This is the longest I’ve gone without blogging for over a year. It’s felt strange, as if I’ve been adrift. But it began to feel as if my blog owned me, and I began to not feel free to express myself authentically. How did that happen?
It’s easy with the internet. It offers so much glittering promise – so many people reading, so many people searching. Millions. So many “success” stories of writers starting out with a blog, being found somehow by readers who identified with them, and then publishers or film producers. It sounded easy.
But it was like diving into a very fast-moving, raging, torrent of a river in full flood. Not knowing how to swim. However anybody else managed to be found, I didn’t – at least not to that extent and not instantly. I don’t know why, but people often don’t tell about the challenges they went through before they rose up and became noticeable. Or we don’t want to know.
What does happen when you begin a journey of any sorts? You start with big dreams, massive enthusiasm and optimism, and no idea of the challenges that lie ahead. It has to be that way otherwise you wouldn’t start. Then you meet yourself and see how much you have to learn. It’s devastating. You doubt, you fear, your enthusiasm wanes, you despair.
The more I immersed myself in the culture of blogging and saw how many are doing it now, the more my sense of identity and authenticity – my belief that I have something to say that people could truly relate to – started getting eroded. Just by the sheer numbers. I got caught up in the competition of it. But I didn’t realize what I was sacrificing. Me.
When you’re writing on the internet, the pressure to conform and “give readers what they want” is immense. I wanted to be seen and heard, to not drown in that torrent of millions of words being spewed out into cyberspace every second. I began to let myself be overtaken by the idea that you rise above when you do “what people want you to do”.
But which people? How do you determine that? The masses who are trawling the internet for something to divert them are fickle. Trends change from minute to minute. You can never catch up if you’re trying to please because you’re constantly trying to form theories on who’s being pleased by what, but your theories are being disproved the second you form them.
Everybody wants recognition and I suppose most people at heart want to be able to be authentic. We all wrestle with the tension between the two, we all want to reach people without losing our creative identity. Of course I want to be read and acclaimed – if I didn’t I’d be writing in my diary. But can I believe enough in myself and what I have to offer to let myself be authentic?
Will I end up alone and being eaten by Alsations? I don’t know. I look at J.K. Rowling, Elvis, The Beatles and the hundreds of thousands of others like them. Did they reach people by trying to please? No. They actually did the opposite. They followed their passion and it turned out that that passion was what reached people, even when at first the content was rejected. Passion can’t be formularized. It’s an organic thing, it’s something you have to take a risk on.
I can’t live the rest of my life trying to find a way to please. Even if I succeeded I’d get to the end of my life and say “well that was a waste”. Really don’t want to do that. So do I have to sacrifice fame and fortune for authenticity and passion? Being an eternal optimist, I prefer to believe that I won’t have to. But I do have to take the risk. It’s a no brainer for me, really.