If you've noticed the little slogan under my name in the header of this particular creative writing blog lately, you might have thought I had it on some sort of rotation script displaying random slogans on each visit.
Well, you'd have the random part right at least. I've been changing slogans with the weather (and the weather has been crazy around here the last few days). Somewhere I got it in my head that little slogan should totally define me, my blog, my reason for existing and my place in the universe.
Am I saying I have worried about getting it right? Let's just say I can relate to Mr. Hemingway.
I've shared before about my "rampant creativity and capitalistic tinkering" patterns, how they're actually fear based and all that yada-yada. You'd think sharing about your problems in a public place (I'm talking about this blog) would mean I had a total handle on them and they could just go away, right?
Yeah, not really.
Of course I didn't see what was happening at first. I was just in that old familiar territory, one step away from scrapping everything and starting a blog about internet marketing or some crap like that. Okay, so I guess I was closer than one step away from it.
My posts here on this blog have still been somewhat creative, but couldn't you just feel the stick being slipped back up the ol' ass? That's one of my other patterns too.
I'm not saying it's not okay to want to make money from this blogging thing. That in and of itself is fine and dandy. But for me, thinking that way is the thing that gets me all rampantly creative and capitalistically tinkery.
You see, I know so much stuff about how to supposedly make money online. I know about finding the keywords you want to target in the search engines then plastering the hell out of your blog with those keywords (without looking like you're plastering anything) so people think you're an expert in that topic and come buy your stuff.
I know. I get that.
And that might be fine and dandy for most people. But for me, that sets me down a road leading nowhere. Well, I do get somewhere but it's not the somewhere where I want to get.
At least Earnest Hemingway got that novel finished. He didn't abandon it and write a best-seller about Investing in Small Yarn Retailers or something.
While thinking about how to make money in itself is a totally natural and okay thing, for me it's something I'll call a trigger behavior (someone might already be calling it that, I don't know, but I came up with it myself, I swear).
Now I'm not at all talking about Trigger the Horse, who evidently made a lot of money himself. I'm talking about a trigger that shoots me off into a destructive pattern, the rampant-creativity-capitalistic-tinkering pattern where I spend my days reinventing the wheel. Not only that, but the same wheel, over and over and over again.
Something interesting about Trigger (not the behavior, the horse). According to Wikipedia, Trigger was originally named Golden Cloud (probably because he was a palomino and not a Tennessee Walking Horse like lots of people evidently think). Supposedly Roy Rogers renamed him for his quickness, both of mind and of body. So Roy Rogers was a little like Hemingway too; he wanted to get the words right.
Evidently the new personal branding (with no branding irons involved) worked out okay for Trigger. As Golden Cloud he led a fairly incognito life as the mount of Maid Marian, played by Olivia de Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood. But as Trigger, well he became so famous that when he died his hide was stretched over a plaster likeness and put in a museum because everybody wanted to see him.
I wonder how many tries it took Roy Rogers to come up with the perfect name.
Now I won't bore you with a recount of all the possible slogans I came up with for this blog (at least not today). I won't tell you how many times I changed the title tag (the little thing at the top of your screen right now that the search engines read first off and use to index each of your blog's pages), or how many times I wrote and rewrote my meta description, meta tags, and the little link I put in the footer of my blog to increase the number of links I have for that particular link text. I won't bore you with all that.
Oh no, not I.
I couldn't anyway, because I lost count.
I would like to say recognizing the pattern was all it took, and once that was done all I had to do was look it in the face and tell it to go away. But that's not how it happens, of course. So I went to seek the wisdom of one of my favorite pattern-busters, Havi Brooks.
I had read her post "Avoidance! Oh, and getting out of it" before, but it hadn't really sunk in. She mentioned a really insightful post by Emma at Post-Apocalyptic Publishing and how it typifies
"the patterns of struggle, pain and resistance that so often accompany - or even define - our relationship with the creative process."
Okay, that got my attention.
Let me get this straight. I'm avoiding the very thing I think I want the most in my life right now . . . validation as a creative person and success as a writer?
Yep. Sounds about right.
In Emma's post she has finished a draft of her novel, but comes up with excuses why she can't let anyone take a look at it and offer feedback.
"Today I realised that I was so afraid of feeling that [rejection] again that I stopped doing everything I could to be published. I withdrew. I didn't touch the book for weeks, I stopped even thinking about it. I got ill, I got distracted, then it came back to me, this drive to be published got stronger than the fear again. But instead of sending it out, I started to look at self-publishing."
So I recognized the trigger behavior, how I would start worrying about making money. Okay, got that. But what I hadn't recognized was what set the trigger in the first place.
Fear. Fear. Fear.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt got it right:
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
Here Is Where It All Comes Together
You see, the blog slogan thing represents something much larger. It is a filter.
It is the filter I am putting out there to tell everyone in a nutshell, "This is me. I am encapsulated in this tiny sound bite."
"Hello, my name is Terry Heath and I approve of this message."
I'm really not afraid of being over-simplified. I'm not afraid a slogan will be too limiting. I already know I'm more complicated than that, so slogans don't bother me; in this day and age they are the way we think.
The problem isn't a fear I won't find the right words. I can find the right words, I'm actually pretty good at that.
But the problem is, can I say them?
Writing a slogan for my blog, putting keywords in my title tags, even committing to topics for my blog, says, "Hello. This is me. This is what I like, what I love, what I want to be."
So I put it out there, then I sit back and wonder, "Is it okay if I want to be that?"
And the thing is people might respond with a resounding, "No."
So I put something else out. And something else. And another thing. Then I wait to see which one everybody thinks is okay so I can say, "Yes that one is me, the one you approved. I was just kidding about all the other ones. Or I was confused, or you were confused; but those other versions of me are not really me. I'm the one you liked."