I’ve had trouble with what this website has been about since the start. This trouble has come in two stripes; one stripe has been talking about what it’s about to others and part of it has been about what it is to me.
It was a lot easier back in the day when it was smaller and less well-known, though, and before it became a platform for other things. When it became about something, I had to make more and more choices about what content went into the “this fits here” bucket and what didn’t.
For instance, in tonight’s continuation of the creative insomnia that I’ve had all week post-flu, I was thinking about how female-dominated my life has always been and how much I appreciate what they’ve taught me and how they’ve helped me become who I am today. Those strong women have made me the strong male I am just as much as the strong men in my life did. I needed and appreciate both.
There’s more to what I wanted to write than that, but, at a certain point, I started to ask where I could post something like that. Which blogs would be particularly open to it? Not because I wanted to write a guest post, mind you, but because I wanted to put it somewhere where they had conversations about that.
Which led me to thinking about whether it was time for me to reconsider starting a personal blog where I could just talk about all the stuff that didn’t have to be about anything or on a schedule, much like you can have great conversations with friends – meaningful, life-changing conversations – without ever knowing or having to think about whether the conversation was about something. A blog wherein I could just share ideas that were on my mind without some weird positional or value proposition promise needing to take place. (THIS POST’S HEADLINE IS AWESOME AND COMPELLING, JUST LIKE THIS BLOG! or THIS CONTENT WILL HELP YOU BE AWESOME.)
Of course, I’m not the first blogger to get tired of the game and want a free space again, and I won’t be the last. And I haven’t started that personal blog yet for a lot of reasons, but one of the chief among them is that I’ve been unclear about how much of the urge to do so is due to creative cowardice and being afraid to show some vulnerability and modeling the message.
Perhaps that needs some explaining.
Most of the thoughts I’d want to write a post about on that personal blog would fall under the Flourishing side of Productive Flourishing. They’d be about the human journey; they’d be me not hiding Philosopher Charlie away in some corner until he can figure out how to tie what he’s thinking into “something people care about” or keeping Guardian Charlie’s military experience and perspective under wraps lest people think I’m chest-pounding or just telling old Army stories; they’d be me revealing more of the me people meet and find deeper, funnier, more interesting, and warmer than they expected; they’d include more of what I don’t know or have an answer for but that I’m just curious about; they might actually include what I do, struggle with, use for tools, get inspired and excited by, and so on.
Statistically speaking, those conversations wouldn’t be for a lot of people. It takes a different degree of creative courage to create because you’re inspired to when you know that what you create won’t be for a lot of people when you could just as easily focus on what more people would like. It’s easier when you don’t know what people want or when you flat out don’t care. I both know and care, and I don’t want to be yet another person metablogging (guilty here!) or continually talking about myself (also, guilty here!).
(Interesting question: who are these “people?” Crazy how we let “people” dictate how much we talk to our real people.)
If my posts looked more like what my actual conversations looked like, guess what they’d include? That stuff. Guess what people ask me about offline or email me a few weeks after meeting me about? That stuff. That, and when am I going to be done with the damn book already? (Asked lovingly, received as such. Thank you.)
But this blog has always been about doing the stuff that matters. Relating it to what started tonight’s journey – the reflection on my female-dominated life – how in the hell does writing about making better action lists matter more than addressing the conditions that lead to healthy, well-functioning, balanced people? Why doesn’t a piece that relates some challenges I’ve had with my own drive lately to documentaries I’ve watched about musicians’ careers rest comfortably alongside discussions of being a professional creative as much as a piece on creative mindset? Why isn’t letting you know that I’m just as challenged about making sure I exercise more valuable than conveniently not telling you that so you don’t question my credibility in being able to talk about the need for making room for it and doing it?
And what kind of message does it send to my clients who are struggling with being vulnerable and on stage when I decide to compartmentalize the full-Charlie experience yet encourage them to be real and human?
(Aside: In the last month, I’ve read Daring Greatly, The Icarus Deception, Fierce Conversations and Turning Pro. The ideas from these great books have no doubt been kicking around. I recommend all of them, with Daring Greatly and Fierce Conversations being absolute must reads.)
To be clear, this is not about some misguided expectation that I (or we) should all be living our external and inner lives outloud, onstage, 24/7. We all get to decide what parts of our lives are reserved for ourselves and our loved ones and which parts we want to share with the broader world.
I’m just much more careful to be clear about why I’m doing things and at least try to own up to my fears and discomforts, even if I have no desire to change them. Starting a personal blog so I can avoid being vulnerable is ultimately self-defeating and out of integrity for me. It’s self-defeating because, in the best case, it would only exacerbate the differences between how I want to write and how I do write at the same time that people might actually like it and then what would I do? It’s out of integrity to continually cop out and avoid the richer, deeper, and just as important conversations that I could be having with you. Not to mention that I prefer to keep things simple, and another blog is yet another thing to keep up with.
And yet that still leaves me stuck with what to do with these stillborn conversations. What I’ve been doing for the last few years is nothing, besides occasionally drafting them and throwing them away later. If I published 1/3 of what I actually write or 1/50th of what I think, I’d find it hard to only post once a day. And there’d be at least a book or two under my belt.
Take, for instance, this very piece. My natural inclination is to hit save and walk away from it, telling myself that I’d edit it later but secretly knowing that it wouldn’t go anywhere (Draft #72). I’ve explored what I need to do and you don’t need to see how the sausage is made – my next right thing is to just start writing.
Or I’d take out a safe paragraph or two, leave out all of the meta stuff that (gasp!) reveals that I’m working through some of the very same things you are, and let you know that I’ll be experimenting with some different writing styles. Just so you know. (Is it okay? Please.)
Or, when I went into the editing stage of the process, I’d go through and make sure that I look a lot smarter and come off as a polished and more confident writer, thinker, and expert. And, while I’m at it, go through and find the key insights and perhaps think about how I can convert this into something that’s an actionable list or how-to-ish or SEO-friendly or a good piece to include as part of a content marketing trail. Ooh, wait, the headline should be “3 Questions To Ask When You Don’t Know What Your Blog Is About.” And those three questions: 1) What are you interested in? 2) Who are you really writing for? and 3) What are your goals and expectations? Wait, there’s something there! Cut out all the rest and flesh those out. 30 minutes, 500 – 800 words, get the clicks, done!)
I’ve got to show up as an A-Lister, you know?
But today, I’d rather show you some of the less pristine parts under the tip of the creative iceberg you normally see because, today, I’m inspired and feel courageous enough to do so. Today, I’d rather get up and take care of my people. We both deserve it.