That’s a weird way to put it, and I guess I did it on purpose.
I write for a living, but that’s something else. That’s copy. And sure, I’ve written a thing or two for the company blog that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing. And yeah, strewn across my room I have half a dozen notebooks strewn with beginnings and tidbits. But I haven’t really been writing.
No, I’ve been that guy that makes a big process out of running a couple miles every other week. That’s not running, and what I’m doing isn’t writing. Not until I get back to the point where I’m routinely knocking out five miles a day. And not until I’m writing without mixing and completely over-extending my metaphors.
I really don’t even know when I stopped. I mean, I stopped writing a personal essays a few years back because I just didn’t like what I was writing. I couldn’t take the navel gazing any longer. It wasn’t even good navel gazing.
Then after a couple years of low-level freelance writing about anything but myself – some pieces I mailed in, others I’m still proud of no matter how insignificant – I started copywriting for a steadier paycheck. And maybe you’d expect me to second-guess that decision, like somehow that’s when it got off the track. But I don’t. I’m no martyr. I just compose semi-coherent sentences, and think it’s pretty cool that people pay me to do it.
It was the first narrative thing that actually got to me. I was self-conscious.
I remember reading a particularly enthralling magazine profile of some big shot music producer. It was real, and it was enlightening, and it was written in the first person without being all about the writer. Then I went back and read the last few pages of my notebook and found that it was – like this – narcissistic ramblings. I cringed, and I just stopped writing about myself.
I now realize this was a poor decision. Not because the writing wasn’t bad. Trust me, it was. But because twenty-somethings are bad writers. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally even the better ones aren’t that great. Mostly, because writing is hard. It just is. But also because you just have to write out the bad ones. I think the only reason I’m even a decent writer is because of all the bad writing I did in the past.
It’s like a golf swing. Mines awful. I just couldn’t get it down. I used to play a bit back when my buddy lived on the second worst 9-hole course in the state of Delaware. But I was just flailing out there – no two swings actually resembling each other. And so I never found a consistent enough swing to start tweaking and improving. I just found different ways to miss the fairway.
That’s basically my writing. I need to write every day to find my voice. Even if it’s not that great of a voice. Because at least if it’s consistently bad in the same ways I might be able to identify the problems and test out solutions.
So I’m writing every day again. Hopefully about things other than myself. Hopefully some things that I’d actually like to read. But every day – even when it’s neither of those. And even when it’s not much. A few decent words is more than enough to be proud of. Better that than a thousand bad ones – though I’m sure there will be a few of those as well.
And I start this project realizing at some point a future Justin will burn it to the ground. Just as a previous Justin did to his previous blogs. But I’m okay with that. I just have a lot of bad writing to get out.