I began my blog with a sense of reckless abandon. Nobody was reading, so I could be sassy and crude. I could dance while nobody was watching. I could frolic in the grassy fields of my inner-child’s imagination. I could use as many stupid metaphors as I damn well pleased.
Nobody reads blogs anyway, right?
Well, apparently people do read blogs. Like, lots of people. Strangers from all over the planet, in fact, and this realization made me break out in a nervous sweat.
How it all began …
On the very first day that I published, I got one visitor. One whole visitor! I was stoked. This visitor was kind enough to leave a comment: “Nice site, easy on the eyes and great content.” Me? A creator of great content? Wow!
(Retrospectively, it was most likely a spambot stroking my ego, but that spambot sure gave me a happy ending.)
From there, a modest number of visitors began to arrive and I felt like the host of a small house party. One by one, guests arrived, and I welcomed them in the door and poured them a plastic cup of keg beer. I pumped the music up. Let’s get retarded! Let’s get retarded in here!
Excited, and lost in the moment, I started to perform the running man for my small circle of friends and family. Why not? We’re all comfortable with each other.
Then, unexpectedly, strangers began to flood into my party in unanticipated numbers. My blog’s statistics began to skyrocket. Enthusiasts began subscribing. Strangers began liking my blog on Facebook. Tweeps began re-tweeting me. Commenters left lovely remarks: “This is a very good. Please write more great stuff like this.”
(Retrospectively, they were probably all spambots, but still …).
With this influx of attention, I grew self conscious. My party music screeched to a halt. I found myself frozen under the spotlight, eyeballing the crowd, paused midway through my running man dance.
The guests were watching, waiting for me to do something.
I felt panicked to suddenly find myself at the centre of attention. I began to question what I’d done to draw such a crowd and, more importantly, what I needed to keep doing to have them stick around.
I worried incessantly:
What if I insult somebody? Are conservative elderly folk reading my blog? Maybe I should censor my music? (Let’s get it started! Let’s get it started in here!) What if I say something crude and offensive? I tend to say ‘balls’ a lot. I’m a big fan of the word ‘balls,’ but maybe people don’t like ‘balls’? (I mean — nobody really likes balls, per se, but they sure are funny to talk about. Aren’t they? Or is that just me? Oh Jesus Christ! Oh Holy Allah! Oh no, I’m being insulting again!)
With this self-doubt, my emotions began to grow unsteady:
I locked up. Writing began to take way too long. I was tempted to plagiarize myself and steal my own jokes. Once playful posts were edited down to nothing, and then deleted entirely.
Something was wrong.
I was blogstipated.
Weeks passed. My palms grew sweaty. I wrote infrequently, and when I did write, I hovered nervously over the ‘Publish’ button for far too long.
But then I remembered a quote I once saw scrawled onto the studio wall of my favorite late artist— a creatively uninhibited innovator — Brett Whiteley.
It’s better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not.
If we let ourselves get inhibited by big crowds; if we censor for the mainstream, we lose our experimental sense of play. We can’t create anything innovative if we’re merely mimicking safe, unoriginal methods. And then what will be left? Politically correct fluff. Or creative blue balls.
That’s not good.
So, from now on, I’m going to do my best to keep my creative beast off the leash. I’m going to try to keep my sass on. I’m going to insult a grandma or two — not on purpose, but simply because I can’t please all of the people all of the time. I’m going to keep doing the running man, even if I look like a foolish idiot to complete strangers.
Now … if you’re still here: let’s get retarded!
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Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.