This week, I’m going to be writing about the ways we – as writers – the way I, as a writer, can sabotage my own work by focusing too much on what isn’t really our work. Sometimes, we focus on other things that seem like writing because we are using them as excuses, because other people tell us we need to, because it’s easier, because we’re afraid. In the years I’ve been doing this writing thing full-time, I’ve learned – the hard way over and over again – that nothing makes up for the writing itself. Nothing at all.
I blog almost every day, 365 days a year. I do it first thing in the morning, and I love it. It forms part of my practice, a disciplined part of my day that moves me toward that grove of space where the words come easiest for me.
BUT my blog is not my real writing – it’s part of the routine I use to get to my writing. For some people, what they want to write is a blog – a good, strong collection of their words, and they don’t have any desire to publish a book or write about subjects or in styles that aren’t really blog-friendly. For them, their blog is their writing. For me, it is most definitely not.
My real writing is the stuff I do that takes my deepest energy, that requires me slide into that space where everything else falls away. I picture the space where I do my real writing as a quiet forest glen where there is sound but nothing I need to attend to, nothing that calls forth my intervention. It is serene, secluded, and I am alone there.
My blog is an interactive place where I want to have conversations and engage my words directly with my readers. I picture this space as a crossroads outside of that forest glen. They aren’t separate worlds, but they are separate spaces.
I get in trouble when I begin to think that my blog is the real writing, when I begin to think the number of comments or unique visitors is what determines the value of what I have to say. Of course, I want people to read my blog; I wouldn’t write it if I didn’t. But if I’m speaking true, if I’m honoring who I am and what I think, even on my blog, it doesn’t matter if I have 300 readers or 300,000 – I’m doing the right work there.
Yet, for me, the blog is not the place where I want to put my truest work. I love when other people choose this for their best writing, but for me, it’s not the place. I don’t write deeply in short bursts of just a few hundred words. I need space to let things settle, as in a deep well; I need long essays and chapters where the sediment of false lyricism and too many lists can fall to the bottom. A blog doesn’t give me that space.
While I do my best to put good content up on the blog, while I desperately love the conversation in this space, I save my real writing for my book. I don’t have a bottomless well, and I need to honor the real work first.
I once heard Sven Birkerts say that teaching is not his real work. It isn’t in either (as much as I love it) and neither is blogging. My real work is to sit long with words, to settle in to that forest glen with my back against a tree and listen.
What is your real writing? Are you putting your best energy into that work?