My favorite TV show right now is Community. I’ve watched at least one episode every day for the last 4 months. The show is beyond underrated. It’s under underrated.
The show, on the surface, is about a group of people who attend community college together. It’s about the value of friendship. But the show really is about what The New Yorker’s television critic Emily Nussbaum described as a “sitcom about sitcoms”. Community pays homage to and makes fun of the sitcom format. It doesn’t pretend it exists in the real world. And yet it does exist in the real world because it realizes that the audience has probably seen a sitcom before and is therefore in on the joke.
I’ve read that it’s bad form to write about writing or blog about blogging. Why? I never understood it. Writing is an experience in itself. So is blogging. They’re interesting experiences that deserve examination. If you can make a sitcom about sitcoms you write a blog post about blogging.
On the surface, my blog is about sensitivity and highly sensitive people. But not really. I started a blog because wanted a platform to write publicly. I wanted to share. I wanted to inspire others the way I had been inspired by certain writers/bloggers. I had to get specific about what I wanted to write and share and sensitivity is the topic I chose.
Coming up with sensitivity related ideas, writing about them, editing them is the easy part. The increasingly hard part is figuring out why I want to write about these things.
Is it to gain views, followers, likes, shares?
Who are you writing for? Yourself or other people?
You want to share but are you sharing what you think people want to read or what you need to say?
I feel like I’m failing or not making any difference. Is that true?
What is success? What does it look like?
How do I stop comparing myself to and seeking the approval of others?
Should I take more risks? What risks should I take? What if I alienate the few followers I do have?
Writing is what I love but if it doesn’t love me back, should I quit?
How long should I keep my commitment to maintaining a blog?
My blogging experience is really about trying to answer these questions over and over again. It’s about my commitment. The only reason I keep posting is because I made the decision in February to post every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday. At around 9 a.m. on those three days, an internal alarm goes off that screeches “It’s posting time”.
I understand why most people quit blogging after a few months. I think about quitting every week. But my commitment keeps me going. My desire to use this medium to figure things out keeps me going. Having a place to channel all the excess fear, anger, confusion, uncertainty and love keeps me going.
I don’t think the point is to have all the answers to those questions. The point is to act in the face of them. Daniel Pink made this point in a commencement address at Northwestern University:
Sometimes you have to write to figure it out…This advice wasn’t just savvy guidance for how to write — it might be the wisest advice I know for how to live… Sometimes, the only way to discover who you are or what life you should lead is to do less planning and more living — to burst the double bubble of comfort and convention and just do stuff, even if you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead, because you don’t know precisely where it’s going to lead.
This might sound risky — and you know what? It is. It’s really risky. But the greater risk is to choose false certainty over genuine ambiguity. The greater risk is to fear failure more than mediocrity. The greater risk is to pursue a path only because it’s the first path you decided to pursue.
My blog has taught me how to just do in the face of genuine ambiguity. My commitment is teaching me how to play the long game, about persistence, and about developing an inner drive, something Maria Popova talked about in an interview in 99u:
You know, it’s funny because I frequently get emails from young people starting out and asking, “How do I make a successful website or start my own thing?” And, very often, it’s tied to some measure of success that’s audience-based or reach-based. “How do you build up to seven million readers a month or two million Facebook fans?” But the work is not how to get that size of an audience or those numbers. That’s just the byproduct of what Lewis Hyde calls “creative labor,” which is really our inner drive. The real work is how not to hang your self-worth, your sense of success and merits, the fullness of your heart, and the stability of your soul on those numbers—on that constant positive reinforcement and external validation. That’s the only real work, and the irony is that the more “successful” you get, by either your own standards or external standards, the harder it is to decouple all of those inner values from your work.
A while ago, my mother asked me if blogging is fun and I stared at her, furrowed my brow, and opened my mouth to answer but I didn’t have an answer. I would never describe blogging as “fun”, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rewarding and life-changing.
I take it very seriously. I care about it and I don’t know how not to take seriously what I care about.
This post was kind of rambling. I wrote it to figure out how I felt. I’m still uncertain. I have a feeling I will remain so.
I want to end with two thoughts. One: if you’re struggling with your blog, please tell me how you handle it. How you do answer the questions above, if at all?
And the second thought is watch Community if you haven’t. Skip season 4, the season when creator Dan Harmon wasn’t the show runner. Actually, watch season four. It will make you appreciate the other seasons more.