And it may be so insidious that we don’t even recognize it until it strikes.
I lost my momentum with my writing the moment I started to care too much about outside reinforcement. Views, engagement and all that sort of thing that we kind of check regularly to see where we stand.
The story goes like this:
You start writing with the appropriate expectations that, at first, no one will ever read your articles. And that’s good because the pressure is off. You write out to your heart desire. Whatever comes to your mind and whatever needs to get out of your soul gets put on paper. Because no one will read it, you get to be you.
Some time passes and some of your stories come to life: people are clicking on some of your titles, reading some of your articles and few of them even clap. Oh well. It buys you in. It’s attractive. It’s dopamine. It’s excitement.
And from there, the race starts: you start to compare your performing articles to your non-performing ones, your stars to the ones that went unnoticed. You start to investigate what was about some articles to get up and others to fade away like they didn’t even exist.
And you figure out that something works (at least in theory). You read some other articles that are “performing” out there and you try to fit yours in that recipe of success, whatever that is. Change a little bit here and here. Modify this. Maybe think of another title. Maybe the subject isn’t good enough. Maybe it won’t be read. Maybe I should write about something else.
From there, it’s just a matter of time until you stop writing for yourself and start writing for “what works”. What gets read. What gets clicked on.
And from there, it’s just a matter of time until you get stuck and lose momentum because it’s not enjoyable anymore. While there can be a number of causes why writing doesn’t excite you anymore, one of them is sure:
You’ve traded yourself for that numbers to get higher.
And we do this most of the time because we’re running on shortcuts. We like shortcuts.
Writing from an authentic point and getting noticed and rewarded it’s tremendous. Yet, it needs time. You need to come up every day and write, for sake of one day getting noticed. We need to stick to ourselves and the subjects that interest us and keep on writing and waiting. But, we’re not comfortable waiting anymore.
So, we borrow. Shortcuts. Recipes. We write on subjects that “work”. That get noticed. And it’s just a matter of time until we start to resent it. And it’s not because we’ve lost our passion for writing. It’s because we’ve traded our passion and ourselves for abstract numbers.
Your words will flow freely when you stay there, connected with yourself, your life and your interests. The moment you want your words to flow in order to fill some stats, they will shrink, dry up and fade up until they won’t be there anymore.
In my case, my best stories were those where I poured my soul onto the paper. When I’ve written about my struggle with self-development. Or my struggle with becoming a people-person and thinking positive. Or my struggle with emotion management. Or my opinion on how we should tackle our jobs. When I could re-read my piece and say “yes, that’s me there, all over the place.”
The moment I started writing about something just because it could go well, my writing felt heavy. It felt like a burden. It no longer excited me.
So, where’s the line between writing for yourself and writing for your readers?
Ray Bradbury in his book “Zen in the art of writing” says that:
“If you are writing without zest, without gusto, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer. It means you are so busy keeping one eye on the commercial market, or one ear peeled for the avant-garde coterie, that you are not being yourself. You don’t even know yourself. For the first thing a writer should be is — excited. He should be a thing of fevers and enthusiasms. Without such vigor, he might as well be out picking peaches or digging ditches; God knows it’d be better for his health.”
So, I think we give birth to our best stories when they’re pieces from us. Extensions of us. A form that gets born in another form. When they express our:
- Happenings and experiences
- Feelings we’re having and yearn to be put on paper
- Strong opinions
- Things that inspire us
- Our passions
- Our lessons
… to name just a few.
We need to trust them. We need to trust that they will explode and turn up into stars when they find the people who can connect with them.
We need to stop writing for everyone out there and start writing with the thought of bringing value to someone who feels the same way we do. Who went through almost the same things we went through. Who can find themselves in our stories. We connect to stories that bring something to surface in ourselves. That mirror us.
We need to write true to ourselves, certain that our story will find its reader.
Yes, you can write a story that lists 25 to do’s and 14 how to’s. Yet, if it won’t find the people that connect with your struggle, your lesson, your experience or your feelings, that find themselves in your story, it will pass like it didn’t even exist.
Stories are no recipes. No guidelines. Stories connect people that think and feel alike. And they can only connect when they’re born out of us. True helpful stories are born out of struggles and lessons. They’re deep. They’re thought through. They’re digested and ingrained in our every cell. And we spill them out, and maybe they’ll find another one of us to help.
Underneath the surface, we’re all struggling to make sense of this world. We only help others make sense of this world easier. And other people help us do the same. Through all these stories and articles.
So, our stories need to start with us.
“Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.” Ray Bradbury
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