This is the time of year when everything comes under scrutiny. Too much chocolate. Check. Not enough exercise. Check. Too many episodes of The Office. Check. Writing? Another slow year, but some progress all the same. I look at the past writing year as the Year of Scaring Myself or perhaps the Year When It Finally Made Sense to Scare Myself.
As ever, I write this more for me than anyone else. But I put it on the blog, because somebody always has a good idea, some good news about their own writing, or they’re of the misery-loves-company ilk and we can just nod our heads knowingly before we get back to work.
Blogging & Social Media
In a few weeks, I’ll have been blogging for seven years. Normally, I’d do the will-I-or-won’t-I-continue-blogging evaluation, but I’m skipping it this year. Each time an anniversary rolls around, I look at the blog’s stats, think about engagement, and all the other metrics that I’m supposed to care about. Then I willfully ignore it, because it’s highly unlikely I’ll change anything. It’s just an exercise in self-flagellation.
Blogging is an odd little art form. It’s like that middle-aged person who keeps showing up at college parties, head bobbing, trying to look cool and fit in, but everyone else gives side-eyes and smirks. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, and WhatsApp stand around exchanging witty zingers and astronomical stats while the Blog laughs in the background like it actually gets the jokes.
Twitter and I will never be friends. In the last couple of months, I’ve developed an impressively long block list as a way of curating out people who don’t understand word definitions or whose profiles are either bragging, threatening, or so loaded with hashtags and emoticons as to be eyesores. Nor am I going to look up the pretentious Latin to find out if you’re a complete wanker in more than one language.
I am not well-suited to the medium, but it’s useful for keeping up on the dismantling of democratic norms. Last week I again reported the President of the United States for targeted harassment against news reporters. Happy times.
Facebook is such rubbish aesthetically that I don’t have the patience to read feeds for long. I use it because an organization that I volunteer for needed a page. And I can now answer in the affirmative when people ask if I’m on the damned thing. I keep getting friend requests from people I’ve never heard of and I wonder at the pathology of it all.
I haven’t yet bothered with LinkedIn or Instagram or tumblr (for the lack of capitalization and shitty spelling) and it’s unlikely I’ll ramble any further afield in social media unless I hit it big and can pay someone else to do it.
So I continue to write blog posts, mostly because I don’t fit in with the cool kids. I’m not capable of snappy one-liners and photo editing on the fly. Blogging is just the right speed for me and there are still a lot of people sharing my lane.
Shifting from Playacting to Action
If there were ever a case of How To Be a Writer By Doing Everything But Writing, I’d been that for years. I’ve done workshops, conferences, read how-to books, designed business cards, etc. I was doing more peripheral activities than actually writing. On the plus side, I am a fount of writing knowledge, have great editing skills, and recognize good writing when I see it. On the down side, I’m in ongoing recovery from the imposter syndrome.
The last couple of years have been about putting meat on the bone. Writing more, playacting less. This has also meant getting a painful reality check. Recognizing the gap between my skill set and what kind of writer I envisioned myself being. It meant cutting the daydreaming and fantasies out and looking at what I was actually capable of – my bucket of cold water moment as a writer. Awareness is the first step apparently.
The shivering, stripped-of-delusions writer arrives at the crossroads. Give it all up, contemptuously shoving drafts away and picking up watercolors or stamp collecting. Awareness is giving way to courage or perhaps simply bullheadedness. I don’t know anything else I’d rather do. I don’t know if I’ll ever “make it” as a writer, but I am still breathing, so I will continue.
I am easily discouraged in one moment, but barrelling forward in the next. I’m in my fifties, I don’t have an MFA, I don’t have connections, I don’t have a platform that anyone cares about in particular. I haven’t been published. Every morning I get up and I still write. I wasn’t doing that ten years ago.
I submitted work this year, even though each time I hit the “Submit” button, I wanted to vomit. My work was rejected. It didn’t bother me (I really thought it should). So I have learned what I have control over as a writer and what I don’t. I read work out loud on a weekly basis in front of people, through heart-pounding anxiety. I wasn’t doing any of these things a year ago. It makes me look forward to wherever writing takes me next year.
In talking with other writers and doing some mentoring, I’ve discovered a passion beyond just spitting out my own words. I love working to help people improve their writing and I know a lot about how to do that. It’s also forced me to review grammar, sentence structure, and the rhythm of language (why one phrase or paragraph reads better than another). Editing has become a discovery process and it is pushing me to be more experimental with my own writing.
The Year Ahead
I don’t have concrete goals at the moment. Those are in development. I have nebulous intentions: be more brave, work harder at writing. These things go hand in hand. It takes a certain kind of bravery (or obliviousness) each day to wake up and do a thing you love, that may never be anything more than what it is.
How was your year? What do you look forward to in the upcoming year?