I'll start with the tl;dr: I want to try to write more often. Specifically, I'd like to aim for "near-daily" blog posts, with a goal of publishing something approximately five days per week and accompanying it with a piece of art. I almost certainly won't hit that goal, but it feels like a good number to aim for.
I recently dropped an episode about a book that I really liked called Consorting with Spirits by Jason Miller. In the book, Miller talks about how when interacting with the paranormal, it's important to prepare less and risk more. In the episode, I talk about how I recognize that I need to take that advice to heart. When interacting with the paranormal, I often doubt myself and try to talk myself out of what I actually experienced.
And I do that even in the moment, while the strange thing is happening, which Miller explains is the exact moment when you should not be doubting yourself. (He basically says you can doubt yourself anytime afterwards, when you're analyzing what you've been told her what you've encountered. But if you do it in the moment, it shuts down that part of your brain that helps to process the unusual and paranormal and psychical.)
As I was working on editing the episode, I realized that the maxim prepare less, risk more applies to me more than I would like it to, and more than in just my paranormal experiences. I have very strong perfectionist tendencies, and I'm the sort of person who creates large amounts of art and then just never shares it with anybody.
Here are a couple examples:
- Starting last May, I decided that I was going to do a drawing every single day. A YouTuber I like, struthless, talked about a challenge that he undertook where he drew the same thing every day for a year because that sort of repetition forces you to be more creative in your artistic approach. I chose ravens and crows as my subject matter. And while, of course, I missed a few days, I did, for about eight months, draw a raven pretty much every day. I didn't quite make it to a year, because while I love birds and love ravens and crows in particular, I did get to a point where there were tons of other things I wanted to draw and I felt like the creativity challenge was stifling me rather than helping me. (Though it did help built a daily drawing habit!) However, despite having drawn hundreds of ravens, I've shared maybe five of them? Probably fewer. Why? It's not like ravens are particularly off topic or outside of my niche, because ravens have a creepy vibe and one literally appears on the podcast logo. But I just usually choose not to share them just... because.
- I create episode art for every episode, and yet I very rarely share that art on social media. The drawings appear on my website and on the specific podcast episodes—for podcatchers that support episode specific art—but I could be using them as social media assets and I just . . . don't.
I could go on, talking about how many first drafts of novels I've written but not edited to publishable form, or how many episode scripts and notes for episodes that I have not recorded yet, either because I felt like they weren't quite good enough, or I needed to do a little bit more research and put some finishing touches on them before I could let them go out into the world. But I think you get the point. I don't think that all art needs to be shared, but I also know I'm holding myself back by sharing so little of what I do.
Things that have helped
Often, when being less charitable about my own shortcomings, I feel that I am too flighty and get bored with new projects. (I think that's a feeling that many neurodivergent people grapple with.) I'm proud of the fact that this podcast has been running for almost three years now. It has become a data point that I use to convince myself that I can focus on things, I can create finished products and share them with the world, and I don't lose interest in projects.
The podcast has helped me fight some of my more perfectionist qualities. My audio quality can only be so good; I live in a noisy area and I have to deal with noisy radiators that like to kick up anytime I happen to be recording an episode during the chilly months. Because I am on a consistent schedule, I have to keep putting out podcasts, whether or not the script feels completely good to me (and by good, of course I mean perfect, and nothing can clear that bar).
But I'm able to tell myself that a podcast is not an indelible object that is expected to be perfect or close to perfect. It's casual and conversational. As a medium, it's not known for being particularly polished. That allows me to let go of some of my perfectionism around podcasting.
(Of course, that doesn't stop me from fixating on moments when I misspeak or on those pauses when my brain clearly buffers in the recording--I trim those down, but I can still hear them. Also, there are definitely episodes that make me cringe, but so far I've managed to keep myself from going back into the file and recording updates and qualifications.)
Show your work
Austin Kleon, an artist and writer who focuses on creativity, has a book called Show Your Work. The book is exactly what it sounds like, and it's geared toward artists who hate self-promotion. If you want to be an artist or a creative of some kind, there's no point in creating art in isolation. You have to show people the work that you're creating.
In the book, he talks about how his own blog has been so important to his development as an artist and has led to so many connections, opportunities, and friendships. He talks about how it's important to have a body of work online, even if it isn't 100% polished. It's okay to put out things that are in progress and rough. People are interested in the creative process and the thoughts that people have while they are creating things, not just the finished product.
Despite having read this book multiple times, I still have trouble showing my work. I have my podcast, but I tend to just... not promote it, at times. The same goes for my artwork. Even though I finish a drawing almost every day, I rarely share that artwork with others except maybe—sometimes—my wife. When I started the podcast, I decided to do episode-specific art to literally force myself to share some of my work publicly.
Digital commonplace books
One of my favorite thinkers, science fiction author Cory Doctorow, is someone who, like Kleon, blogs frequently. Doctorow writes a blog post pretty much every weekday. I recently read an essay that he wrote, where he compared his tendency to write daily blog posts with old commonplace books, which people would use to record their thoughts and information that they wanted to remember.
He said his blog was a sort of digital commonplace book, which contains his thoughts on different topics as they were evolving and as he was developing them. Over time, it becomes a source of inspiration and research for him to dive back in and find tidbits that he might need in the future.
To quote from his essay:
Peter “peterme” Merholz coined the term “blog” as a playful contraction of “web-log” — like a ship’s log in which hardy adventurers upon the chaotic virtual seas could record their journeys. Though “blogs” have always been a broad church, there’s a kind of platonic ideal of a blog that’s right there in the term’s etymology: the blog as an annotated browser-history, like the traveler’s diaries my family kept on vacations, recording which hotels we stayed in and what they were like, where we dined and what we ate, which local attractions we visited and how we felt about them.
Like those family trip-logs, a web-log serves as more than an aide-memoire, a record that can be consulted at a later date. The very act of recording your actions and impressions is itself powerfully mnemonic, fixing the moment more durably in your memory so that it’s easier to recall in future, even if you never consult your notes.
The genius of the blog was not in the note-taking, it was in the publishing. The act of making your log-file public requires a rigor that keeping personal notes does not. Writing for a notional audience — particularly an audience of strangers — demands a comprehensive account that I rarely muster when I’m taking notes for myself. I am much better at kidding myself my ability to interpret my notes at a later date than I am at convincing myself that anyone else will be able to make heads or tails of them.
The essay is excellent, and you should just read that, but I love this idea of thinking about daily blogging as a sort of repository of ideas or digital commonplace book. I am a enthusiastic user of the zettelkasten method of taking notes, which has a fairly similar vibe.
I'll have to write about zettlekasten another time, because it's something I am passionate about. In the six months that I've been using it, the method has helped me so much with my research and with synthesizing and developing my own ideas. I'm a real PKM (personal knowledge management) nerd, no surprise there.
But to be brief: The zettlekasten method involves taking in information from books and articles and other sources, and then putting it into your own words and synthesizing your own ideas around them—and putting all of that into an atomized, interconnected notetaking system. That aspect of a zettelkasten system has a lot in common with the idea of blogging daily, and I think that these two ideas mesh nicely.
I'm also very inspired by the artist Todd Purse, who posts a daily drawing and accompanying podcast episode. His work is so lovely and always puts a smile on my face, and I admire his talent, dedication, and positivity.
I know that sharing more and would be helpful for me in my paranormal research. I also have plenty of things to say about some subjects that aren't ready for their own episode, and I can only assume that spreading information within the community would be helpful.
It's not that I think my ideas are so groundbreaking, but I consume a lot of information. I don't like my tendency to hoard what I've learned just because I think my presentation of the knowledge isn't good enough. Kleon includes an Annie Dillon quote in his book that really stuck with me: "The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."
Also, hopefully, by putting these things in blog posts, I will allow myself to be a little bit less strict about how good—or perfect—something needs to be.
Just like the necessity of publishing my podcast helps me be less of a perfectionist, I hope that this will help me put my thoughts into writing and share my art, which I plan to post alongside my blog posts, and not hold back so much.
I really want to try to embody the idea of preparing less and risking more. And I think this is a great way for me to do that. I almost certainly won't be blogging everyday, or even five days a week, but even aiming for the goal of blogging five days a week should help me create a lot of new and interesting stuff. So this is the beginning of my quest to try to prepare less, risk more, and share more with my community. And if you recognize any of these tendencies in yourself, I can only encourage you to find a way to share your work, as well.