Much of December, I thought. Thought about writing. Thought about what I want to write, why I am writing, etc. I wrote little during this process, yet the exercise was largely necessary. In a way, a break was needed; time to reflect was needed.
Part of the issue was my site and writing essays (or rather blog posts). Did I want to even write on my site? What did I want to write about?
Of course, the decision to never go back to the post-something-every-day stood firm. Fun as it may seem, the effort to get that done gets rapidly overwhelming. Quality isn’t as important there, but there is also that. Time is a bigger factor. Either way, I needed to think of something to write about on my site — to decide on what I want the site to be for me. There’re things I am somewhat passionate about: religion, politics, writing, story-telling… and then there’re things I actually know about with conviction… Nothing. There’s a belief there that in writing about anything, one must have experience or knowledge centered neatly within the topic in question. Much like the idea of sensitivity readers of traditional publishing and the declarations demanding that only those with particular life experiences write about those experiences, it is reasonable to ask for some knowledge or experience.
Realistically, that should matter very little here. Writing is a lot of different things to different people. To me, it is part story-telling, part seeking truth, part thought. If I view it that way, knowing a lot about a topic doesn’t matter as much. Writing is an act of following a path towards a destination. Were I trying to write something more informative, such as how to manufacture polyurethane foam, it may behoove me to be a subject-matter-expert (which I am in that particular field). Thinking through a topic though, debating it out in a way where one is trying to seek out the best answer — it might pay better to be less sure of one’s knowledge, to remain open and curious regardless of how certain one is with their knowledge.
More important is respecting the topic. Respect and compassion towards a topic being written about is far more important — in my opinion — than knowledge on that said topic. Much like writing a character whose characteristics or life experiences differ wildly from one’s own, it is imperative to write that character with respect — maybe even a bit of reverence.
Even so, thinking out loud about a topic that bears with it a lack of knowledge is intimidating. Scary even. Boundaries lurk in areas that could be unexpectedly tread upon. A false step (particularly in today’s hyper-connected, sensitively-tuned society) can result in a great deal of harm. If the prospect of wandering around a topic with little knowledge to uncover truths about it isn’t intimidating, then certainly the idea of accidentally stepping upon a metaphorical land-mine is. Traipsing upon a land-mine can hardly seem like a respectful act. Realistically, however, it’s more like blindly running around in a field while swinging a baseball bat. Occasionally, the swing happens to land on the back of someone’s head. It’s hard for them to see that the impact was unintentional — one’s way of feeling out the boundaries.
It’s risky to run around in an area without any knowledge of it. Yet, without wandering into unknown territory, how are things discovered? And it is true that all kinds of people have wildly different ideas of where boundaries are for varied topics.
Risk has always been a struggle with me. Describe me as risk averse. In many things in life, I choose to take a known, safe path, if I take a path at all. There might have been a few times I ventured out into the path of the unknown, but I quickly retreated. Risk aversion is why it’s taken more than four years to publish a book. Sure, much of it stems from that pesky impostor syndrome, fear that I’ll be found out as a fraud — even though we are all frauds in many ways. Perfection is pyrite; when one believes that they’ve achieved it in some way, it reveals itself to be nothing of value. Perfection isn’t really a goal however, it’s an excuse.
Perfection is an excuse for avoidance. It is far better to claim the pursuit of perfection rather than take action. It’s a weapon used by fear. And because perfection is tied so tightly to the idea of quality, worrying excessively about quality then too becomes more of an excuse. That’s not to say that trying to produce quality work isn’t worthwhile. Like all else, it’s a balancing act. More important than that is action.
Taking action is what is needed to move things. Writing doesn’t happen through worrying about perfection — or how much imagined risk is hidden within the series of words on a page. Writing is moved forward through active writing. To take that one step forward though, growing as a writer and becoming one who might be able to claim financial success through writing, action is necessary. Only through actively publishing work — as in publishing books, actively marketing, publishing articles through my site or some other means — can there even be hope of success as a writer.
But while this is and was known, fear comes in and figures out each of the crafty arguments necessary to negate that knowledge. Still, I’ve grown tired of it — of my own relenting submission to it. Because I am always hiding from anything that might be seen as risky, the real problem rose in that I find myself unsatisfied with much of what I write. It’s toothless, neutered… uninteresting. Safe, sure, but safe is boring. Submitting to fear is boring and getting me nowhere.
Where to go from this realization is the tricky part. Though I essentially woke to this stunning understanding, it’s not like the path is suddenly crystal clear in front of me and that I am bouncing with energy ready to rush down it toward that metaphorical destination of writing success. It’s not like suddenly my writing will become thoughtful, edgy… interesting at the first step. This is going to take some real effort. And with that effort, the fight against my fear of risk is just beginning.