On Writing and Fear

I haven’t written here in awhile. In fact, I haven’t written anything of real substance here since I started my current job at <major tech company> over a year ago. Why?

I’m afraid.

This is the thought process that occurs every time I think about writing a blog post:

Oh, it’d be fun to write about X! But…

  • I’m going to do a bad job.
  • I’m going to get really hurtful comments.
  • People who’s opinion I value aren’t going to like it, and thus are going to realize they don’t like me.

If I don’t want to be hurt and lose my friends, I shouldn’t do it. It’s going to suck, anyways. I’ll just go bake something instead.

(as a side note, I’ve gotten really good at making bread)

I used to be better at overcoming this, but my shift to <major tech company> majorly compounded these fears. The media has a habit of lending unwarranted credibility to writings when they come from people employed by major tech companies. “Google/Apple/Amazon employee talks about controversial subject” is way more prone to attention than “some rando on the internet talks about controversial subject.” And when your new-job training includes things like ‘don’t say anything on social media that you wouldn’t be ashamed to see as a New York Times headline,’ well, it can make you a bit paranoid.

Additionally, re-submerging myself in mainstream tech culture meant re-exposing myself to stories of all the ridiculous bullshit that happens to women who speak up. Endless harassment, rape threats, death threats, people releasing their home addresses, people calling in false tips to police that cause SWAT raids to be sent to their house, etc. etc.. And even if none of these ‘extreme’ responses happen, there’s the standard stream of inane, often cruel comments, (often centered around a woman’s appearance) that are seemingly unavoidable on the modern-day internet.

And then, of course, there’s my insecurities.

Don’t be so full of yourself, the things you write will never be good or important enough to get that much response, be it positive or negative.

Even if you have good ideas, you can’t write well enough to fully articulate them and someone better than you will reply with a scathing argument and you’ll be shamed forever.

People don’t usually talk about these kinds of things for a reason. If you put these parts of yourself out in public, everyone’s going to realize how much they don’t like you, and all your friends will leave and you’ll never have sex again.

In short, the increased potential for attention plus the increased awareness of negative consequences of that attention (on top of my normal self-consciousness and perfectionism) have quieted me for a while.

Full disclosure, after I finished writing the above I put this article down for a few days, not sure I would finish or publish it. But here I am, writing again, and why?

Because despite the threat of abuse and criticism, despite daily reminders of what other online personalities go through, despite my own constant self-doubt, I still fucking want to.

I had intended to counter the first section with a list of all the things that I like about writing, but I kept second-guessing them and quibbling over wording and generally putting off finishing this.

But you know what? I don’t need to justify my own desires. It doesn’t need to make sense, to others or even to myself. Something I’ve been working on in therapy a lot is acknowledging and acting on what I want, as opposed to what I think other people want from me. Knowing that I want something is all the reason I need to go after it.

So I will write, and be authentic and put myself out there. I will make mistakes and say things I later regret and use words incorrectly. I will forget key points and prattle on about inconsequential details. I will sometimes be full of overly righteous anger and sometimes be foolishly insensitive, and I will have to deal with the consequences of all of that. But that’s ok, because the alternative is staying quiet and keeping my thoughts to myself, and that’s something I really don’t want to do.

4 Replies to “On Writing and Fear”

  1. Clare, I was thinking about your recent radio silence just a few days ago. I have always loved your writings, the more authentic the better, and I’m sure there are many others out there like me. Genuine, real, raw writings are powerful and there should be more of them. Make sure you are surrounded by supportive people that help you give that extra encouragement to write what’s really on your mind. You could send a draft to a few close friends if you want to rid yourself of the fear, but you shouldn’t have to. I have been working for [a big oil company] for 8 years now, and I am always conscious about what I put on the internet, even though my personal website doesn’t associate me with my company. Yes, they told us the “don’t do anything you wouldn’t want to see on the newspaper headline tomorrow” advice, too, and I have taken it to heart. It’s a good moral check before doing anything rash. It doesn’t matter, though. What I’ve seen from internet trolling cases is that people can take ANYthing you write and twist it into something you didn’t mean at all. So, don’t worry about it too much and let’s see what you have to say! Looking forward to reading more.

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