Last week I explained a bit about why I’ve been absent of late. But a busy schedule isn’t the whole story. To get at that, we have to do the unthinkable (actually, more like the over-thinkable) and delve into my head. Scary, I know. But when it comes down to it, my biggest obstacle has always been my own brain. And this time I’m not talking about my struggle with depression and anxiety (though they do play a role). No, this time I’m talking about how I manage to be my own worst enemy, even when (perhaps especially when) I’m successful.
Last year at this time, I launched a Patreon site. The idea was people might actually be interested in reading what I wrote (they were!), and that would motivate me to write more (it did!). Also, money coming as a direct result of writing was no small incentive (it was!). As the parentheticals imply this worked! In 2014, I posted fully three times more than I did in 2013. In that respect, Patreon has been a resounding success. (And let me take a moment to once again thank all my spectacular patrons. You all rock my socks off. Legit.)
On the flip side, it also backfired. Here’s where my dumb brain comes in. Eventually, I started second-guessing myself. I became more and more hesitant to write because I was convinced it wouldn’t be good enough–it wouldn’t be worthy of the money my kind, intelligent, discerning patrons had pledged. Rather than writing more, I began to put off writing anything until I had LOTS of time to spend on a post. Even during the lightest-scheduled of weeks, spending four to five hours on a 500-word post was taxing (and often ridiculous).
I became certain people would feel ripped off if I posted something short, less-than-deep, or with the occasional poor word choice/grammatical error. I’ve often joked it made perfect sense for me to move from the Midwestern US to Canada–both are known for a population that’s nice, polite, unassuming, self-effacing.* I am all these things to a slightly-unhealthy degree. It felt weird enough to launch the Patreon site in the first place. To put up work that was even remotely unpolished would be like an insult! How could I live with myself?
On the other hand, when I did feel motivated to write, I was careful not to write too much or post too often because I was afraid people would think I was trying to gouge them–especially if the posts were slight in any way. “Three short posts in a week? Erika’s clearly just trying to cash in.” The fear of being seen as a gold-digger kept me silent as well.
The pressure I put on myself for the patron-inspired posts became paralyzing as well. If I had an idea for a random post, I wouldn’t write it because I knew there were still assigned posts waiting in the wings. Never mind that I needed time to consume something for the patron-post, and I had this other thing in mind right now. If I posted too much before getting all the patron-posts done, the guilt would be overwhelming. So I posted nothing. For three months.
Thanks brain. Thanks a lot.
Yes, it’s great to aim for excellence, but to let the fear of being less-than-perfect, of disappointing the readers, get in the way of doing anything, that’s defeating the purpose in a huge way. While spending many hours crafting an essay isn’t necessarily a bad thing, this is a blog. More importantly, it’s my blog. My goal has always been to practice writing and to be myself while doing it. I want this corner of the internet to be a reflection of me. Okay, so fretting over every single character and punctuation mark is a reflection of me alright, but it’s not a reflection of the me I want to be. That part of me is holding the rest of me back.
Well, I’m not going to let it anymore. To that end, I am giving myself a lecture.**
Your patrons are grown-ups. They don’t need you to take care of them. They don’t need you to make decisions based on how you suspect they might react. If they aren’t pleased with your work, they can cap their monthly contributions or cancel altogether. You’ve never been doing this for the money, so that’s not a big deal. These amazing people pledged because they are genuinely interested in supporting you. The vast majority of your patrons know you well and care about you deeply. If they thought their patronage was holding you back, they’d pull their funding anyway. They want you to succeed. So quit getting in your own way and succeed, dammit.
From here on in, I’m making a conscious decision to lighten the hell up. I’m going to make this blog fun again–at least for me. If folks don’t like it, they will react however they want, with neither guilt nor judgement from me. I won’t shy away from shorter posts if I can say what I want in fewer words.*** I will write when inspiration strikes, even if I don’t have time to polish it to within an inch of its life, and even if I have something else on the burner. I will, in short, get over myself and get back to blogging.
I do have a few patron-inspired posts to complete, and I’ve already taken steps toward getting those knocked out. I am going to get them done, but I am not going to let them hold me back from writing other things. And I will write them even if those patrons cancel their funding. So while I still feel shitty about the delay, they will get what they paid for. I will do my best to make them as polished as I can, but I will not fret over them so much the whole blog comes to a grinding halt.
I’m not going to make any kind of binding promise to write a certain amount in a given period of time. I know myself. That would be foolhardy. But if I do grow quiet again, I assure you it won’t be because I’m getting in my own way.
Life is good enough at that on its own. It doesn’t need my help.
*I’m not saying every Midwesterner is those things. There are jerks everywhere, but niceness/politeness is certainly the stereotype, and it’s not without a solid basis in reality.
**I think I could probably adapt this lecture slightly and make it apply to several parts of my life, and I may just do that.
***Yes, I know how unlikely that is. I do have a tendency to be verbose. That, too, is something I need to work on, so aiming for some shorter posts would be good for me.