Here’s the truth: I write almost every day in my personal journal (aka: diary) but when it comes to writing for this more public, shared Dear Diary or my author newsletter, I find myself procrastinating. Why can I write so much unpublished and then clam up when it comes time to share my thoughts with the outside world?
The fear to share is a problem these days for many.
I am in a state of analysis paralysis. A feeling many refer to as anxiety. I, personally, don’t like to use that word because it is everywhere these days. I suppose I don’t want to add to the pile.
Back to my original thought. I digress. I ramble so easily off to the side thoughts. Focus!
That’s the problem I seem to have a lot.
I ask myself, “What should I focus on?”
Then I wonder, “What do readers want me to focus on?”
And, once I start to wander away from myself and looking to others to determine what I should do, what I should say—well, I have lost focus. Lost and wandering, digressing . . . often gravitating to the internet to look up garden ideas.
This is why some people loathe to write. The writer fears if that first sentence, those first few words aren’t good enough, interesting enough, provocative—the reader will turn away. So, I suppose I should give to myself the same advice I’ve given to so many students and fellow writers: JUST WRITE!
Why must I assume I’m wandering away when I digress? Perhaps it is simply my feet finding their footing and traveling toward something worthwhile. I love the line from Tolkien, “Not all those who wander are lost.” We, as humans, have so little faith in ourselves at times that we assume our default setting is all fault even when the past directly contradicts this.
Today I found myself focusing on all the things that were nibbling away at my time. They seemed to serve as perfect excuses for why I got no writing done despite having written somewhere in ink that I would get writing done during the allotted time. Altogether the excuses began to resemble one big “dog at my homework.” Producing anything felt impossible because it wasn’t “anything” I had told myself to create. I had set the high expectations that I would create “everything.” I would complete something—completely.
When I look at things as a whole, I can easily become overwhelmed. I’m sure you can relate. I forget that there are several smaller pieces that are eventually bound together to form the whole.
So, I decided to look at things a bit inside-out today. Just as easily as I can allow bite-sized pieces of time to be taken away by the many people and responsibilities I have in my life—along with my own fallible human habit of allowing distractions into my day—I can choose to focus on bite-sized pieces of writing, get them onto paper, and feel confident that those pieces will join together to create a whole piece of writing eventually. I have to admit, I do not like creating a piece of writing as a mosaic comprised of a stolen piece here and a hijacked piece there. Here a piece, there a piece, everywhere a piece-piece. (Sorry, my imagination frequently breaks into song quite often:)
I need to just write. I need to begin. I need to be honest and, above all else, I need to be myself. What do readers want? All sorts of things—a myriad—a rainbow—a unicorn. I cannot be all of those things, but I can be one bright hue in a rainbow. I don’t have to be everything. However, I must insist I be something instead of a puddle of indecision.
Whatever that may be, I hope to always be human. Our shared humanity is truly the only thing any of us has in common. I must shape my humanity, ship it out and then move on. I have to ignore any “unsubscribes” or absolute silence. The human heart and our fragile self-esteem are just no match for all the analytics and quantifitics* available to us through technology. As if we don’t doubt ourselves enough, we’re able to actually quantify how many people do, don’t or did-but-now-don’t “like” what we’re doing, saying or sharing.
Ignore and continue. That was my philosophy through much of parenting as kids protested (sometimes very loudly and with flailing arms and a body that seemed boneless) what I knew was best like vegetables, bedtime, brushing teeth and not playing in the street. I must now ignore my own fear of rejection or judgement and continue to write, to create and connect with other humans in a way that feels authentic to me.
The Brits have “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
I introduce to you “Ignore and Continue.”
Wait, so? Did I just write that? I finished. I did it. It’s done.
Ok. So I just need to do that again.
* quantifitics is a word I made up. It appears it does not exist, but it felt like the right word, so I'm keeping it in anyway. If Dr. Seuss did it, why can't I? Sure, I'm not a doctor--but surely could play on on television if I had to.
I have to admit this to somebody before I burst: I love paper! Sometimes it’s all I can think about and at other times I find myself wanting to talk only about paper even when other paper—I mean, people—want to switch the subject. I’m going to try to get it out of my system here and now.
So, what is it about paper that I love so much? I can’t imagine I’m alone in loving the whisper thin, dependably lined, sometimes hole-punched, consistently 8” x 11” crisp, white, previously pulpy material that can be blown across the room or down the street with the gentlest of breezes.
What a weakling, you might say. Paper, so defenseless and an absolute bore at parties. Easily crumpled and tossed in the trash. The next sheet sits patiently to absorb and reflect whatever thoughts, ideas or utter nonsense passes through a person’s mind. I’m not sure even dogs are that patient with we humans.
Can I propose a new slogan? Paper, man and woman’s best friend:)
I should warn any deeply devoted dog lovers to skip to the next paragraph now. I had a dog when I was younger and he was cute, but there was a boat load of droll (our generation’s all-natural version of slime:), poop coming out the wazoo (literally!) and loud gagging with subsequent throwing up of all sorts of things (and I mean all sorts—often inedible objects that apparently looked delicious through the eyes of a dog). Don’t even get me started on the early morning wake-up calls, periodic car rides with door opened coaxing the dog to drive home after eluding backyard security, and tumbleweeds of hair and hair and—did I mention? Hair! (not to be confused with here, hear, or hare)
Back to paper. Quiet, potty-trained, never-needing-nails trimmed, hairless paper. Sure, paper can’t curl up next to you or clean up the floor after dinner, but dang—it listens like you wouldn’t believe. And, that’s all anybody really wants in this world isn’t it—to be heard? Lord knows it’s harder than ever to be heard these days and so may I suggest: Paper.
It's cheap. It will not judge or suggest you spelled something incorrectly. You won’t find yourself caught in a tug of war with paper when a letter you decided to make lowercase is forced to be uppercase. It’s like forcing lefties to be righties. It’s just wrong!
Paper may run out of room but will never lose power or force you to stop writing because of an all-of-a-sudden-necessary software update. Paper is slow to anger and rich in—oh wait, sorry, that’s something else.
And, while it may be a bit more difficult to find in stores, back in my 20th century days there were whole stores that celebrated paper. Kinkos was one of my favorite places as a young whippersnapper in college with a whole wall devoted to different styles (not just different colors) of paper. Kinkos was like the prequel to FedEx Stores and it had paper for every occasion and any mood.
Daily journal writing may just be the first step toward world peace: imagine everybody, heads down, writing silently in their journals. It doesn’t get more peaceful than that! With that, I’ll leave you with two last ideas.