Perpetual Draft

Why is it so hard to keep blogging?

It's not like I have a shortage of things to write about. I never stopped writing. I can look through my archive right now and see dozens of drafts. Last time I checked I had 40,000+ words of unpublished articles, in various stages of completion. That's 10,000 words more than George Orwell's Animal Farm.

It's not a problem with getting into the zone. I have all the necessary tools to keep focused. I have Byword 2 on my Mac for distraction free typing, a cup of strong Aeropress coffee, and a Pandora radio station set to play smooth jazz.

So it's not about the tools.

My parents used to have a phrase: "He's got the pen, he's got the beret..." You know those aspiring writers who are more obsessed with using the same pen as Hemingway, wearing the right hipster beret, sitting in the right café... but never actually writing or publishing anything? They're more obsessed with the idea of being a writer, than the hard work of actually being one.

I don't even want to be a writer. I'm a coder. An entrepreneur, of sorts. Even an occasional musician... but I don't see myself as a writer. It's like a necessary evil, just something you have to do to convey who you are, what you do, what you're passionate about & what makes you come alive. It's copywriting for your life: elegant prose that defines your product, your service, who you are, that sells people on... yourself.

Without writing, without publishing, you're invisible.

Three writing books on a wooden desk: The War Of Art, On Writing by Stephen King, and Bird By Bird on an Amazon Kindle.

I've read The War Of Art & Do The Work by Stephen Pressfield, so I know all about the concept of 'Resistance' and writer's block. I've got a Kindle copy of Bird By Bird (half read), and a paperback copy of On Writing by Stephen King (which I haven't even started). But it's not as if more reading about writing is going to help, you only get better at writing by... writing.

Joel Spolsky covered this perfectly in his "Fire & Motion" essay. It's better to just read his essay than all those other books, because it's faster than reading a 200 page book about Writer's Block. And while it's reassuring to see that even successful people have days where they feel they can't get anything done, I can summarize Joel's essay with just one crucial line:

"We just have to come in every morning and somehow, launch the text editor."

But even when you've finished your article, when it's no longer a draft, when it's ready to be published... that's when you open yourself up to criticism, revealing your flaws. Someone might read it, and discover that it's not perfect. And that reflects on you personally. Your work isn't perfect, so you're not perfect. Try harder. It's even worse when those people are your friends, or brand new friends just starting to learn who you are. They're going to see your flaws.

Perfectionism is the enemy of completed. Real artists ship. Or as Joel Runyon would say: Life Is No Good In Draft.

Maybe it's less embarrassing to actually publish what you've written and risk someone seeing your flaws, than to have someone look through your website and see a dusty neglected space that hasn't been touched in 4 or 5 years.

4 September // ©2013 Kohan Ikin.