Writing this blog has been an experiment ever since I first ventured to Malawi in 2009. I didn't think that much about creating the (then) Wordpress site and sharing my thoughts about the first time I left the United States. My writing from that summer is sweetly pure.
Over time, however, I've become more self-conscious of putting my writing out there. We get older and wiser, but we also get more afraid. What will my family, friends, and peers think of the words I put on the page? Am I saying something worthy of people's attention?
Even though I've always seen the project of writing online as a way of navigating my own sense of becoming, pulling my thoughts to the page as a way to make sense of them, these doubting questions can weigh me down sometimes.
The common advice about art is to just churn out more of it, to get your 10,000 hours in any way you can. I think I worry about my art -- writing -- producing beautiful "hours" in the process. The truth of it is that it's all likely to be ugly, with only a few gems to come from it. I know, for example, what's good in something that I write and what's bad. It's only the smallest bits -- a turn of phrase here, or a run of thoughts there -- that I can hold up proudly. I recently read a short essay where someone compared the exercise of a writer's morning pages to that of skimming stones:
You spend a couple of seconds looking for a good stone and you throw. There’s no concern about the quality of the throw, a few throws is all that’s needed to get better.
Most of the stones I throw these days are crap. But if I just keep all these throws to myself and wait until I've reached some sort of self-certified mastery, what's the point of it all? To connect is to be human. We have to show our work of being human. I hope that by putting out at least some of my crap on display, I can nudge myself to keep logging the hours and occasionally stumbling upon beautiful. Maybe others will reach a point where they extend bits of their soul out for others to see, too. What I say doesn't have to be profound and it doesn't have to be inspiring, it just has to be honest. I've just got to keep skimming stones.