I just caught myself hitting CTRL-A & DELETE with touch-typer speed and precision. No hunting and pecking for that odd combination of keys required. In case you’re not a complete computer nerd like me, the key sequence highlights everything on your screen and deletes it. It’s the quick and easy way to start over with a clean slate, or the modern equivalent for ripping the sheet of obnoxious writing from the typewriter, wadding it up, and pitching it toward the trashcan (only not as cathartic). For whatever reason, this time I paused and thought about why I did it. It must have been the third or fourth time I had hit those keys in the preceding five minutes but I hardly remember doing it. I only remember trying to get an article off the ground and not liking my results.
I had started an article I wanted to publish on Medium. You see, I’ve been “saving up a couple good ideas” for pieces I believed had some legs and could launch my Medium presence with a bang. Saving an idea is a silly notion, I know, but that’s the reality of how I thought today. I wanted this to be a great piece, though, and I was not meeting my expectations.
As I re-read the first six or seven sentences of the article (for the third or fourth or fifth time), I judged it as unworthy of a venue where I could expect people to pay to read my work. So with a flash of thought, my fingers twitched and the offending words were obliterated. As I pondered my action I tried to figure out on what grounds I based my judgment. I was, and still am, at a total loss for anything that made sense. I simply did not believe it measured up to other articles I have seen on the site but I can offer no concrete evidence as to why I believe it.
My actions were obviously a symptom of publishing fear. Somewhere, deep inside me, despite my strong words and bravado, despite my month-long record of posting blog content, I am scared of how the public will judge my work. I don’t want to be laughed at or ridiculed. I don’t want my work to be found wanting by the internet literary mafia. Instead, I expect it to strike a chord with every person who reads it. I want it to move them enough so they not only reward me with their dollars but they are compelled to tell all their friends about the wonderful article they read. What tripe. I know the futility of approaching the work with some sort of “greatness goal” from the outset. It’s just not how it’s done.
“The writer’s job is to write. Let the public and the critics decide what to do and think about your work,” says every guru on the internet. With clear instructions like that, why is it so hard to separate yourself from thinking about how your words will be perceived? It’s a conundrum. There has to be a trick to dissociate yourself from the feelings of inadequacy and impending doom. If I can find that trick I’ll retire a millionaire.
In the meantime, I need to end the habit of judging my work as I write it. The CTRL-A & DELETE cycle must be broken. I suspect I am not alone in fighting this problem. I also suspect it will be similar to the addict giving up the needle or the bottle. There will be a few relapses, but my resolve shall remain strong. To ensure I do not wimp out and delete the next great article I conjure, I commit to writing and publishing an article on Medium within five days. You should do the same! If we can’t do that, maybe we should pry the DELETE key off our keyboards!