Chris Shiflett sent out an email prompting friends to write an “Ideas of March” post, and my first thought was, “Wait, the Ideas of what now? How is it March?”
Of course I technically know it’s March (I vaguely remember writing the rent check), but Chris’ email reminded me that we’re almost 25% done with 2012. It made me wonder where that quarter of a year went. This post will be full of clichés, so here’s the first one: time flies. And it only speeds up as we get older.
Whenever I am forced to remember that time is going faster, I begin agonizing over how to slow it down, because I’m greedy and want as much life as I can get. One technique that’s guaranteed to make time stand still is to write an honest thing and share it with the world.
I can remember the way I felt during almost every post I’ve written. I think deeply about the topic at hand; then I draft, edit, read out loud to my boyfriend, and incorporate his suggestions. I feel desperately nervous when I hit publish, and incredibly light when I talk about it with readers. For the time that I’m writing, I’m present.
On the other hand, I can’t remember a thing I tweeted yesterday. I couldn’t tell you a single status update I’ve posted, ever. These bursts of communication are low-risk; my voice is one in a stream of thousands. People are less engaged, so tweeting requires little forethought. The most I usually get in the way of conversation is a like or a star.
For me, without the limitations of Twitter my blog posts seem too long and self-indulgent. Yet when other people write personal posts, I am reminded of our shared humanity, and feel a sense of community that 140 characters doesn’t always foster. The industry-related posts can help to crystallize a previously vague idea, spark an inspiration, or get us off a creative plateau.
I absolutely believe in the power of blogging, and I think we should all be doing more of it. I usually don’t feel like I’m prepared enough, skilled enough, or awake enough to craft a blog post myself. But today I’m committing to writing anyway, and not just via one-liners about Spanx on Twitter.
Since I’m trying to be more honest (and sometimes this means being way too honest), I feel like telling you, dear readers, about this slump I’ve been in. Last year I changed jobs twice before making my way back to freelance. I moved to a new city, and almost moved right back out of it because I wasn’t sure why I was there. In retrospect, I didn’t know what I was doing, or why I was doing it. And that’s what I remember most about last year.
I didn’t work on anything I was especially proud of, I didn’t write anything I feel really good about. I had plenty of treasured moments with my friends and family, but all in all, I’d been living without direction. I don’t want to anymore.
This means trying so hard to understand some simple but big questions. What do I want? For my career, I say I want to make and write and speak. But this leads me to ask: What do I really have to say? What can I make that’s actually meaningful?
Going deeper, this forces me to consider: what do I believe? Not so much about God or the Universe (I’m delaying that crisis for as long as possible), but about whether mockups should be made in markup, and whether mobile first does make sense in every case. How do I find out what I believe? I read as much as I can, I work as much as I can, and I try to listen more than I talk.
The problem with all this soul searching is that after awhile, it’s paralyzing. There’s this feeling that I can’t write about something unless I know it to be true, and can defend it to the death. I want to talk about design truths with the confidence of Mark Bolton and Jeremy Keith. I want to be smart and have all the answers, like the rest of you.
So I turn ideas over in my head while I shower, and while I wait for the train. I read everything I can, and think about it a lot, and tell myself “soon I’ll have enough facts to write about this.”
Here’s an example of the crippling paralysis I’m experiencing: I’ve been trying to write a light, fun, hopefully informative post for the Typekit Blog for over a month. It was due sometime in February. (I’m sorry, Mandy).
In one section of the blog post I talk about using the best possible ampersand in the age of Typekit. This should’ve been a straightforward paragraph, with some quality ampersands incorporated as examples. Instead, I spent an entire night cataloging all the best ampersands on Typekit, because I didn’t want to write without having “done the research.”
I still haven’t finished the post (though I’ll be working on it after this), because of similar “little snags.” The truth is, I haven’t finished this simple blog post because it seems harder than anything else I want to do.
Writing is hard because it means we must think deeply, take risks, and get comfortable with asking questions instead of having all the answers. And many of us are out of practice. However, I’m starting to think writing is the ladder to climbing out of slumps, and the bridge over future pits of confusion and inactivity. If we write enough, we’ll gain clarity about our ideas, confidence in our voice, and meaningful conversation with our peers.
Blogging will make us better designers, better community members, and more fulfilled people. That’s why today I’m committing to blogging more. You should too.