Just Sit and Write

Recently, I decided to take back control over my previous writings.

Over the years, I have started blogs and posted countless things on social networks. Still, I never gave much thoughts about what it meant to me and how I should own it. Few weeks ago I decided it was about time to consolidate things I wrote over the course of the years in a single place. Partly because everyday makes me hate more these big Internet platforms. Partly because I wanted to have a good look at them. Partly to try how to do it.

I pulled all texts back into a safe harbor. Some are still missing but I was already able to see different things. First, quantity. these are A LOT of words. Second, duration. I have been writing online for more than 10 years. Third, frequency. Despite surges during summer vacations, I wrote quite consistently during all that time. More blog posts and article left to import should feel the current holes in the earliest periods

Looking back over my writings leads me to discover that I actually may qualify as a writer, i.e. someone who writes. Even though it may not sounds like much, I consider it an impressive title which I didn’t expect to be worth of. Over the years, I have spent so much attention to the tools and their usage that I thought I wasn’t using them myself. I tend to be more of the instinctive type and don’t strategise much while doing things. With my writings scattered in 10s of different networks and blogs, I thought I failed to act and write.

Looking back over my writings leads me to discover that I actually may qualify as a writer, i.e. someone who writes. Even though it may not sounds like much, I consider it to be quite an impressive title which I didn’t expect to be worth of. Over the years, I have spent so much attention to the tools and their usage that I thought I wasn’t using them myself. I tend to be more of the instinctive type and don’t strategise much while doing things. With my writings scattered in 10s of different networks and blogs, I thought I failed to act and write.

After a discussion with Theo Pillault, it occurs to me that columnists had to ship an article every day. In comparison, my overthinking habits are so bad that I struggle to write a single page. I spend endless time to adjust my publishing tools and workflow. My “writer toolkit” has been ready for years. What was lacking is the right motivation to act. Just sit and write.

Browsing older writings, it appears that I didn’t even scratch the surface of all the things I have to bring out. Again and again, I write about writing to circumvent the bigger task: clear my brain. A decade of crazy experiments have resulted in a challenging cognitive load. I need to unload that somewhere somehow and the surest way is to write it down.

To pull back my writings from social networks has lead me to several realisations.

  • First, I ignored the amount of work I had put on these big platforms. The scattering of my writings prevent me from considering its aggregated value. Quantity is a quality of its own and it is astonishing how much we give away.
  • Second, most of my existing writings are reactions to various stimuli - part of “the feed”. Very few are products of conscious strategies and decisions to write. To make them exist outside the flow shows their strengths and weaknesses.
  • Third, maintain archives of good quality is important. To look back helps reflectivity and increases self-awareness. The instant run show of social is toxic. To see some coherence in the long run instead feels appeasing.
  • Fourth, writing is about time. Time spent, time passed, time to come. How you position your writing in time is what matters. You can always read again letters from an old friend, even after he is gone. You should keep control of your time because this all what you have.
  • Five, to see that my activity as a writer has been non-negligible is reassuring. In French, writer’s block is called “the anguish of the blank paper sheet”. With all these words under the eyes, the challenge is not to get started but to keep going. Long perspective helps to acknowledge the accomplished work.

I am glad I took back control on my writings. It was a good opportunity to look back and learn. As the Web gets more and more obscure and closed by the day, we should be reminded of what we contribute to it and why. For anyone who would like to do the same, I put together some instructions.

A question? A comment?

Please send it to me by email bonjour@clementrenaud.com or on Twitter.