Confession: I have written throwaway posts. Sometimes, realizing I haven’t blogged in a while and thinking that posting something is better than months of radio silence, I write a blog that I’m not particularly proud of and publish it anyway. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these posts, I don’t know that they’re necessarily bad, but they are uninspired. They are uncreative, and perhaps, even probably, they are uninteresting.
Here’s what I’ve been up to!
It’s not that nobody cares, but most people don’t care. The blog I wrote last summer about my trip to Orlando was the first to force me to realize that I was posting for the sake of posting. I felt the need to be vague because of the nature of the topic, but also, I was tired. I was driven to post something, and I had something to say, however inconsequential, so I threw the thing together and tossed it online.
I felt protected by the fact that not a lot of people read this. I turned my anxiety over not being read into a sorry excuse for a content calendar. Post more! Hustle every day! Schedules and spreadsheets! The war cry of the modern working millennial. But the truth is, I didn’t pay much attention to the wording of the post. I didn’t read and re-read and edit the blog for hours. It was quick and easy. Most important to me in that moment was that it was done.
Then I got caught.
Vinny Grosso, who was mentioned in the blog and was the catalyst for that entire trip to Florida, “liked” my Facebook post about the update. The little thumbs up in that notification made me nervous—a flare-up of all my insecurities that no one reads my work and those who do read it don’t like it. I asked him what he thought, and he told me loved the “article”. He was effusive. He complimented my writing and thanked me for being a part of his project.
I was confused. It was a throwaway post! How could he possibly have liked it, and liked it enough to respond with such overwhelming positivity? How could it have meant anything to him? Surely there was an underlying part of me that wanted the message of that throwaway post to land, that intended for him to feel acknowledged and appreciated as a collaborator and that wanted to honor the very good production work we had done together. But there hadn’t been any real effort involved in writing that blog post. And I was kicking myself for it.
I had fallen victim to the pressure of the constant content machine. That’s an ugly thing to admit, for me. At the same time, I can see that I had at the very least started with my heart in the right place. Yes, the constant content machine typically forces a sacrifice in the quality column. That’s a tradeoff undoubtedly worth avoiding. But there’s also something to be said for flexing your creative muscles, even when it’s not perfect, especially when the stakes are low, and always with the best intentions.
Content, content, content.
New essays on Wanderthief appear only infrequently. But as sparse and irregular as my publishing schedule is, some Wanderthieves are better than others. I know this, and I have accepted it because certainly in the creative sense, writing something imperfect is often better than not writing anything. Anyone who tends towards perfectionism doesn’t need any more excuses to pore painstakingly over every single minuscule detail. We’ve got that covered.
Sometimes, you’ve just got to write a thing for the sake of writing it and put it out there in the world. I say this knowing that there are many things I write, Wanderthieves and otherwise, creative essays and collections and projects full of words, that go directly from desk to disposal. They qualify as flexing those creative muscles, and that is good exercise, but they are not good in and of themselves and so I toss them. That they end up in the garbage is more than okay, it’s how it should be.
I’m working on balancing all this. Something is better than nothing, mediocrity is what lies at the bottom of the mainstream. Perfect is the enemy of great, perfect is worth waiting for. Work the creative muscle, make your best work.
Surrender the results.
What I learned from an unexpected reader response to what really was a throwaway post is twofold. First, I got lucky. That post happened to be passable, not a literary masterpiece but not an embarrassment either. It was factual and it did its job. It served its purpose. And beneath the utilitarian effort to get something, anything, up on my blog, was a desire to honor and acknowledge and appreciate. Good intentions, in this case also known as luck.
The second thing I learned is that you never know who's going to see your work. I learned it here, I’ve been learning it while operating out in the world. I’ve been hearing it over and over from the creatives and performers I’ve been interviewing, professionals who can trace their success to the serendipity of having made something they believed in and watching it bounce into the right person’s hands at exactly the righ time.
All your work doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s a question of discretion—what makes the cut and what gets left on the cutting room floor. Perfect shouldn’t be the goal. But if your work is out there, if you’re publishing it and sharing it with even the tiniest whisper of a hope that some soul might read it, you’d better make all your work count.
Photo: Chloe Olewitz