Unlearning work, relearning play

Publishing my writing vs. writing to be published. This difference explains how my view toward writing shifted from something I enjoyed to something I avoided. My earliest published pieces were written for me first and I found outlets for them afterward. Later on, as I learned more about writing markets, advice, forums, social media, branding, platform-building, and other things “real” writers viewed as important, the joy I once felt writing trickled away. I started writing to please other people instead of myself. I became more cautious, more worried about “Will it sell?” than “Do I like it?” Or worse yet, “Should I even write this? What will people think?” which killed countless ideas before they ever saw a page.

I spent most of this year trying to hear myself again. I’m getting there, slowly. I deleted my Facebook and Twitter accounts years ago with no regrets, but this year I stopped lurking on writing discussion threads completely. I got rid of all of my writing advice books and stopped reading writing blogs. More recently, I revisited two activities I’d set aside decades ago–doodling and collage–to relearn how to embrace making things without knowing, or caring, how they will turn out.

So much writing advice is about injecting certainty into what’s inherently an uncertain venture. Creative work is, by definition, creating something new. By focusing so much on the outcome, I’d forgotten that I make things primarily to feel alive. Everything else is gravy.

Here’s a doodle I made with words cut out from a Trader Joe’s newsletter. I had fun making it, and it’s a good reminder not to take anything, especially my own work, too seriously.


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