Just do it

Read my tagline above.

In it I promised, when I started this blog, to write about writing. I also promised to write about journalism and media.

Though broad, these topics are at least related. Yet I also promised, as if media and writing and journalism weren’t undergoing such tremendous changes, to write about fitness and style, adding, for good measure, the words “and more.”

Such a broad scope seemed to validate what my friend Vincent once said about me: “Alain veut tout faire.” (Alain wants to do it all.)  Vincent, in case you didn’t catch on, didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Time initially validated Vincent’s point. I hesitated between too many topics. I worried about boring imaginary readers. I jotted ideas and drafted posts and trashed them all, becoming oddly fond of the paper-crushing noise that my iMac spits when I drag a document onto its bin icon.

One morning, as I perused my RSS feeds, it dawned on me that most of the blogs I follow concentrate on one theme only, with the occasional digression into a related topic. This made me conclude that I’d never become a successful blogger, not as long as I failed to focus on one topic and one topic only.

The problem was that I didn’t think I could limit myself in such a way, partly because I’m eclectic by nature, and partly because I don’t consider myself an expert on any one topic.

And so, like the proverbial ostrich, I dug my head into the sand to stop worrying about the blog. Until Luciano Pavarotti pulled it out—my head, that is.

It wasn’t Pavarotti himself who did it, not least of all because he’s dead. It was Chris Guillebeau of The Art of Non-Conformity blog, who to validate a point quoted Pavarotti as saying, “Some singers want the audience to love them. I love the audience.”

This started me thinking. I’m sure Pavarotti did love the audience, but I’m also sure he loved singing more than anything else. I’m sure he’d continue to sing for the mere pleasure of it. Even if no one listened to him. Moreover, I’m sure that’s how Pavarotti started—by singing for himself and by himself. That must also be how Hemingway began writing and how Van Gogh began painting and how Michelangelo began sculpting. They may have  reached a point when they loved their audience (or needed it, which is not so good). But I’m certain they loved doing what they did, audience or no audience.

So, at this point in my career, If I’m going to write, I must write because I want to, about what interests me, and not about what others say.

Have many bloggers succeeded in reaching a wide audience because they concentrated on one theme? Yes. Does this mean I have to do the same? Maybe not.

In the end, it comes down to this: in order to shine, you must be authentic. You can’t ignore advice, but you can’t force yourself to adhere to it at the expense of your uniqueness.

I hope I will find an audience. And when I do, I will love this audience. In the meantime, I can only afford to love writing.

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One Comment on “Just do it

  1. Nice post Alain. Some thoughts:

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘wanting to do it all’, as I’m pretty sure everyone has dealt with the challenge of multiple undertakings. Wanting to do it all will never be a problem; what is a problem (and time still has yet to prove me wrong, but what do I know, I’m only 24?) is wanting to do it all at once. So yeah, it’s good to want to do it all: how else are we to figure out our strengths and weaknesses? And for the lucky few, they just might be good at everything they try their hand at.

    One of the things writers and artists have in common is that to be good, they have to practice, and practice a lot. I think the challenge for both lies in the ability to keep things fun. The audience makes writing fun, but sometimes the work that goes into getting that audience comes at the cost of the liveliness that goes into putting thoughts onto paper for the hell of it. I think what I’m trying to get to here is that until a writer can avoid thinking of that imaginary audience and imaginary critic, and I have yet to be able to do that as a writer, it will remain to be damn hard to just write.