In September I left my day job to write full-time. But as of last week, I'd been out of that job for two weeks, and had yet to write an-eee-thing.
In my defense, I was doing foundational, getting-set-up things, like creating this new website, and migrating my newsletter, which I'd been sending out directly from my email for the past nine years, over to TinyLetter. Well, first I was resting because I was pretty burnt-out from working full-time while writing and teaching on the side for the past several years, and then I was doing those foundational things. And I was deliberately being gentle and easing up on my expectations of myself, because I knew that it would take some time to switch gears and get going with my freelancing.
But something else was happening, too.
I hadn't published anything online in a while because I've been focusing on writing a book. And although writing a book is completely terrifying, it's delayed terrifying. It's such a long process that no one is going to see a word I write for years. So I can be fearless in those pages with the assurance that I won't have to deal with the emotions and terror that that brings up for a very long time.
But publishing essays and blog posts online is instantaneous, and there's no way to put off the vast assortment of fears that that brings up.
I write about extremely personal things. Google me and you'll see that one of the first results is a piece I wrote a few years ago about having an affair with a married man. Then there was that time I wrote about being so drunk the first time I had sex that I wasn't sure if I'd lost my virginity. Not to mention all the writing I've done about having depression and anxiety.
Working at a full-time job, combined with being away from publishing regularly, has made me feel a bit shy with my voice, and a little scared to totally put myself out there like I've done in the past. Plus, since I haven't been writing for websites or even on my own blog in a while, I need to find what's important for me to say now, and what my voice sounds like today, and not try to replicate my style from a couple years back.
Also, the longer I go without writing, the harder it feels like it will be to start again. When I first began blogging in 2006, it was no big deal. First of all, hardly anyone was reading what I wrote. And while I don't have a massive following now, I have gotten a taste of what larger exposure brings -- namely, in addition to fans and supporters, vitriolic Internet trolls and haters who take aim at any vulnerabilities I reveal in my writing.
The other thing that gave me freedom in my early blogging days was that I was so excited to just have a place to write about those scraps of ideas I jotted down in the back of my notebook or scrawled on Post-Its, and not lose them to a forgotten corner in the back of a dark closet piled high with with old journals anymore. I didn't feel like I had to have a developed story that was important and significant, or even a fully formed idea. I could just write about whatever partially developed topics came to me when they came to me, and then move on to the next, possibly equally partially developed one. No big deal.
But when I don't blog on a regular basis, I find myself thinking that I need to come up with some Big Idea to write a post, and when I do, worrying that I'll "waste" it on my blog when I should be saving it for an article to pitch.
Anyway, there I was last Thursday, two weeks out of my job and sensing that writing a highly personal piece to pitch, or even a minimally to moderately personal blog post, was turning into this Really Big Deal, as is wont to happen.
And the only way to put an end to that spell is to sit down and WRITE. Break the seal. Rip off the bandaid. Get that first-piece-in-a-very-long-time OUT OF THE WAY.
So I designated that day to work on writing my first blog post here on my new website. The last time I wrote a blog post was a year and a half ago! And I felt like, starting a brand new blog, I had to make my first post important; I had to say something significant.
But you know what the only thing that's actually important is? To just write the damn thing!
I took my laptop to my favorite coffee shop and ordered a large iced coffee and sat down and wrote. And there it was -- like it never left -- my voice, which I wouldn't ever be able to find by just thinking about; I had to use it to hear it again.
That rainy afternoon, the words came easier and more enjoyably than I'd imagined they would, which is generally the case. And since I broke my writing seal, more words and ideas and thoughts have continued to flow this week, in varying degrees of formed-ness.
To majorly mix some metaphors here, I'd say that if I'm going to be the writer I want to be, I have to keep the wheels greased and just keep moving forward, so ideas don't get stuck and congeal, so I don't give my fearful inner voice time to pipe in and comment on why this idea isn't good or Big enough, and all the myriad reasons I should be afraid to write. I have to sit down at my computer with a giant iced coffee often, and get my ideas out before I have a chance to judge them and doubt myself.
To find my own voice, no matter how quiet it is that day or how shy I feel about it in that moment, all I have to do is write. Like it's No Big Freakin' Deal.