Blogging wears you down.
It's an operation fueled almost entirely by fleeting moments of inspiration, little blinking glimpses of a light that's always on the verge of being snuffed by the unrelenting waves of doubt that crash into any who dare sail The Blahg Sea. And if Moby Dick has taught us anything, it is that a life at sea will break a soul like no other (full disclosure: I've never read Moby Dick so I am just assuming that was the gist).
But when your siren calls, you go. And if that means getting in your DIY dingy and heading out into the cold and unforgiving waters without a paddle, that's what you do. Days after weeks after months, you do it over and over and over again. And you do it even though you’re not very good at it and you're possibly not sure you even like it anymore (whatever "it" is). A fact you will continuously remind yourself of each time you push ‘Publish’ and sit down to wait impatiently with the crickets.
It seems a foolish thing to trouble with, so why bother?
Well, for starters, everybody sucks at everything in the beginning. Blogging is no different. And unlike tying one's shoelaces—a skill that only took me a solid day and a $5 bribe from Grandma to master—running a blog is much more complex. There is no “pull the rabbit 'round the tree” technique. There is only a bunch of different moving parts, some of which are invisible and all of which do not come with complete instructions. And since you will suck at handling each one of those different moving parts at varying levels of inadequacy, the combination of all that sucking is going to take some time to work out. There is no way around it. You suck at new things and you suck at them for awhile. And even when you think you've started to suck less, there will always be plenty of people who'll disagree.
So just learn to embrace the unavoidable sucking as quick as you can.
Because once you get to the point where you stop beating yourself to death over how bad you may or may not suck, that's when you can properly begin the much more enjoyable process of just trying to get better. Quit carelessly swinging the gavel around your head like a maniac. Everyone sucks, it doesn't matter, you get better.
And maybe stop using “suck” as the root word for describing everything you're not perfect at (spoiler: that's everything, forever). Instead, maybe start saying, "Still Learning, But At Least Also Trying" or something with a similar meaning but that makes for a more memorable acronym than #SLBALAT. Because ain't nobody hashtagging that.
Here’s a helpful mantra to put in your daily phrasebook, one that will help you embrace the fake scariness of not being perfect at something in public:
I am completely independent of the good and bad opinions of others.
If you’re like me, your first reaction to reading those words might be something like, “yeah, yeah, yeah… sticks and stones may break my bones but blah blah blah blah blah me… NEXT!" so I will share the video that made me re-think this ancient nugget of wisdom (but consider yourself warned, this Leo guy can sometimes go looonng).
Back to that mantra: For me, it was the new-to-me inclusion of "the good opinions" that finally made the old advice resonate. Previously, I had always considered the suggestion of not worrying about what others say as a technique that could/should only be used for dealing with negativity. And if you’ve ever bawled your eyes out while at the same time crying back at your verbal tormentors, “…but words will never hurt me!!!” that technique often felt like more of a failed thought experiment than useful coping mechanism.
It had never occurred to me how the same advice could/should be used when dealing with something nice, like praise. Positive approval feels positive after all, so why wouldn't you accept it with loving and open arms (and then spend every waking minute looking for more of it in every nook and cranny you can find)? But I can see now that trying to ignore the bad opinions while still giving weight to the good ones is no way to handle an Other People's Opinions problem. And other people's opinions almost always lead to problems.
To use a mouse analogy: if you keep the bad mice out but let the good mice in… you will still have mice in your house (and, therefore, you will still have a mouse problem).
So, no matter what the thing is—blogging, meditating, basketballing—make peace with the fact that you will suck at first. Know that you will only get better by working through that sucking stage. And since that stage can take a long time, you probably want to start thinking of it as The Learning Stage instead of The Sucking Stage. It not only sounds more positive, but it's also more accurate. Fuck the haters and thank the likers if you must (and it sometimes feel like you must—or at least I hear that showing gratitude is important and exacting revenge is sweet) but right after you ignore/acknowledge them, make sure you then forget about them both completely. Because, good or bad, they're still goddamn mouses.
Keep in mind that I could be totally wrong about all of this, as I am pretty new here. Not new to blogging—I've been #SLBALAT-ing at that for years—but I am new at trying not to give so much gravity to the opinions of other people. The bad ones and the good ones. The real ones and the imagined ones.
And you know what? There's something really freeing about realizing you don't do something because you think you're good at it (or even worse, want other people to think you think you're good at it), you do it because you enjoy the challenge of trying to get good at it. And isn't that kinda the whole point of life? Continuously trying to get better at things?
And so, to circle back to the top, I think this is why I bother blogging.
Even though the logical gauges of society suggest I should do otherwise, I keep coming back to it because I think blogging puts me in a better place than wherever the version of me that gave up before starting would be at now. It's almost as if fractionally improving on each of the moving parts that come with running a blog—the writing, the designing, the networking, the collaborating, the editing, the creating, the strategizing, the putting yourself out there, the thinking and all the et ceteraing—well, it's almost as if those are some pretty useful skills to routinely work on.
Surely that has got to be good for something at some point… right? Right?! Shirley?!?
Here's to a better year than the last one. I hope we can all figure out how to get paid.