The agony and the agony

Why I’m terrified of writing on Medium

And why I do it anyway

Last time I visited my mom, she gave me a big, clear storage bin. It was full of essays, notebooks, awards, and artwork: the things left behind from my first thirteen years of education. My parents were preparing for a big move and needed to purge. “Can you go through this while you’re here?” she asked. “I can’t take everything with us.”

As I sat on the basement floor sifting through papers, keeping very little of what once constituted so much of my life, I stumbled upon my high school English journals.

These were quarterly collections of one-page essays we were required to write in response to a prompt. I started reading through my teenage musings — and I was horrified.

What I found was a collection of thoughts and ideas I would never claim now. Exceedingly conservative, borderline racist at points, and showing little-to-no patience for viewpoints that were different than mine — needless to say, the essays went in the “recycle” pile.

But it wasn’t just my fundamentalism that disturbed me. It was that I still remembered how strongly I felt that my opinions were defensible and, more to the point, absolutely true.

And the thing is, while my opinions have changed, my personality hasn’t. I still feel as strongly today about my views as I did back then.

Which brings me to why I’m terrified of writing on Medium: What if I look back on what I post with the same abject horror with which I faced my journals?

After the election of Donald Trump, my friend and I were sad, confused, and fired up. “We have a lot to say!” we said. “So let’s say it!” Medium felt like the right place to do it, so we started our publication Since You Asked.

Since then, I’ve lived in a state of fear (tempered by some excitement of course). SYA features us, and our opinions. Actually posting something feels so definite, like saying “this is exactly what I think.” But I know I am constantly in flux.

On top of that, I have a tendency to become my own worst troll, pointing out all the ways some imaginary critic could refute all my points — someone more world-wise and savvy than me, with irrefutable rationality. If I get even a bit of success, I become immediately overwhelmed by the thought of exceeding it in the future, putting undue pressure on myself. Writing can feel like a performance.

Finally, I worry about just “adding to the noise.” I intentionally try to limit how much digital content I consume, and I know how much work it takes to cut through all the clutter and find things that really add value to my day. I think Medium is helpful for that, but still, I worry about being part of distracting other people’s minds with “one more thing to read.”

Despite all this, I’ve made my decision: I’m going to keep writing on Medium. Here are some of the reasons why:

Writing is the best way to keep writing

I love writing, but it is a craft, and it requires practice. One of my life mottos is “practice recording.” Instead of giving into the pressure to “perform” through writing, I try to remind myself that I’m an amateur. Writing on Medium, even for a small audience, is an act of training, a practice that will keep my skills sharp and available for when I really need them.

I started because I had something to say

And I still do. So even if I only reach a few people, can I speak to them well? Can I offer a small, thoughtful piece that allows them to grow in their thinking or engage with an idea? That might be worth more than letting myself be silenced by my own fears. I am actively trying to turn my fear of “noise” into motivation for producing fewer but higher quality pieces. I think that’s worthwhile.

Even if I change, everything I post is a mark of where I’ve been

I attended an arts group the other night, and we began talking about the idea of Ebenezers. In the Old Testament of the Bible, an Ebenezer was a stone set up to remind people how far they’d come. Like a published piece, an Ebenezer is unchangeable: it stays in place even once the people move on from it.

I think I’m ok with putting my writing out there as a kind of Ebenezer: something to mark where I’ve been. And I’ll try to be generous with myself for how far I’ve gone, and gain energy for how far I still have to go.

How do you keep writing when it feels futile or terrifying? And why?


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