I haven't posted much in the last two years. I've drafted a lot. Every few weeks, I'd hop onto the blog and review the countless list of drafts and sometimes start a new one. I'd then move to the handful of fiction works-in-progress, perusing the ideas that linger untouched in the rarely exercised creative pocket of my brain. I dabble here. Add there. Delete. Rephrase. Save draft. Rinse and repeat. But not publish.
This morning I started this ritual again. Mid-edit, I stopped to consider my audience. Who am I writing for and why? I opened my first post from 2015. Who was I writing for then? Me. I made my way into the flurry that was 2016. Still writing for me. 2017 brought a dramatic reduction of posts, but the audience was the same. I was writing for me. Then I reviewed each of my 2018 drafts. Not one of them was written for me. Needless to say, I executed a mass delete.
The topics of the now buried posts spanned politics, social movements, and general day-to-day wonderings. But none of them were outside of my comfort zone. They were diplomatic, well-researched, and carefully considered. None of them incorporated my genuine self. Why had I gone missing in my posts? Why had I abandoned my words? Why did I stop writing for me?
Fear most often defines my boundaries. When I am my only audience, I am a brutal critic. This is not unique to me. We are all our own worst critics, aren't we? This makes giving in to the public exposure of our genuine selves quite a roadblock. If I'm not willing to be vulnerable to myself, how can I really conduct any healthy form of self-examination? And how can I make real connections outside of that safe cave that is my own brain? In reviewing my public words, I came to a harsh realization - I've fully withdrawn from even my most inner self.
In being most afraid of my own judgement, I've packed away my words. We live in a world now that has an underlying theme of not hearing each other. Not considering other perspectives. Not acknowledging someone else has shoes, let alone imagining what it may be like to walk in them. Rather than engage in a healthy debate of contradicting ideas, we disengage. We appropriate other opinions rather than developing our own. We walk away from criticism rather than using that feedback as an opportunity for greater self-examination. When we remove the willingness to participate in an open-minded conversation, we also stop listening. In deciding I have nothing to say, I've removed my ability to hear myself, to listen to my own criticism.
I'm a big fan of external criticism. I'm a feedback junkie. I like to improve. I like to exceed expectations. In my professional life, I have a strong need for knowing where I stand and achieving results. But if I restrict this drive to purely external, how can I truly pursue personal improvement? Seeking my own approval should rest higher on the importance scale than external approval. To move beyond my own boundaries, I have to face the fear that creates those lines. In order to exist as my genuine self, I have to both be and understand my audience.
I still often feel like I'm trying to fit a square peg into a round hole living in the Midwest. Perhaps this has contributed to my aforementioned withdraw. Perhaps not. Maybe my inability to relax into this not-so-unfamiliar setting has more to do with my own unwillingness to move beyond my mourning and acknowledge this time as an opportunity to facilitate personal growth. It's time to stop drafting. It's time to stop letting the idea of perfection to get in the way of completion.
First step - hitting the publish button.