When the words come but you’re too scared to publish: By trying to please everybody, you please nobody
Nobody will have noticed that I’ve started publishing content less frequently. That’s what happens when you’re inconsistent. There is no audience to care whether you write or not.
Today I realized that I have almost as many drafts as I have published works on Medium. While I haven’t published a ton, I had kept a fairly steady cadence over the last few years until a few months ago.
As you can see from the screenshot below, I start a lot of stories that I never finish.
My stories page, with almost as many drafts as public
Apparently I have a lot to say, but I’m afraid to say it.
Fear, plus a healthy dose of generalized anxiety, keeps me from publishing any of it. Hell, two of those drafts are about how I can’t bring myself to publish anything anymore.
What I’ve realized is that I am terrified of offending people. While many of those drafts are somewhat innocuous, the ones I want to publish most are those that might be seen as divisive or even contentious. Articles about my veganism, atheism, progressivism, and the superiority of spaces over tabs sit unpublished because I don’t want to rock the boat.
I’ve avoided publishing because I’ve already lost enough friends since college, when I transformed from an extremely conservative Mormon to a loud-and-proud social democrat atheist. Shortly after realizing almost everything I had believed for the first 23 years of my life was utter bullshit, I decided to share that revelation with the world, much to the chagrin of many of my friends and family. For those unfamiliar with Mormonism, it’s a big deal when somebody leaves the faith (and almost even more so when somebody says they are a Democrat).
Facebook was my battleground. I felt morally obliged to inform my family and friends that their religion and politics were awful, thanks in part to the missionary zeal I was originally taught as a Mormon. I had discovered the truth, so how could I not share it with those I loved most?
I realized after my Facebook crusade that the complete 180 degree swing I experienced had inadvertently severed ties with many of my dear friends, simply because we have nothing in common anymore. How was I supposed to relate to my friends who already have three kids and believe that they’ll live forever with Jesus when I’m childless and awaiting the comfortable black void of permanent death?
So in order to preserve what I had left, I limited my writing to things that are agreeable.
But I’m anything but agreeable.
I’m opinionated to a fault. When I find the “truth” I run full steam ahead with it. I research the hell out of causes I find important, and I stock up on verifiable facts that I can throw in the face of those who disagree with me. The veracity of some of those facts are debatable, but we all have our blind spots when it comes to our beliefs. I’m not special in that regard. But I do my research and try to live my life in accordance to as many truths as I can find.
But losing friends isn’t fun, even if you’re right. So I slowly stopped writing stories covering the things I cared most about. Instead, I wrote fluff pieces about backing into your parking spaces or how bidets are the shit. And while I occasionally ranted against things like gun violence, I stopped sharing my opinions on the things that matter most because I didn’t want to lose the few friends I had left.
Those opinions have been bottled up ever since, living a secluded existence in my Medium drafts folder. And while it’s clearly not prudent for anyone to share every thought that drifts lazily through their brain, I do wish I would share more of them.
So maybe I will.
Maybe I’ll realize that I will never please everybody.
Maybe I’ll realize that I can disagree but still be respectful.
Maybe I’ll realize that there is more to life than religion or politics.
Maybe I’ll realize that opposition brings growth and that while my opinion is just one of many in a vast sea of people clamoring for attention on the Internet, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to share it.
Until then, I’ll keep racking up unpublished draft after unpublished draft, bottling up my opinions in an effort to make everybody happy.
But at least I’ve realized what’s going on. I’m not as self-aware as I would like to be, but I’m trying to do better. And even though nobody will care — nobody will likely clap for this post — I was brave enough to publish my short exercise in self-reflection.
Maybe those other drafts will get published one day as well.