The art of letting people in

In a previous life, I had a secret baking blog on WordPress. It was called Thoughts and Cakes.  I was young and full of hope of making a life selling cakes and used books. There were silly posts like ‘how to make Mascerpone cheese in an Indian kitchen’ and recipes for Armenian Nazook (I no longer remember what that is) and Nutmeg cake. The blog was doing okay, then after about three years of lurking around I shared it on my social media. People could not’ve been kinder, they said incredibly kind things and shared it with their friends and family and the blog grew overnight. There was only one problem, I simply couldn’t write anymore.

This is what happened. I couldn’t believe the nice things people told me, I was convinced that I was getting away with something and if that blog had continued to live people were going to  figure out that I was a fraud and a fake. So I left it at that point where the people still liked me. Maybe that is a feeling all of us have at some point in our lives to varying degrees.

That was about five years ago, a lot of things have changed in this time, now I have the luxury of walking into a grocery store and buying a tub of Mascerpone but I no longer bake, my beloved camera died and I am much more cynical but it turns out the imposter syndrome still remains the same.

The last few posts have been the ones most close to my heart but it seems like the more honest I get with my writing the lesser and lesser engagement the posts get. Some of you have openly expressed your dislike about the last posts and I am incredibly grateful for that, that is exactly how it should be.  I don’t want you to have my back no matter what. But there is also that part of me that wants to be liked and keep all of you around.

The solution in this case of course was starting another blog and another secret internet life which I have been doing since Feb but that is also going to have the same fate, its just a matter of time. So here I am trying to keep this going. Trying to get a thicker skin and trying to believe there would be a few people around even when I let the guard down. Let’s see how far it goes.

Love,

Jo

PS: Some people who are reading this blog are absolutely not allowed to hate me, you know who you are!

Is there such a thing as a blogger’s block?

writers-block

Writer’s block, that I know, been there, have set up a tent and have spent whole summers there. But this is not that. I can write easily in my journal but I simply cannot write on this blog! Saturdays nights around 3am is when I make stupid life decisions, like painting my black hair purple or counting the number of followers on this blog. It is 150, in case you were wondering and that number has been haunting me since. Probably on this blogosphere, it is a minuscule non-number, but you must know I eat lunch alone in the storage unit of our office to avoid talking to a group of people and hence 150 seems like a big-ass number

I tried going to the core of the problem  because that is what I do now and came up with the following

  • When I started blogging under a made-up name I was trying to outsmart the ‘fear of rejection’. If no one knows me, it wouldn’t matter if my writing was good or bad, right? It was going very well in the beginning primarily because literally, no one was reading hence there was no way of receiving virtual rotten eggs back. Then people started liking and following and my writing changed quite a lot. I picked up some good habits, like proofreading and using Grammarly to correct errors but it also got me worried. Instead of writing what I wanted to write, I started writing what might get more likes and traffic and views. It was writing things only when I was sure of it being received well. It is like showing only photoshopped and touched up pictures of my life on social media.
  • Also, some of the readers started having names and faces and now I have people to disappoint in this virtual world. Would so and so like my post? made me hit delete on a lot of the drafts. Whenever a post did not receive any attention, I tried staring the notification button into blinking…BLINK DAMMIT BLINK.
  • This blog started as a place to chronicle my PhD journey one day at a time and now I write about anything but that. A lot of things interest me, sketching, books, fiction, feminism, and most importantly mental health. And sometimes it feels like the blog is getting too chaotic just like my head.
  • Whenever I come across a well-written post on some other blog, I want to come back and cover my blog with a tarpaulin so no one can see it.
  • Every time I publish a post I feel as if that was the very last post idea I would ever have, a fear of running out of ideas.
  • The feeling that I am faking all this. Imposter syndrome
  • And I sound like somebody else in writing

So the intense need to please  people and a fear of running out of ideas are giving me a severe blogger’s block.

Do you know the phrase, Dance like nobody is watching? A few years ago I used to dance with a group, we did shows in many German cities. The choreographer said to me after a show, “your moves are okay but you have to express more on your face and smile”. The mantra dance like nobody is watching worked well when dancing in front of a mirror but when people were watching me for real, it was hard imagining they weren’t there. So he gave me a piece of advice that seemed counterintuitive then, What if you imagine that people are watching you even when you rehearse alone and try to smile as well? So while rehearsing I started imagining an audience. It was terrifying at first, but doing it over and over made that situation less foreign when I went on stage.

So maybe that is all I need, sharing fake sounding pieces until I have the guts to sound like myself even when somebody else is reading.

Have you ever had a blogger’s block?

How do you deal with it?

Love

Jo

Sharing your work when you have a thin skin

On the root of avoidant personality disorder is the fear of rejection or judgment. As for rejections I have the thinnest skin, even well minded criticisms will get to me. In a group discussion I am the one who is never talking. Not just because I am scared to voice my opinion but also those kind of situations are very easily overwhelming. It is too much information churned out too soon. I need time to comprehend, to cut information into chunks for it to make sense and then react. So if somebody puts me in the spot and asks me, “So Jo what is your take on the issue?”, the most effective response I can think of is “I think I have to go pee”.

This is my second innings in the blogosphere. Four years ago in an attempt to come out of the blues I started a baking blog, it started gaining eyeballs very slowly, there were some random likes and comments. But one fine morning I decided to hit the publicize button and shared it to my social media. Now, people were very polite and encouraging. Not a single bad comment came my way. But suddenly I felt naked and vulnerable. I felt the spot light on me and it was scary. Words stopped showing up. The blog was abandoned and it died an inevitable slow death.

sharing toomuch
Credits: INFJoe Cartoons

 

There is a cozy little independent book store in town. My friend L owns it and she invites people to share their creative writing pieces once a month. I am always there with a story or a poem scribbled on the pages of my journal. Every time I tell myself I am going to read it out loud but when L asks me ‘Are you going to read Jo?’, I will clutch tightly to the journal and blurt out a ‘No, not this time’. L’s earnest look of encouragement lingers for a moment before she has to proceed to the next person.

Remember sakoku? Isolation might spare you the attacks from outside but it can so viciously  eat you from within.

This Saturday evening with shivering hands and a voice that broke too often I read a piece titled which way? Halfway through the reading I wanted a boa constrictor to come and swallow me whole.

It doesn’t matter how it was received, it matters that I showed up, shared and finished and is still breathing.

Creativity can thrive in isolation and you don’t have to share your work . If you don’t want the world to see it then by all means clutch on to it as tight as you can. It can be your little secret, your refuge, your outlet. But what if you want to put it out there? May be you are right, it is very bad art and people are going to hate it, but if it has helped you make sense of this messy life, should it matter if the world thinks its bad?

And, I have a feeling its not as bad as you think it is 😉

So I urge all you thin skinned people out there to ease your clutch on that one piece of art that you are too scared to let go off. If that spotlight is too scary, close your eyes for a bit, reach out, do you feel another trembling set of hands? That is me. Let us hit the spotlights together.

Much love

Jo