Which sin is worse for a writer, self-censoring or over-indulgence? I could have asked ‘why we write,’ but I feel I’ve done that before, and balking in the face of the twin fears of creative cowardice versus introspective navel-gazing seem more on-point tonight.
When we step beyond private, handwritten spiral notebooks and diaries and into the digital realm of blogs and self-published works, there is an immediate sense of being seen and judged. Likes, comments, page hits, tweets, Facebook posts, reshares. Intentionally or not, they become the metrics against which we judge our own efforts, where one cruel word is too many and 1,000 compliments not enough.
In a sense this is what drives us to post our work only to begin with – the hope that it might be seen and appreciated by others. Yet in doing so, we inevitably find ourselves staring into the soulless void that is the anonymous internet, and we freeze, then begin to second-guess ourselves – or at least I do.
“Should I use my blog to practice, to ponder, and to hone my craft, or shall I only share completed works with which I am wholly satisfied (if there is ever such a thing)? What if I post something and hate it later. What if someone else hates it? When is it good enough to share.”
There is no single set of correct answers to these questions, of course. What matters is our purpose for writing and sharing in the first place, and that is a question we must each answer for ourselves; not once, but many times. Many times, because self-doubt and fear of criticism are insidious, pernicious adversaries we must face each and every time we click ‘Publish.’
My personal mantra is “I write to think.” It is the justification and the encouragement I need to continue writing and experimenting. I feel happier and more accomplished when I’m writing, whether or not the end product lives up to my expectations. A work written is infinitely more worthwhile than an idea abandoned.
Likewise, we must support and encourage each other. I’ve heard enough artists and best-selling authors speak of imposter syndrome to realise it is an affliction from which most most creative people suffer. Each of us has experienced times where a once great idea no longer appears that way, and we despair as inspiration gives way to disillusionment and frustration.
A kind word can make the difference between a crumpled fist of anger, and a third, fourth or fifth draft attempt. Creativity is an endeavour to be nurtured and embraced, in both ourselves and others. Share your works without fear, because I appreciate them.