I started my blog in 2010 because I needed to write and I needed a community.
I was a blog reader (mostly a food blog reader, who salivated over close-ups of gooey chocolate cake and fresh salads), and I thought to myself: Why don't I do that? I can take pictures of my impressively-piped frosting.
Image: charly-marion via Flickr via Creative Commons license
Most of all, though, I desperately wanted to go to BlogHer and "pretend that I was a writer," as I'd wanted to be since I was in the fifth grade writing stories with my best friend in the ditto room at lunch. (That offhanded comment about "pretending," which I repeated more than once, should have been my first hint that I'd get in my own way.)
Also, I had experienced recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) after the birth of my son in 2006, and I was trying to make sense—alone—of unexplained secondary infertility. I was feeling unmoored at work, which had defined my identity up until that point.
Mimicking the food bloggers I thought I wanted to be, I wrote to no one about farmer's markets and food for a month, until I discovered the commenting challenge, IComLeavWe (International Comment Leaving Week), and I was hooked: Hooked on authentic connection with people who understood me, and hooked on the encouragement of people who seemed to want to hear what I had to say.
It worked for a few years. I got to go to BlogHer (twice!), made blogging friends, got better both at photography and at telling stories. But slowly, I started silencing myself.
I blamed it on fear of colleagues finding me and judging me, or on not having enough time, but really, I stopped posting on my blog because I am my own worst critic. (Believe it or not, I had a hard time posting this!) More and more often, I'd tell myself things like this:
[Whatever I happened to be writing about] isn't important enough to write about. Who cares about your post when much more important things are happening in the world? #FirstWorldProblems.
You are so behind the curve. This event you're reflecting about happened over a week ago. It's irrelevant now.
If you post this, your co-workers will find this and know just how unintellectual you are and how boring your inner mental life is.
Why does anyone want another recipe for muffins? You don't make anything truly different from the other recipes posted out there, and your recipes are just other people's recipes with your own modifications. How will your thoughts on life improve them?
If you post something without a recipe, no one will read it because your writing about life isn't good/interesting enough to stand on its own.
Your photography isn't as good as it used to be.
You're not a food blogger. You're not an infertility blogger. You don't belong in any community. Why should anybody read you?
Look at these other people who found fame in just one post. See? Proof that you shouldn't bother; you're not good enough.
And so I posted less and less and less, until six years after I started, I was barely posting at all. Why would I, given that kind of self-defeating feedback before I even put my fingers to the keyboard?
Why would anyone?
What I lost sight of was what got me blogging in the first place: The supportive, non-judgmental community of people who blog because they are practicing writing, just like me. The ones who come back when I post and want to know where I am when I don't. When I first started blogging, I wrote like I was writing to an friend, and I was a lot less self-critical.
Because blogging, by its very nature, is not about perfection or completeness; it's about process. It's about the spirit I embraced when I discovered IComLeavWe.
It's about throwing out ideas and our perspective on our experiences. It's about putting phrases and photos out for public consumption and seeing what happens to them. It's about making the world a little larger for anyone who might happen across our post, which is an incredible risk that comes with incredible reward. (Spoiler: Not necessarily fame and fortune.)
Are you your own worst critic? What tips would you offer yourself or others to overcome their own gag orders?
Here are a few to get the list started:
- Remember why you started writing in the first place. Chances are you weren't critiquing yourself then.
- Write on a regular basis. No excuses. It's not about creating a finished (perfect) product so much as it is like going to the gym, something you do to exercise your writing muscles.
- Comment on other people's blogs. Following people isn't going to do anything if you don't engage in conversation, but commenting will bring you (usually kind) readers, who will encourage you to blog more.
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