TagWriting

Just keep swimming

As I may have mentioned before, books are hard. They’re hard because not only are they putting a part of yourself out into the world and saying it is worth something. But it takes a lot of work to make a book. I spent years on what would become this book. Much of it procrastinating. Self-doubting. Worrying. Second-guessing.

I could have done this years ago, but I didn’t. I wasn’t ready. I was not ready to make this book a reality. Now I am. So it’s a book now. It exists in the world. It’s out in the world and now I need people to find it and care about it enough to want it.

There’s no secret to this. I have some good friend who have tweeted about it. I sent copies to my parents, because it’s exciting to have made something with my name on the cover.

At the same time, my wife and one of her sisters launched a blog at SmartandPowerful.com. Much to my surprise, the domain name was available in 2016. But it’s shaping up to be a great project about their experiences and what they’re learned in running their own business, gardening and reinforcing women are not just pretty things. They’re Smart and Powerful!

The talk around my house this week has been about launching things into the world. I got my book done and out there. My wife got their blog up and running. Did I mention she is a self-employed art therapist, specializing in serving Seniors with dementia and an accomplished artist. Seriously, the woman puts me to shame.

As we’ve launched things, we talk about how to get people to notice them. How to get readers and customers and the only secret that keeps coming up is consistency.

Be out there. Be out there a lot and be something people can depend on. CJ Chilvers just ran a series of posts about this very topic that Seth Godin, who’s been blogging daily for years, has talked about.

That third one refutes the idea of not writing consistently. It’s the procrastination and self-doubt talking. Don’t listen to it.

The real secret isn’t so secret at all…

As James Gowans puts it:

Have you ever noticed that the secret to all the secrets is that it’s never the easy path?

Keep Writing

Doubt

Potatowire writes:

I worry about this site. I spend an average of two hours a night writing, and I’m not sure why. I am more introspective now, for sure, and I think my writing is improving, but this two-hour block represents all of my available free time. I have some other projects I would like to begin, but I don’t know how to fit them into my schedule.

Goals, Doubt, & Success

Linus writes:

We are both just flinging words into the air and hoping that maybe something happens, some stroke of luck occurs that will somehow transform our projects into something amazing. But probably not. Our blogs might just quickly fade away, these words lost to time. Maybe it’s all a learning process though, all our failures building up to finally give us enough height to see over the wall into enlightenment.


I understand all too well where both of them are coming from. We’re all flinging words into the world in hopes they’ll stick with someone. When I write, I hope someone sees my words and it touches them. Makes them laugh. Makes them cry. Makes them feel.

But it’s a struggle. We’re not big and famous bloggers. We can’t trace the lineage of our sites back across the decades. Even though my own domain reaches back 15 years, I was young and not trying to make anything out of it. It was a fun place to write and experiment.

I posted at over at The Arctic Palace from 2004-2011. Then abandoned the site, and Textpattern, for WordPress. I moved into the trenches here and have been hunkered down ever since.

I don’t have a large audience either but it doesn’t bother me. I write for myself. I write because it feels good. I write because every now and then someone else likes my words and tells me. And that feels so good.

James Gowans tweeted a good reminder. All you need is 1 I’ve got a few more than 1. And I write for them and for me.

So I say to Linus and Potatowire: Keep Writing! I read you. I value your voices. That goes for the rest of you who feel the same way. We’re out here. We’re reading you. Your voice would be missed if you stopped. So please don’t stop.

Windows Writing Environments

You know what I write in most days? Windows.

I like MarkdownPad because it’s simple. It lets me type away and see any styling in real-time. It shows the styles as I type.

It can do so much more than I need it to, but I ignore the extras and use it as a place for words. It’s free to use and $15 to upgrade and get a host of added, useful features like auto-saving and session-management.

It’s never crashed on me. knock wood. It’s a solid little app that does what I need it to do. I save files to .txt or .md and put them in Google Drive. I appreciate the app’s simplicity. It also pairs nicely with another app I love to write in.

Writemonkey is big, black canvas where I can put my words. There’s something about the black page and green text that reminds me of the old days of computing. It has a ton of options and plugins. But I use it as you see it. A big black page with lovely green text.

It feels comfortable to me. I am not saying this is the way all writing should be done. I am saying this works for me.

Find what works best for you and do it. I have found a color scheme and font that please me. It’s not a requirement for me to write. I don’t have to be seated just so with the proper writing tool in the perfect environment.

I just need time and head space to compose words. And these are the tools I’m using these days. On the Mac and iPhone, I have Byword set to the dark mode but I don’t remember the last time I used either.

My Rusty Tool Shed

Writing is a rusty tool shed. I go inside and it all looks so familiar. I remember when I wrote that piece. I fondly thumb through decades old notebooks. I remember where I was and where I was when I first cracked the spine on the unwritten tome.

Look at my tools and my failures as one. I look for my successes. But they’re grown up and moved out of the house long ago. They left me and we talk. Sure, we talk every few months.

They call at Christmas and on my birthday. They’re dutiful children. But they’re gone now. Living their own lives with their own problems.

The failures still live with me. Malformed and demented they lounge around. They’ve not inspiration to better themselves. They feel their time has passed. They and I lock eyes, only for a moment. We don’t speak. There’s nothing left to say.

This familiar ritual taxes us. The missed opportunities are remembered along with piles of what ifs and we almosts.

As I stand to leave, there’s a shudder as the shed settles. The words rearranged slightly. The tools cleaned and put back in their places. All neat and tidy. A hand-crafted monument to disappointment.

Rarely, I will remove a tool from the shed. I will clean it off and prepare it for use. I use that tool or I lend it out. If I can’t use it, someone else might. If my rusty old tools can get new life in another shed, then it was worth it. It’s worth keeping all these old tools around.

It’s worth the ritual. The cleaning and organizing let me see them in a new light and reminds me of when they were new. It reminds me of when I first got them, so full of expectation and excitement. I was ready to use them. I was prepared to make great things with them. But now they sit, rusting away in my shed. Hoping for new life.

Their day may come. But they see the new tools join the shed. Even if only briefly before they’re used or shared. The new tools are always the exciting ones. The old tools are just that. They’ve lost their shine and purpose.

Feature photo from Gratisography

Secrets

Derek Sivers started writing again and in a recent post called Why my code and ideas are public he recalls a conversation with a friend. during a dinner conversation, she said:

“I’m not worried about someone finding out my secrets, because secrets are just facts, right? So if someone is going through my private things, for example, and gets upset about what they find, then that’s their problem, not mine!”

He liked the attitude and it caused him to question his own secrets just as I did mine many years ago.

I had my secrets. They too were locked away in a notebook. I used to keep one in my pocket or backpack when I went to school. Growing up, I wrote in it everyday. I wrote poetry, terrible teenage angst poetry.

I wrote about the hurt I was feeling over my parent’s divorce. I wrote about how I felt isolated in the small town where I grew up. I felt like a freak to those around me. Being 6’5′ and preferring poetry to football helped that alienation.

It was all so real and raw and painful. I let myself out upon those pages. In varying colors of ink my emotions flowed out in words.

And I never shared them. With anyone. For any reason. Ever.

sunset hair
By Alexander Shustov via Unsplash

I was sure, if found, it would lead to questions I didn’t want to answer. It would lead to trouble. Because when I let my uncensored words out, they were painful. They were emotions I didn’t know what to do with so I wrote them down.

I kept my writing secret. It was for me. It didn’t need to be shared with anyone. It made me feel better. That’s all it needed to do. That’s all I required of it. Helping me to get through the dark nights and sometimes darker dawns.

Then I got involved with my school’s literary magazine.

I read writings from my peers. I read their pain. I read their confusion. I read their love. I read their passion. And I learned I wasn’t alone.

I wasn’t the only person who had fears and confusion and hurt. It was universal. I was not alone.

Learning this was the greatest lesson of my life. I am not alone! And it was liberating. It made me reconsider keeping everything I had secret.

I realized it didn’t matter how people reacted to what I wrote. It was what I felt. It was my reality, my life, my pain, my joy. It was me. My writing was myself on paper.

So I shared.

I submitted some of my writing to the magazine. Some of it was good enough to get published. Much of it was garbage. But some was good enough to earn a spot in the magazine.

This build my courage. When people told me they liked a line or a phrase, or even the entire piece it was a huge confidence boost.

It was very liberating to not only know I wasn’t alone, but to know I had found people who understood me.

My secrets, when confronted with the harsh light of day weren’t so important.