It’s been almost two months since I posted my last blog. I could attribute this to my travel schedule, blogger’s block, or the ubiquitous excuse these days, being busy. All of which are true, but not entirely.
Before I go into the reasons why I’ve stopped, allow me to digress and reflect on my short blogging journey so far.
Starting my blog
The reason that I started my blog was simple: I was going overseas for an extended period and blogging seemed like a good way to keep family and friends in the loop. Besides, I’d wanted to learn how to set up my own website. The idea of tinkering with designs and layout seemed fun, in a adult-version-of-lego kind of way.
A Google search on “How do I start a blog?” uncovered a trove of information, anything and everything I could possibly need or want to know about blogging. There were step-by-step instructions, as well as things to consider when starting a blog, naming a blog, choosing a URL and picking which blogging platform to go with. Even though there were a lot to digest, the technical part of setting up a blog/website really wasn’t that difficult. What was more difficult to navigate was the emotional part—idiosyncrasies and insecurities—triggered by the blogging process. For example:
My Inner Perfectionist – I’ve always took pride in producing high quality work: either do it properly or not at all. In designing my site, I went through at least 100 different themes before finally settling on one which I (sort of) liked. Not a big deal with high-speed internet connection; but with the tragically slow, sometimes-on-sometimes-off internet in Myanmar, 100 themes equalled 2 days’ work—with bonus deep breathing/relaxation exercises watching the minutes ticked by as each design change was applied. Luckily, I’ve lived with my inner perfectionist long enough now to know a few tricks to moderate it. Mostly by being self-aware and using strategies such as having a deadline.
My Inner Critic – My inner critic is another constant companion throughout my life. Most of the time it stays in the background. But it has a tendency to get louder in certain situations, such as when I’m out of my comfort zone. As I wrote and published my first posts, my inner critic provided a constant stream of commentary on why I shouldn’t bother, why it was a stupid idea, why I should give up, how I didn’t have anything useful to say, etc. I’ve accepted that my inner critic is never going to away completely. Fighting or resisting it only gives it more fuel. The best way to deal with it is to ignore it.
Feeling Vulnerable – What I found most challenging with blogging was how vulnerable I felt about revealing, very publicly, more about myself than I had ever done in the past. I am not sure if other bloggers feel the same way. Rationally I know that as the publisher of my own content, I control how much I share or not share. Besides so much of my information is already in the public domain (e.g. Google or Facebook) or stored somewhere in cyberspace (e.g. my credit rating, my spending patterns, my financial information). So what’s the problem? Nevertheless, this is something that I’m still learning to be okay with.
6 Months (and 9 Posts) Later
I’ve gotten over the hurdles and started my blog. It was like pulling teeth sometimes, but I persisted. So why do I still find myself dragging my feet (or more accurately my fingers) when it comes to blogging?
Part of the reason is because blogging/writing regularly is new to me. Like any new activity, it would require conscious effort and practice before it gets easier. But there seemed to be something more at play.
As I mulled on it, it dawned on me that the bigger reason was because I’ve lost sight of why I wanted to blog in the first place.
When I started my blog, I relied on and took at face value many of the freely available advice from successful bloggers. Many talked about how to build a successful blog, and set out do/don’ts and tips/tactics on building an online brand/presence. The only problem is many of these strategies do not really apply to me. I’m not blogging to build an audience, or a business, or a brand. The main reason that I’m attracted to blogging is as a personal development tool. Blogging provides a learning crucible for me to challenge myself, to improve my writing, and find my voice.
I don’t really care about my blog traffic or blog audience. I don’t like being tethered to social media posting updates to increase my “followers”. I sometimes want to write about things that fall outside the scope of my blog topic (a big no-no apparently). I want to write about issues that interest me, even if it does not necessarily be what my “target audience” wants to read about. The more I try to follow the well-meaning and valid advice of these “experts”, the more disengaged I became. No wonder I was losing steam—it takes a lot of energy to keep doing things that have no meaning to me.
Upon further reflection, I realised how ingrained this pattern of seeking external guidance is. We are conditioned from a young age to seek information from external sources. As a child, we seek answers from our parents. As a student, from our teachers. This pattern continues throughout our adulthood.
There is nothing inherently wrong with seeking information or advice externally. In fact, this is often necessary, especially when it comes to highly specialised information such as medical, tax or legal advice. What is dangerous though is when we take these information at face value and follow the advice given without question.
This problem is compounded nowadays, with the continual torrent of information being streamed on traditional media, social media and the internet. Everyone seems to be, or are purporting to be, an expert of some sort of other. Ironically, this information overload (white noise) is making it harder rather than easier, to sort out what is relevant and what isn’t.
I don’t think there is an easy answer to this conundrum and am certainly no “expert” on this.
My own experience however, suggests that part of the answer lies in balance: we need to balance our reliance on the external, with our own internal sources of knowledge. When evaluating information, we need to exercise our own judgement and adapt what we are told to our individual circumstances.
The best person that can tell us if we are on the right track or not is in fact ourselves.
We need to learn to tap into our own inner knowing and intuition.
Be a better listener to our inner voice.