This is the 300th Medium Rare blog post.
Why do it – Writing is the one thing I could spend my entire life trying to master and, even if I never do, I’ll still consider it a success.
Something deeper than success – In Year 5, I carry Medium Rare around with me everywhere. When I’m publishing regularly, it changes the way I see the world. Even in the most regular everyday moments.
The Finish Line: Writing in all seasons – It seems like the best stuff comes with a fight. And not just the writing process itself, but when I look back on when the posts were published, I see a pattern of the best stuff coming during or right after a tough stretch of life. Granted, not always the case, sometimes life is good, writing’s good, everything is firing on all cylinders, but other times writing serves as a light in the darkness. When I’m going through a tough time, there’s a strange comfort in remembering, “Well, at least the writing will be good…”
In each of these milestone posts, I seem to have a “right answer” that I’m trying to align my philosophy with. The author is very much me, but it’s me on my best behavior. I’m clean shaven, wearing a suit, I’ve washed the Cheeto stains off my fingers. My freshly showered philosophy reads something like this:
Writing is about the process itself. It’s not about the views, likes, or clicks. Not about making money. It’s about the “love of the game.”
But that’s not always my motivation the same way Easter Sunday isn’t my sweatpants self. There’ve been plenty of times when “love of the metrics” was my love of the game. I’d check the # of views like a guy addicted to the stock market. Or I’d write a post and think, “Alright, this is the one. This will be the big hit.”
There’ve been times when writing was the most important thing. My dog, Crash, became my four-legged foil when he scratched at the door. I’d hear the scratch and think, “Alright, couple more paragraphs.” “Chris, he has to go out,” Ashley would say from the couch. Alright, one second. Five more minutes go by. “Chris, seriously, he has to go out.”
Nothing gets me out of bed earlier or gets me to work later than writing. And sometimes that’s the “love of the game” flow, but other times I’m chasing writing as a means to an end. I’ll set my sights on a mirage. Once I write a bestseller, I’ll never work a 9 to 5 again! Writing becomes my cherished escape route.
And as that feeling grows, gratitude dwindles. I’ll only be happy once I hit my goal. With this mentality, a 9 to 5 job isn’t seen as a gift, it’s a hindrance. Crash is a distraction. Everything’s an obstacle.
This all out striving mode is sustainable, for awhile. But it’s like running low on gas and then throwing a hot dog in the tank; it might work for another mile or two, but eventually the car stops. I remember running out of gas in August of 2020. I laid down next to Crash. Exhausted. Smoke coming up from the engine. All he did was put his paw on my arm and I came tumbling down. I started crying like Ron Burgundy in the phone booth.
When I look back at the different “writing modes,” it’s easy to feel like the high octane go-go-go self is the “what not to do” and the enlightened guy fresh off a dog cry is the ideal mode. The preference, then, is to showcase the polished version.
But without go-go-go mode, I never would’ve hit 300 posts. I needed those busy seasons. I needed to be obsessed with hitting the deadlines.
When I’m striving after a goal, I lose gratitude for the present. And that’s not ideal. But there’s a reverse setting where gratitude bubbles up so high that I have no desire to sit down and write. In those moments I’m like, “What’s the point? I’m already happy.” It’d be like ordering delivery when you’re already at the Pizza Hut buffet.
When striving goes up, gratitude goes down, I end up crashing. However, with too much gratitude, the striving goes down, complacency settles in, and there’s a different kind of crash. Striving guy hits the goal and thinks, “Wait, that’s it? I would’ve been happier sleeping in.” Sleeping in guy looks back with regret at not chasing more goals. “I wish I would’ve gotten up early.”
Both exaggerations — too much striving vs. too much complacency — crash into the same place. What’s surprising, though, is there’s this ideal mode right after the crash. It’s this grace in the middle where I’m writing, not striving. Where life flows into the writing and writing neither takes over my life nor gets neglected. But it’s hard to stay in this state of grace for extended periods of time. Eventually I’ll take the striving or complacency detours until they circle right back to the same place.
And I think that’s alright. Writing needs all parts of the self. It needs the childlike creativity at the beginning, just pouring words on the page. Then it needs the strict perfectionist to come in and create a sense of order. It needs the insecure writer who wants a few more re-reads before posting. Then the daredevil who’s never afraid to hit publish. The rulekeeper and the rulebreaker. The one who thinks a fart joke is hilarious and the one who meets a fart with a frown. The one who hits #300 and says, “Alright, let’s get to a thousand!” and the one who says, “You know what, I could retire right here.”
In the end, creativity doesn’t favor one mode over the other. It’s about all these different modes flowing together.
Thank you for stopping by! In previous years I always tried to have one post up per week. This year I’m on a slower pace, posting every other Wednesday. I should have a new post up March 10th.
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