I wish I could start with some great reason for my disappearance.
I first wrote about practicing in public in 2015, after I came back from a silent meditation retreat. I sat for ten days with only my thoughts, and I realized every limitation to writing was in my head. I love writing and I was determined to make it a part of my daily life, fears be damned.
What happened next?
I haven’t written publicly again for four years. I fell off the horse.
To celebrate, I want to describe the four constraining beliefs that held me back.
1) I have to keep up my writing
Here’s the first imaginary rule. As soon as I start something it has to be a thing. I have to decide on a blogging frequency, commit to it, and stick to it. As soon as I publish anything, I have to think about what I’m going to publish next and when I’m going to fit that writing time in.
2) My thoughts must be new and acceptable
I have to scour the whole internet to make sure no one has already said what I’m about to say. If someone else has said it, they must be quoted. I have to make sure my thought is expressed inoffensively, inclusively, and exhaustively. I must prove my point with statistics, and avoid overgeneralization or bias or missing some corner case. Or I will be called out, brutally, and never allowed on the internet again.
3) I have to participate
I have to share my writing on every channel for it to be found. Twitter, Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, a Substack newsletter. All of these channels will generate responses, and I have to monitor and respond to all of them actively. Every response requires thought and stealing my attention away from the rest of my work.
4) I have to get everything else done first
If there are emails unanswered, to-dos unfinished, then I have no right to be writing a blog post. Every other commitment must be prioritized over writing. Inbox zero never came. So neither did opening a blog editor.
Here’s the thing. These constraints did not come from reality. They’re just writer’s block in a sneaky disguise.
No one has once told me that I’m a failure if I don’t write at a regular frequency, on insightful topics, with extensive research, and unique, correct, exhaustive opinions, and respond to everyone who reads it, only after I’ve finished all my other work.
Laying it all out into a single sentence made me laugh. Thanks, inner critic, for a run-on of reasons why not to write.
Thank you, real person in the ether — for reading this, accepting me, and proving the fears are just fears.
I owe a huge thanks to every friend who’s ever reminded me to get back to writing, and especially Dan Shipper and Teresa Man for the final push to just publish this.