and hopefully it gets cute. And what if it turns out to be a brat? Ah.. bummer.. Better luck next time!
- You’re really putting yourself out there. And it’s terrifying.
- An unhealthy obsession with the ‘finished’ product; you typically have to suffer 20 or 50 or in extreme cases 100 shitty posts before you begin churning out stuff that doesn’t make you cringe. That’s unacceptable to my Mighty Ego. On a good day I have a hard time talking to my Mighty Ego, so no amount of coaxing or wheedling or emotional outbursts will make it relent and post something that’s not sparkling, glittering perfect. So my Mighty Ego and I, we sit together and brood; then we split hairs on whether that semi colon should actually be a dash.
- For as long as you hold out you are full of frothing, golden Brimming Potential. But the minute you decide to do something about your potential, you step over the threshold and spill into the Land of Alright-Now-Bring-Your-Brimming-Potential-To-An All Out Brim-Or-Forever-Be-Marked-As-Bah!-There-Was-Never-Actually-Any-Potential. You see why it’s so tempting to always be Brimming and not actually Brim?
- What’s a surefire way to completely expose yourself? Write a blog. A blog is a direct, express highway into the author’s thoughts, feelings, views, insecurities, mental processes, subconscious traits and overall personality. Want to strip naked? Why bother? Do this instead- there is nothing more revealing than writing a blog. Unlike magazines articles, here there is no brand to act as a helpful buffer. You can’t blame a shitty article on your editor’s brief. It’s all YOU. Plus, for any good blog to be successful it has to resonate with the readers, which can happen only when the writer is completely honest about what they write. It’s a very personal act to let strangers into your mind. You’re inviting them to potentially stomp on your pride and personal belongings and offer stinging feedback. In any universe that is a deeply uninviting prospect.
- Blogs need you to talk in your honest voice. You can’t carry a fake accent for too long. Plus, the frequency of blog posts simply doesn’t allow room for posturing of any kind. There is no time to polish your posts as much as you would like to. Your true writing sense, style, vocabulary, what you had for breakfast- everything shines through. For a perfectionist it’s agonising to put up anything they think is sub standard just because time is up. And it’s fresh agony every time you revisit it- like poking needles into your eyes, as someone nicely summed it up.
- Plus I have these two gigantic reasons that I can’t really talk about because of perfectly acceptable, normal human apprehensions of being judged. (I think I’m being marvelously brave just by admitting that in public. I need some time to wrap my head around those two gigantic secrets till I feel comfortable enough to talk about them. Mark me down for another year, give or take. QUICK UPDATE: It’s been some months since I wrote this and by now I have completely forgotten what in heaven’s name these two secrets were. And no, I’m not just saying that to avoid disclosing these ‘gigantic’ secrets; though I must say I’m quite impressed by my flair for drama.)
So there you go, a heady cocktail of punishing perfectionism and crippling self-doubt. No wonder my Made Up Mind panicked, spluttered, then completely shut down. For about a year.
So what changed?
- Well, the more you write the better you get- they say. The more you write the more confident you get- I say. You don’t necessarily get better, but you get wiser. You look up and see there is no end to making something perfect. It’s like the cheese that’s always going to get moved. Even before you ace one level of writing, you’ve already set your sights on the next. Which is true for any creative field- there is scope for endless growth. Which is the privilege and also the cross to be borne by all creative professionals. In time you realize you have to only set your sights on the level you are on. Stop chasing the perfect stroke and just keep hitting the ball, as the good Mr. Agassi says.
- Will I run out of ideas? Will I suddenly one fine, sunny day draw a blank? Will I be reduced to churning out strangled posts on ‘The 10 Best ways to Butcher the Literary Ideal’? I don’t know, but what I have come to learn is that creativity begets creativity. The funny thing is I didn’t know that before. I learnt that from a year of frantically jotting down ideas for blog posts till slowly ideas started blossoming all around me, everywhere I looked. I’m not terrified of running out of interesting things to say now. (It also helps to know that the Internet is riddled with such shocking quantities of crap, that if you write something halfway decent, you’re already on your way to an Internet Pulitzer nomination).
- Plus, I was bored-stiff-to-the-point-that-you-get-finally-off-your-ass-to-change-the-channel. All that waiting and be-lating just got to me and believe me, that’s a great place to be in. It makes you accomplish tasks that were earlier just part of your wet dreams. Like putting up this post.
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