The writing dilemma

Writing has become such an integral part of my life since my college days. Between journalling and blogs, I’ve learned to articulate my thoughts and emotions well and they’ve really helped me get clarity for myself and be of help to a few others.

But then… I stopped writing.

When I initially started writing, I didn’t think much at all. All that was there was me and my paper (or my blog post). I poured my heart out and wrote everything that came to my mind. And then, I hit publish. Before I knew it, I was publishing hundreds of blogs and instagram posts/stories.

At some point, I started receiving compliments for what I wrote. Many folks told me that they really found it helpful. While it initially made me feel good that I was being helpful and inspiring, it soon made me very conscious and aware.

I started realising that people were actually reading it! That my thoughts and feelings and opinions are out in public and I’m getting judged for it. That it now has significance and the power to shape others’ opinions and thoughts.

At one point, I had someone who came up to me and said she cut her hair like I did because she was inspired by me and I think instead of feeling admired, I felt scared. I started questioning if I am indeed making sense. If my writing is doing justice or if people are misunderstanding my words and actions. I started feeling the pressure to be right in my opinions and guidance and that led me to completely quitting writing.

I deleted instagram. I started publishing blogs and then unpublishing them because I’d later be more conscious of my writing. The fear crippled me and I’ve still not come out of it or made up my mind about my perspective on writing.

I know that I crave for authentic self-expression. I want to be vulnerable in my writing. I want it to be honest. But at the same time, I also feel scared of rejection and the pressure of having to do “the right thing”.

I’m stuck wondering – should I be writing for myself or for others? I still don’t know the answer to that.

Seth Godin, in his book ‘The Practice‘ says that you should either write for yourself or for others, but never both. Because you’re expecting to be yourself and have people accept you. And while everyone would like that, it is a big ask.

Although I really want to write for myself, I’ve come to learn over the years that the most courage it takes any person is to truly be themselves, for the sake of authenticity. To be able to face the fear and the shame and one’s own demons and truly embrace one’s own self.

This Stephen King quote might just be the answer to my dilemma then. Write for myself and then get feedback from the world to rewrite it for my audience.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open. Your stuff starts out being just for you, in other words, but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right — as right as you can, anyway — it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it.” — Stephen King

I think I’m not so alone in these experiences. So many writers are talking about their own fears of writing and I’m trying to find all the relatable voices and useful advice for my own perusal.

“But your writing is for you and your rewriting is for the public. You always come first, remember that. And to the writers who don’t hide their feelings and leave it out in the open for the world to see, I applaud you. You are brave.”[1]

“It’s better to be judged than to be ignored.” [2]

“Get into the mindset that you want this constructive criticism on your writing. This makes it better and improves the quality. That means less negative reviews and more happy readers.

“Criticism will help you grow as a writer. Some critics will be negative. Other critics will give you constructive feedback. Focus on the latter and use it to improve your writing. Turn your critics into your greatest fans.” [3]

“People are not concerned with your creative talent as much as they want you, the author, to provide them with a unique learning experience. Take your readers on a journey and they will follow you.[4]

In light of all this, perhaps the answer then is to just go for it and then figure it out along the way. To not let these fears stop me from writing at all, but to be willing to face the judgement and criticism, take what is useful, discard the rest and continue to write anyway.. because it is no way to live without writing that which I direly want to write.


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