Like so many blog posts I’ve written — or tried to write — over the last couple years, this one didn’t come easy.
I had a germ of an idea, started to write, hit a wall, walked away, and didn’t finish.
But I was determined to publish something today because it’s September 1, and that date is special for me. No, not because it’s Allston Christmas. It’s the anniversary of this blog.
Nine years ago today, I started what I hoped would be a fun outlet for me to share thoughts, reviews, stuff I came across, and other random “musings” for anyone who wanted to read them. Kind of like the journals I kept in high school, except in a public venue. Thankfully, people did want to read them, and the blog grew over time: The subjects I wrote about became less random, the writing improved, the audience increased, I migrated from Blogger to WordPress, and all was well.
But then it wasn’t, and I started to struggle with maintaining interest in writing my long-form musings — partly because I was already sharing so much via Twitter and Facebook, and partly (mostly) because I just lost my mojo.
Drafts Remain Drafts
Over the past year, I’ve started and stopped writing multiple blog posts — movie reviews, social media commentaries, public service pieces, etc. While the ideas themselves filled me with passion, writing the posts did not. Today, many of those drafts remain drafts, with the unfinished Word documents littering my desktop, reminding me of my failings.
It didn’t used to be that way. I used to crank out posts — multiple times a week, in fact. And I used to love blogging. I think what happened was, I became paralyzed by my desire to make every post a great, Pulitzer Prize–worthy one. I’d spend hours writing, then reading and rereading, editing and revising. It was time-consuming when I would rather have been doing other things.
In short: I was probably trying too hard, and being too self-conscious about my writing. I wanted every post to use the right words in the right way, to be formatted exactly right, and more importantly, to be meaningful, insightful, intelligent, etc. You get the idea. Given that I’ve built a career focused on producing good, worthwhile content, and I read so many blog posts and columns by other people about what makes good content and bad content, I didn’t want to contribute to the noise. So if I didn’t have something good to say about a movie or a marketing topic or whatever, something original and worth reading, what was the point? Especially if I could probably say it better in a few tweets. And I didn’t want to open myself up to criticism if/when I wrote something lame, and lose credibility among my marketing and movie-reviewing peers.
So as this ninth blogiversary approached, I struggled with whether there was anything to celebrate this year. Does Martin’s Musings really still exist, or should I just close up shop?
And then I came across a great column by Bill Hayes on the New York Times’ website called “On Not Writing.”
A New Perspective
It turns out, Bill experienced some of the same problems I did: One day, he recalled, in the middle of writing an essay, “whatever I once had in me — juice, talent, will — was gone.” But he found some smart perspective by equating writing to fitness training. “Just as the body needs time to rest, so too does an essay, story, chapter, poem, book or a single page. In some cases, it is not just the writing that needs a breather but the writer, too.”
Essentially, what Bill learned was that, like exercising, you shouldn’t work through the pain; it will only hurt. You need to give yourself sufficient time to refresh your juices and your writing muscles. So that’s what he did. And then, as Bill explains:
“I woke one day, and a line came to me. It didn’t slip away this time but stayed put. I followed it, like a path. It led to another, then another. Soon, pieces started lining up in my head, like cabs idling curbside, ready to go where I wanted to take them. But it wasn’t so much that pages started getting written that made me realize that my not-writing period had come to an end. Instead, my perspective had shifted.”
Days later, I read a similarly themed blog post by Matt Cheuvront in which he said you shouldn’t be afraid to take time off — from blogging or whatever it is that needs a break: “Even if that means you quiet down for a while as you plan your next move. Even if that means the world sees a little bit less of you. Do it. Do whatever you believe to be best. Do what you must.”
Clearly, something was in the water, and that reassured me that not only was I not alone, my lack of blog posts was alright and not something to fret about. Maybe I was just taking a needed break too, and it should continue as long as it needs to.
So I decided to make that my plan and my mindset for the foreseeable future when it comes to this blog. For the record, I’m not taking an official hiatus. I still plan to write from time to time when a topic really moves me — like how my birthday did this year. But if I don’t publish anything for an extended period of time … well, that’s fine too. I won’t be frustrated about that.
The Bottom Line
In summary, I’ve learned that I need to try to relax a bit about my writing here, so I can get back to the love of blogging that I used to have, and publish new posts on a more regular basis than I’ve been doing lately. No, that doesn’t mean you’re going to start seeing sloppy writing. My “real” doesn’t include typos and bad grammar like some other people’s “real” does. It just means I’m going to try to not put so much pressure on myself to write, and that when I do write, I will try to do so without being so self-conscious.
I look forward to the day when my drafts turn into published blog posts more often. “Not writing can be good for one’s writing,” Bill wrote. “Indeed, it can make one a better writer.” Let’s hope that’s the effect a hiatus of some kind has for me.
And today, on the ninth blogiversary of Martin’s Musings, I’m going to celebrate both the past nine years of blog posts I’ve written and the mental break I’m giving myself.
Here’s to many more years of musings! And of course, as always, thank you for reading.
Want to wish me a happy blogiversary on Twitter? Go ahead! Just click here.