I Write Every Day, But I Can’t Post Every Day
Journaling is Cutting into My “Professional” Word Count, and That’s OK
I journal compulsively. It’s good exercise for a writer’s muscles, but it also means that I don’t feel comfortable sharing much (most?) of what I write. It’s creating tension in my creative process. All of the advice on how to blog successfully admonishes writers to be consistent. Most strongly recommends that bloggers post every day. I write every day, but I can’t post every day.
I’m not an oversharer. Some of that is cultural — Jamaicans hold our personal lives close to our chests. It’s the opposite of “speak it into existence” culture. Putting your aspirations out into the world before they are ready, before you are ready, can destroy dreams that are too fragile to survive. Work — often in solitude — has to come first. I’m not sure if adhering to this pattern has been good for me. On the one hand, creating space to build my belief in myself and self-esteem without looking to the opinions of others has been incredibly important to my personal growth. On the other hand, I don’t have the support I need. Everyone needs cheerleaders. Self-doubt is unavoidable for anyone with any grasp on reality.
As I’ve started to gain traction on Medium, I can begin to see a clearer path to making a living as a writer. My journaling, which has been hugely important in helping me maintain my mental hygiene and set and achieve personal goals sometimes feels at odds with my “professional” writing. I have to produce a certain number of sellable words consistently. The irony is that what’s in my journals would probably fit the bill. I’m just not in the place (and may never be) where I feel comfortable sharing it.
For me, journaling has been an exercise in deprogramming myself of many of the toxic beliefs that were indoctrinated into me in childhood. The only way across has been through, and it has meant placing myself and my thoughts in an unflattering light. It’s difficult and weirdly embarrassing sometimes. Working through the shame is the toughest part. It’s also what makes the contents so hard to share. There is a particular Word file I’ve written that I consider deleting every single day. I can’t bring myself to, though. Going back over it is painful, but when I do I can see how far I’ve come and how far I have yet to go.
As I started to post regularly on Medium over the past couple of months, I could sense a shift in my mood. I was posting every day with pretty decent stats for someone new, but it started feeling like pushing a rock uphill far too quickly. I’d noticed that my stories that have received the most positive feedback took some time (usually at least two days) to craft. Having that extra day to have things sit, then editing with a bit of distance was improving my work. I could see it. I believe the readers could see it too. So, I decided to cut back to posting new articles three times a week and respond to comments on the weekends. Even so, that downward trend in my mood persisted. I was putting it down to trying to adjust to new habits, but I’ve realized that I’ve been journaling less.
I’m beginning to understand that fairly constant self-reflection is necessary for me to be at my best. I’m not sure why, but I have to assess the person I’m trying to be and the goals I want to accomplish almost daily.
Journaling, I’ve also come to realize, is where I strategize. Some of the things that are paying off for me now were learned through failures that I addressed in detail in my journals. As I was journaling, I was fine-tuning my plans for myself and how to go about accomplishing them.
None of this is “productive” in the way we’re constantly being exhorted to be. I’m fine with that. Letting go of toxic ambition is another thing journaling has helped me accomplish. I’m never going to “post for 365 days straight!” or be successful at any similar challenge, but I’m happy with the shape my writing is taking, and I believe I’m making a contribution. I’m still working on finding the balance between writing for myself and writing for an audience, and I’m all right with it being an ongoing struggle.