The Best Teacher In The World Is A Cold, Strange, Unforgiving Audience
All you have to do is click a button to consider yourself a published author. Anyone can do it; that is one of the beautiful things about the internet. Of course, the ugly side of that is that most of what goes on to the internet will be crap.
But that's why there are audiences and curators. It's a given that as a writer and storyteller (which anyone in any field built on convincing an audience has to be) you are working constantly on improving your craft. But no matter how many books on writing you read or how many secret drafts are stored on your hard drive, you'll never gain any real lessons if you don't put your work out there and suffer the embarrassment of being much less than you know you're capable of.
As an actor, I've worked in many rehearsal rooms and a few sets. You know what I know? If I'm working on a scene that is particularly demanding or emotional and I really go for it and find myself on the ground having poured my entire heart out, I look around the room and I see no one is really paying attention. The designers and technicians have their own shit to deal with. They have jobs to do. And I have my job--which is basically to embarrass myself even--especially--while no one cares.
I approach writing the same way.
Here are five reasons why you should publish your work even if it sucks.
THE BEST TEACHER IN THE WORLD IS A COLD, STRANGE, UNFORGIVING AUDIENCE
Hey look it's the subtitle of this post.
Playwrights especially know this about writing. Their work goes through hundred of read-throughs, workshops, and previews all for one purpose.
To have complete strangers judge whether or not the material works.
In a sense, your blog is a single body of work made up of separate installations. Every time you publish you are basically adding to that single body of work that is your blog, and with each new publication an audience has more exposure to you and more reason to judge.
Playwright, essayist, and novelist David Mamet has a lot of great theories about drama. In one he quotes the Prophet Muhammad on the concept of two teachers.
The Prophet Muhammad said there is a speaking teacher and a silent teacher.
The speaking teacher is the Qur'an; the silent teacher is death.
For a writer or a dramatist or any storyteller there are also two teachers.
The speaking teacher is the audience; the silent teacher is the empty page.
Fill that empty page and let the speaking teacher see it for what it is.
It's that simple.
YOU NEED MORE ENERGY TO WORK ON YOUR PASSION PROJECTS
This is the one I feel strongest about. For some of you, blogging is all the writing you ever want to do. Woo-hoo good for you.
If you are less fortunate, you are probably more ambitious. You're working on other stuff that requires extreme commitment. You're working on a novel, play, screenplay, podcast, or the like. You're doing deep work. Very deep work that you're not getting paid for (yet).
Blogging requires a lot of attention in its own right. Consistency; quality; and marketing ability. But if you allow yourself to be consumed by perfectionism in the blogosphere, you won't have the time or energy to focus on those projects that are swimming around like bottom feeders deep in the ocean of your heart of hearts.
I don't know about you but I'm a person with ambition and I'm not going to be dragged away from my callings because I'm afraid that my blog is less than perfect.
BLOGGING SHOULD BE A RELEASE
As I write this of course, I'm thinking of how to provide value to my readers; that's important for any blogger.
But blogging should also be a place where I can walk away with my head clearer in order to be able to focus my energy onto projects I'm really passionate about. I can't tax myself to find the perfect turn of phrase or word or story arch; I need to save that mental energy for when it really matters.
Think of blogging like the jam session equivalent for musicians. You're not building your platinum album, but you're putting in the hours and keeping your creative muscles alive.
You're warming yourself up for the real work ahead.
YOUR WRITING WILL BE LESS PRECIOUS; MAYBE EVEN BETTER
When you decide to limit the time you put into writing, you can't worry about whether or not you sound profound or unique or formal or off the wall or offensive or too safe. Basically, any of the stuff that doesn't matter.
All you have time to worry about are two things.
Is my writing valuable?
Does it make sense?
When I write quickly; when I write knowing I'm going to hit "publish" right after without second guessing, I put more of myself into my writing. I'm funnier and I take myself much less seriously. And strangely I end up being more useful to you, because all that is on my mind is what works. I'm not trying to show off.
Once you know where you're going just let yourself fly.
IT'S REALLY NOT UP TO YOU ANYWAY
I know this as a stage performer. Often times the performance that "feels really good" is the one where I bore people to death.
What feels really good is often self-indulgent.
And I can't tell you the number of times where I've gone on stage and walked off wanting to quit acting all together and go chug a whole bottle of Kentucky bourbon and make myself sleep on the street because of my forever lost sense of self-worth, only to have someone com up to me and say,
"You were absolutely wonderful tonight."
With any creative craft, looking and feeling foolish is usually a sign you're on the right track. It means you're expanding the meaning of being human. And when you do that and allow others in without worrying if you're coming across as sane or sexy (there is nothing sane or sexy about what we do) you are doing nothing less than giving your audience a gift.
You're giving them a gift of who you are, which might allow them a brief glimpse into who they are.
And what better reason to be alive?
The unexamined life is not worth living.
So be bold and impress your sense of self onto the world.
Hit that dreaded idolized monster siren that is the button that says "publish."