Writing this year has been a great experience for me. If you had asked me a year ago to take on a 12 days of blogging about anime challenge, I would have laughed and said you’re mistaking me for someone else. I’m certainly no stranger to writing long-form, after all, I have been through the academic wringer. Adapting that experience for a social media entwined blogging format is easier said than done however, requiring an unrelenting drive distinct from “you won’t get the qualification if you don’t pick up the damn pen!”.
And I believe when you talk about something like motivation and purpose, you’re referring to branches off of your own ego. Whether you are talking about the latest episode of Yuri on Ice or addressing esoteric themes in manga, the reason you type, the reason you hit send, is to share what you think. The ego is simply one cog that keeps us functioning on the daily. There’s nothing automatically wrong with that.
Yet despite acknowledging the validity in doing things for yourself, the line between self-care and narcissism is an easy one to cross. This is something I’ve had to grapple with this year. Because as I mentioned at the beginning, changing your motivation from something material to something artificial, such as public appreciation, truly affects the mentality behind your work ethic.
It was only after many extended breaks and intermittent soul searching that I came to the realization that I had crossed such a line with my work. I was too self-critical of my writing. I spent hours – even weeks – concerned with giving off an erudite impression to readers. I would barely break 10 views on any article and yet there I was on my 5th draft, ready to hit the delete button after spotting my prose didn’t quite follow, an obvious tautology, or a signing off that wasn’t satisfying enough.
Here’s the scientific formula. Step 1) Mix that sense of urgency and excitement that comes with being a writer. Step 2) Throw in the crippling self-doubt that comes with being a writer that lusts after literary perfection. Step 3) Make sure to wear the necessary safety gear while you observe the resulting implosion.
Thinking about writing, actually writing, then picturing how it would be received. The rush of it was euphoric. Nothing compares to that unique feeling of accomplishment. Nothing immediately challenges that confidence either. This will be great! I thought, I need to show this off to people right away! Forget whatever I’ve done before, this is my magnum opus!
But a challenge does eventually come. And when it does it’s never small.
“This piece is crap, full of vague analogies, plain awful metaphors, verbose language…it’s so forced…what was I thinking?”
“I’ll research more. Reword these paragraphs. Aim for brevity, compress, direct, push for impact.”
“This can’t possibly be saved. If I delete what I want gone there will be nothing left. What use is brevity if my point is as mundane as it gets.”
I got to that stage many times over my short-lived months of aniblogging. I can’t count the amount of articles that got shelved because starting anew became the less tasking option. Then what I did release never quite felt adequate. To the people who shared and praised what I had written I gave a pleasant smile & wave but underneath I was still distrustful. They’re placating me. I’m elated but I don’t deserve to be. Surely they can see that this should’ve been so much more, they are professionals themselves after all.
You don’t need my brutal honesty to understand how toxic this mindset is. Not only is it a disservice to the people around me for not having faith in their words, it’s also incredibly egotistical. Self centered, Narcissistic, or Vain, whatever fits best, I was it. To move on and to realign myself with reality I started to ask myself these questions:
- Why does my article have to be about a topic that nobody has touched on before?
- Why do I need to read 6 books and 15 newsletters to justify talking about this?
- Why do I keep telling myself that those 10’s of hours I put into a piece that only gets 3 views is ‘wasted’?
- Why am I valuing my self-worth off factors that most people won’t even consider?
To be direct, as a message to both myself and whomever may be reading. None of it matters. Writing shouldn’t be about drowning yourself like this. Regardless of technicalities, the absolute worst thing you can do to yourself is obstruct your own progress in such an arbitrarily dictated way. Whether your approach works into a job that pays the bills or simply gets thousands of hits a day, don’t let it become appearances over well being.
Now for the record: I still deal with those feelings of inadequacy. I get unsatisfied and I probably still don’t value what I do as much as I should. I have however moved past the stop-start cycle that has chained me down for so long. It’s actually as I’ve revealed this inner-conflict publicly that I have come to understand one vitally important thing. It is precisely because I have changed that I can even do #12DaysofAnime. I’m proud of myself for that. I hope you are too.
Thanks for reading.