In 2008, I started a blog about being in college. There was one post, titled "This is my first post"
In 2010, I started a blog that was going to be reviews of books. There was one post, titled "My first post, and why I hate Alice Sebold."
In 2012, I started a blog about writing. There were 4 posts and a picture of a T-Rex.
In 2013, I wrote a book about scuba diving and put it in a drawer.
In 2014. I started a money blog, blogged for two years and then stopped.
Each time I was not strong enough to fight the overwhelming fear that there was Just. No. Point.
I was writing into a dark void.
Nobody was reading.
I could not see the end destination and therefore became convinced there was no end destination and I was actually just driving in circles.
When I was in college, I read a quote that was something like: winners quit often. And when it came to creative projects, I used this as a personal mantra. I only wanted to invest my energy in a project that was going to be "big." Which usually meant that whatever project I was working on got deemed as having "no potential" and was axed, sometimes after just one post or chapter.
It took me years to question that quote -- what was I trying to win at? How do you win at creativity?
When I look at the list of projects I listed above, it feels so clear that if I had just kept writing, just stuck with it, they could have turned into something fulfilling. Instead, I killed them before they could prove themselves.
I'm not saying that I should have kept writing a blog about college for years without a single reader. Or that my book review blog could have been the next Kirkus Reviews.
I have such a distinct memory of sitting at my table in my first college apartment, deleting my blog (which consisted of one post), thinking to myself: there are already too many blogs, blogging is totally saturated. Now I can think of 10 bloggers I LOVE who started writing in 2008 who have amazing, impactful blogs. What if they had told themselves the same thing? Or, when they heard that voice of doubt and pointlessness, what if they had listened?
When I decided that my 2017 goal was to write a memoir, my biggest concern was that I would give up. I knew I could write a full-length book, and I knew I could make the time, but I also knew that the voice in my head was going to be extra loud on this one, telling me I was wasting my time, that nobody wanted to read my memoir, that this project was a joke.
So I made myself a promise - that I would finish the book no matter what. I told myself that my only job was to finish this chapter. And now this chapter. And the next and the next. When I would reread my work for the day and decide this was the worst writing ever written, I'd tell myself that was fine because my only goal was to get words on the page, and I had done that.
It worked. I showed up at the cafe near my house every Friday morning and told myself that I just had to get words on the page. And I did. 10,000 words became 20,000 words, and now I'm hanging out around 50,000 with 60% of the first draft finished.
Projects are like snowballs, building on themselves, going faster and faster. The project you have on Day 1 looks remarkably different than the project you end up with on Day 50. The same way that it becomes harder to keep going in the beginning, it also becomes harder to quit the longer you've been doing it. So when I try to stop writing my book now, I think about all the hours I've already put in, and how close I am to being finished...and it just feels easier to keep going.
Besides, if I put it in a (figurative google-folder) drawer, I am deciding the potential of the project. But if I keep writing, then eventually the world will get to decide the potential of the project. And that feels so much more exciting.