Took me a while to identify these as “fears”, really. I thought it was something else that kept me from publishing content like I used to. Like writer’s block, maybe. Or lack of time. Or motherhood.
I thought, maybe I’d get my momentum back when I’m inspired enough. When I have more time. When the kids are older.
Maybe when everything is perfect and running smoothly.
And yet, for the past two years, I couldn’t seem to get out of it. That perpetual state of wanting to quit this whole thing altogether, of questioning my capacity to pull off a blog project even when, come on Riz, you’ve been pulling this off for your clients for years!
And it wasn’t like my circumstances stayed the same. One by one I tackled the external factors that I thought kept me from blogging like I used to—
- Technical issues? Solved. Siteground is perfect, and both Chasing Dreams and The Purpose Blog are in tip-top shape.
- When the kids are older? Sure. The twins turned 6 years old and although still needing a lot of attention, they have their own routines now, most of which they can do without us helping or watching over them.
- Need more time? Got it. I resigned from my 9-5 and now I definitely have a lot more time to get creative.
I had no more excuses left.
Still, for the past months, I sat in front of my laptop every day, staring at a blank WordPress page, waiting for the words I thought I’ve already written out in my head to freely flow. Nothing.
Why is it so hard? What is wrong with me?
And that’s when I realized that something deeper was holding me back.
Behind all the excuses and roadblocks that kept me from creating content and owning up my creative work, there were deeper things that needed to be dealt with.
A paralyzing inner fear that’s bigger than writer’s block.
Artists call it “creative anxiety“. Psychotherapists refer to it as “inner critic“.
If there is such a thing as “blogging anxiety”, this is probably it.
There’s the fear of rejection
I’m going to start with the mother of all fears, this fear of rejection.
Once upon a time, I blogged with my heart at the tip of my fingers. I didn’t care what others thought of me or what I wrote. I didn’t care if anyone was reading, even. I spoke what’s on my mind, blogged about whatever struck my fancy or whatever I felt in the moment.
But more importantly, I was confident of who I was and who I wanted to be and no unsolicited opinions and commentaries could take that confidence away.
Until the commentaries started coming in, specifically from certain groups of people in my inner circles.
And that’s just the thing. Often the harshest commentaries are not from strangers. They’re from family, from old friends, from people you thought you could trust.
Let’s just say I had to deal with a lot of mockery, sarcasm, and negativity. I was blocked off Facebook, unfriended, outcasted, became the subject of gossips (or what church people would usually call “prayer items”). And while these were all happening behind my back, you and I know that stories have a way of being passed around until it reaches us through another source.
On top of these are many other life-things. My husband and I were constantly managing people’s expectations; criticised for decisions made from our pure desire to choose what’s best for our family. We showed a brave and united front, but things like these are internally damaging.
These may not be confined to blogging per se, but that feeling of rejection trickled down to practically every aspect of my life—spiritual, emotional, mental, but most of all, it affected my confidence in myself and in my creativity.
I overanalyzed every single thing that came out on my online pages, for years, afraid of what they’re going to criticize or laugh about next. I always knew these people affected me negatively but I didn’t realize until later that it affected my creative process in major ways too.
It’s still a daily battle I have to face but I’ve made progress. The fact that I can openly talk about this now only means that I’ve processed this intensively and I’m recounting this experience from a healthier place. A place of understanding and forgiveness and acceptance, that I may not be able to change the way others see me but I can change the way I see myself.
The fear of being a “blogger”
I’m seeing a pattern, somehow. It’s not unusual to come across old-time bloggers struggling to keep up with the shifts in the blogging landscape, eventually deciding to quit. The stigma is real and bloggers are put under too much scrutiny these days.
“It’s not a real job!” “Blogging is dead!” “Nobody reads blogs anymore!” “Go to school and get a real education!” “Bloggers are not real writers!” “Blogs are nothing but glorified PR!” “We don’t need bloggers, we need journalists!”
The reality is, anyone who talks about bloggers this way does not really understand the kind of work that goes into starting and growing a blog.
They don’t know that bloggers have to work their way up too, just like in any career. They don’t know that bloggers started somewhere too (from zero page views) and they deserve to make a living off their hard work, just like anyone else. They don’t know that bloggers have to work double-time to develop creative and technical skills beyond their comfort zones, just like any professionals aiming for career growth or promotion.
I just wonder sometimes if people realize that it was the bloggers who paved the way for this billion-dollar industry and introduced this new form of livelihood for thousands of people. (Go ahead and check the history of the internet if you want to verify this statement.)
And I do understand where the stigma is coming from. An industry such as this one is bound to be corrupted, just like any industry.
But even though, admittedly, some bloggers are in it for the money (because it IS good money if you know what you’re doing), there are still plenty of us who are in it for the artistry.
And there are many of us who, quietly and relentlessly, never stopped believing in the power of creating content and how it can make an impact and change lives.
And this is why, even with the rise of vloggers, social media influencers, and podcasters, I still proudly and intentionally wear the title “blogger” on my profile like a badge of honor, no matter how scared it makes me feel sometimes.
But that also means I have to learn to rise above the stigma, every single day, and not give in to the fear.
The fear of “pursuing my passion”
When I started The Purpose Blog last year, I got to really explore big words like passion and purpose and how these concepts play into doing creative and meaningful work.
Naturally, as I study those words, I happen upon articles that talk about how following your passion is not exactly a wise thing to do. There are plenty of them these recent years—research and studies and TEDtalks telling the young generation NOT to follow their passions. Let me link up some of them:
- Following Your Passion is Dead, Here’s What to Do Instead
- To Find Work You Love, Don’t Follow Your Passion
- Why “Follow Your Passion” is a Pretty Bad Advise
I’m not saying I disagree with these studies (they do have a point). But flashback to a couple of years, our generation was told differently.
We were told to quit the 9-5 and be our own boss, screw the cubicle, travel/blog/create for a living, pursue what sets our souls on fire. So if you’re in the middle of doing just that and you read research studies telling you that it’s not wise, you start questioning whether or not you’re walking the right creative path.
There are many layers surrounding this topic! And I’d be lying if I say I didn’t lose sleep pondering upon this concept over and over and over, when I should have poured those hours into actually pursuing my passion, instead.
After all, maybe we’re just seeing a generational shift in messaging. Semantics, if you will. (Maybe a discussion for another time.)
And although these types of articles are meant to warn us about the dangers of recklessly pursuing passions and chasing dreams, I speak for myself when I say that it’s also equally unhealthy if we take in too many of these general advises and allow them to plant fear into our minds, just like I did.
My 2 cents on this matter:
In the same way that we were warned about following our passions, we should also take with a grain of salt those advises that tell us we shouldn’t or we couldn’t.
Every day I come across people online who’ve successfully turned their creative passions into their livelihood. It’s not for everyone, true. But it’s up to you if “following your passion” is for you or not.
Chasing Dreams is turning 10 years this month, hiatuses included ;) #justkeepingitreal
The truth is, I don’t think this blog would have even existed until now if I didn’t “follow my passion”. Because if I just wanted a job that would pay the bills (and potentially earn more), then I could have just focused on my corporate success and genuinely enjoyed it too.
But “passion” has always brought me back to this space, and I have to keep learning the best ways to monetize this “passion” if I want to keep doing it. I’m putting the P-word in quotes because I’m not sure what else to call what’s keeping me here, really.
All this to say, I have to remind myself that this journey is my own and that random TEDtalk speaker doesn’t know my journey like I do. They may be right that pursuing passions is dangerous, generally speaking, but most times what’s true for the bigger population is not always what’s true for some of us.
How to overcome your fears blogging
As I end this long rumination on blogging anxiety, here’s a recap of the things that have helped me overcome my fears, in case you need them too:
First, work on the things within your control
There are many things about blogging that you couldn’t possibly cover all at the same time, you have to tackle the ones within your control. Declutter your old blog and freshen up your design, or maybe consider starting a new blog if you feel like you’re at a dead-end with the old one.
Restrategize. Start dreaming again. Work on one item at a time, one small step every day. The world does not need to see your progress, the most important thing is you see your own progress and you honor it.
Then, train your mind to only listen to the right voices
Review your WHY and remember to whom and for whom you’re doing this for. And choose the voices that you will allow to influence or affect you in your creative process. In this digital age, you will always find someone who will disagree with the way you do things (especially if you spend so much time scrolling your Facebook feed). You don’t need that kind of distraction. Log off Facebook or delete the apps from your phone if that’s what it takes.
Which brings me to my last point.
Maybe it’s more than just about blogging
The problem with not seeing these fears for what they are is, as creatives, we become too hard on ourselves when we couldn’t get ourselves to create anything. But when we acknowledge the existence of these fears and finally understand what’s draining our creativity, then we know how to deal with them and how to actually overcome.
Just like any type of sickness, without the right diagnosis, you only end up on a wild goose chase, aimlessly experimenting on cures to no avail. But with the right diagnosis, you’re able to administer the right cure and the right path to healing.
So maybe it’s not just “writer’s block” or “creative drought” for you too. Maybe there are traumas and deeper layers of anxiety that are making you paralyzed to the core, affecting your creative process, and thwarting your ability to create.
More resources on mental health and anxiety
If you’ve read up to this point and deep inside you know you feel the same way, I want to share with you two podcasts that have been instrumental for me in my own road to healing:
I’ve been learning so much about mental health and trauma therapy lately, and I’m more convinced than ever how important it is for creatives and bloggers like us to talk about these things, too.
If you’re up to it, I would love for us to start a conversation about mental health. I personally have not done any form of therapy (yet), but I do find content related to mental health (such as the ones above) helpful in my own journey. And if you find these materials relevant to you too, I would love to hear from you! Send me a message or sign up for my list below. Let’s talk!