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How Blogging is Teaching Me About Balance with Writing

Anaїs Nin once wrote, “My ideas usually come not at my desk writing, but in the midst of  living.” Ideas don’t wait to come until you’re sitting, ready to write, so I jot down a lot of notes to return to when there is time. If something in the news hits me I spit out my immediate reaction on the page then stop, and return to it later, after I’ve calmed down and can approach it a little more level-headed. When I was an editorial intern I remember reading a few essays that were insightful and necessary and relevant…and too angry to be effective. They reminded me that no matter how passionate I am about a subject, if I don’t step back, let it breathe, check my emotions and revise, my words will read as nothing more than an irritating rant.

This is what’s hard for me about blogging. The very nature of it demands letting go of infinite revision. Some bloggers don’t revise their posts at all and just sit down, write it, and up it goes. Others write short essays, revise them a little, and up they go. We each need to find our own balance, I suppose, which might depend on the purpose of each individual blog. I don’t want to spit out a rant as quickly as possible for the simple sake of posting, only to have a blog comprised of spontaneous emotional outbursts that weren’t given enough time or thought. But I also need to post frequently, regularly, and silence my inner perfectionist to do so. I’ve let too much time pass without posting while waiting for the muse to come and say “This is how it should be done.”

I have to “feel” it!

Recently I was watching Robert DeNiro, (because I watch him every chance possible) in an interview on Inside The Actor’s Studio. He talked about how he “was afraid to make a move,” when preparing for a scene and felt like he had to go through some whole complicated creative process to get into the character and scene, and would hesitate, thinking “I have to feel it, I’m gonna have to do this…”  A teacher told him simply, “At the end of the day you’ve got to get up and do it. And the sooner you get to knowing that you’ve got to get up and do it, the quicker you’ll do it.” Once he just jumped in he realized he hadn’t needed to pamper himself or go through this or that first: “You’d just arrive there, you’d be there, believe it or not.”

Okay. Simple enough. Just sit down and write. I’ve got a great idea and all the emotion in the world to fuel the writing, and can get myself to sit down and just write it. But I can’t always stop there, and do sometimes have to go full speed ahead, take a breather, then come back. What I’m finding though, is that something lights a fire under me so I sit down and spit out my rant. Then I back off to let out some emotion and let in (hopefully) some rationality…and then while I’m letting it brew, I discover someone else has written something very similar, or taken an idea similar to one I had and was sitting on, but they actually did something with it. Which, of course, elicits another annoying voice that says “Well, now you’ve done it. You’ve waited and someone else wrote it and now you can’t, lest it look like you are taking someone else’s ideas due to the lack of your own.” Great. Allow me a moment, if you will, to respond to that voice: Shut the hell up.

A few nights ago I called my friend L to get her opinion on a post I was writing. News of Representative Akin’s comments on “legitimate rape” was spreading across websites like a trojan horse, and though I often remain silent on the idiotic things politicians say, this was an immediate and ferocious blast of isolated thunder for me; my fingers could hardly keep up with my thoughts. It seems a couple people misunderstand the word “empathy,” so I wanted to demonstrate how they might come to better understand it, but was worried that it might be a little graphic for a blog post, so I read it to her to see what she thought. Then today I get online and see an article responding to the same thing, with a couple paragraphs written the same way I wrote mine. And all is lost. Surely I can’t write it like that now, when someone has already done it the same way.

I fired off one of those “I can’t believe this!” texts to my friend, who has encouraged me to finish and post it anyway. And I will. For one thing, there is a similarity, but so what? We argue two different points, both valid. If we all stopped writing essays and books and songs and films because someone had already tackled that subject before or written it that same way before, we’d be missing out on a lot of good work. Anaїs Nin also wrote that “It is the function of art to renew our perception.  What we are familiar with we cease to see.  The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” So someone wrote something the way I wanted to and they beat me to it. So what. I’m learning my writing needs distance and time – just not too much.

I’m going to put my that little insecurity to bed, finish the piece, and post it soon.

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