Yesterday at lunch I was trying to explain to a friend of mine how writing every day changes one’s day. “Because you’re always looking at things as potential blog posts?” she said. No, that’s not it.
I tried to explain how writing every day, more specifically blogging every day, frees a person up in terms of increasing one’s tolerance for exposure. By this, I don’t mean exposure in terms of revealing things about one’s own life, although if a person writes personal essays, they are, by definition, about the things he/she knows, believes, experiences. A personal essay that’s not personal is an editorial.
By exposure, I mean writing something and putting it out there. With your name on it. For other people to read. People who don’t know you. Scarier, people who do.
By writing and posting every day, what begins as an online diary or a series of stories about one’s life gradually grows into something more nuanced. Chances are taken in topic and language. Vocabulary expands. There is room for nonsense, stories about a man daring a woman to run into a ditch and tag an alligator or about mice wrapped up as Christmas presents. And there is room for the mundane pleasures of life on this earth, breathing, walking, swimming, partnering with someone. And for the searing. It was the telling of my own illegal abortion story in my blog that was the single most liberating thing I have done in years. And I know it affected other people because they told me so. I wouldn’t have been able to do that piece if I hadn’t worn away my fear of being judged by having posted many difficult stories and thoughts already.
I admire people who keep private journals. I think it’s an extraordinary thing and I wish I had done it over the course of my life. But in order to be a writer, I think, you have to write things that other people read. It’s not their reaction to your writing that is important, it is the risk and belief that goes into the exposure. It is invigorating in the most fundamental way. And, I think, the only way to get better as a writer.
You can’t save it all up, waiting for the perfect time to write the perfect piece. It will never come. It will just feel more and more impossible to write. Until all you do is talk about writing and the myriad things that keep you from writing. It’s just play acting then. If you want to write, write. Right?
So when I am writing and posting every day, it changes everything. It’s like I have extra ganglia dangling that sense the quirky and odd, the strange place and odd feeling. It’s what would make me turn around and walk back to the place where an empty liquor bottle stood on the sidewalk so I could take a picture knowing I wanted to write about it later. It is fun and energizing to notice more things. That’s what writing every day inspires.
So far this year, I’ve posted every day but not everything has been newly written. I’ve reposted pieces, especially some written early in my blogging life when only my husband and three people down the street read my blog. I should give this piece another airing, I think, at the same time being relieved at having a day off. The theory remains the same: blogging doesn’t make you a better writer if you only think about blogging. It’s pen to paper to publish – that’s the only thing that counts.