I’ve hated my writing for a while.
Well. Not the writing itself, but where it was coming from, I guess.
I spent a lot of time – months? years? – trying to fit a me that was changing and evolving into template I’d created for her a while ago, but that didn’t really work anymore.
I’m a competent marketing writer person. That’s what I do for a living, and I’m not terrible at writing about it and exploring interesting topics within it and sharing a bit of what I know once in a while. People read it, for a while it was wildly popular, even.
But over time it was sucking the soul from me, and I think after a while, that showed in my words. I don’t know if you guys could tell or not, but I certainly could. It’s like a knife that starts out impossibly sharp, and then after some use and neglect, you can’t tell unless you look pretty closely but the edge becomes jagged and blunt and not so useful anymore.
What was so broken?
I spent a lot of time wondering what the hell was amiss. I tried and tried to re-find my spark, I rejigged everything from the design of my site to the “platform” I was writing about. I spent fair bits of money with consultants and in workshops and whatnot trying to find the missing pieces.
I’d get energized for a day or two…then gone. Again. I couldn’t find it in me to send yet another “super valuable email” or write an ebook I didn’t care about or pretend that I was motivated by the book publisher that told me my email list wasn’t big enough for them to give me a contract (even though I was already a proven author with a book that is still making money after six years). Sigh.
So I set it down. And I walked away. And I gave myself permission to stop writing entirely for a while. Maybe I’d figure out what went wrong, maybe I wouldn’t, but I was done losing sleep over the fact that I’d been seen and now I was invisible. I was tired of caring that I wasn’t an “influencer” anymore, because deep down, I didn’t care. I just thought I was supposed to.
Then last week, I realized what I was missing. It was so clear, simple and obvious if it was a snake, it would have bit me.
Some people probably write because it’s a means to an end for them. It’s a business move to build their list or create a platform or land a job or a book deal or a spot on a list somewhere.
I suppose there was a time when that was part of it for me, but my success in that realm was more the result of good timing and a bit of luck than it was any deliberate plan on my part (I know, sorry “growth hackers”).
When it worked, it worked for one reason. People kept saying it to me, but I wasn’t really hearing them.
It’s when I dropped the bullshit, quit writing for “the community”, and wrote what I felt, what I thought, and stripped the varnish from all of it. That’s what works for me. Unvarnished writing. It’s the only thing I’m really and truly good at.
For me, that means writing with emotion and emotional intelligence. Acknowledging that the world and our minds and hearts are fucking messy sometimes.
Knowing that success is not just a series of “hustle and grind” decisions, but about finding a spot in the world you actually like living and working in, regardless of what someone else thinks about it. And acknowledging that no, working your ass off is not the magic bullet. Because the deck is stacked, opportunities are not equal, humans are not all wired to grind themselves into bone dust for the sake of a paycheck, and there are humans underneath those professions who give a shit about things other than “greatness”.
Talking about the shit that most people sweep into corners because they’re afraid or ashamed or uncomfortable. Mental health, including (gasp) AT WORK. Being parents while you try to make a living. Feeling the sting of things like misogyny or racism or bias or hate or prejudice or rape culture and trying to reconcile those things with living a normal, everyday life. Why we’re always afraid we aren’t enough, why we feel like someone is going to find out anytime that we don’t know what we’re doing, why every. single. one. of. us. has deep wellsprings of self-doubt even as we posture and pose and force an image of strength and ferocity even as our hands shake desperately.
Most writing I read these days lacks fundamental humanity. Realness. A personal sense of connection and raw, exposed conversation. Maybe that’s not your jam. But it’s mine.
And so that’s what I’m going to contribute.
I don’t have a theme, really (though maybe a few consistent things I’m going to poke at sometimes). I don’t have a “platform”. I just have a voice, a keyboard, and the occasional ability to string together a few words that unravel and unpack things (even if the ends are left frayed and unfinished).
I’m just going to write stuff, because I think we have some things we need to talk about. The only promise I’ll make to you is that it’ll be unvarnished. Probably with splinters and knots and rough spots. Because that’s what I know, and that’s the kind of writing that has always belonged to me.
If you’d like to stick around for that, pull up a chair or a beanbag or an old, worn out blanket. I’ve got tea, whiskey, wine, beer, and a pile of xanax if you need one, too. Stay awhile. There’s some messy, broken, beautiful, amazing life out there to talk about.
And I’m not afraid of that anymore.