I was writing advice when really I wanted to share how I feel!
Two months ago I noticed that the way I had been blogging wasn't working. So instead of whatever I had been doing before, I decided to start writing about only my subjective experience. This post is an update on how that’s been going. (Spoiler: I’m really happy with it!)
As an example, let’s compare two versions of my essay about solitude. Here’s my older revision from 2022 April:
And here’s my newer, 2023 January revision:
The earlier revision1 makes me feel gross now. Somehow, even for a topic as personal as solitude, I was trying to make general statements and give advice to the reader! E.g.: “if we're always able to glance at our smartphone at the hint of boredom, then we're not alone". Somehow, I was even trying to tell the reader that they need solitude! E.g.: "We all need time to be alone with ourselves"; “We can easily become deprived of solitude”.
But, actually, all I know is that I need solitude. So in the newer revision I owned that, and lo-and-behold now it feels much more emotional and engaging!
I realized that, until a few months ago, I was writing "advice posts" when really I was just trying to share how I feel!
But even if "sharing how I feel" was my intention, I was also hiding from it and refusing to share it clearly. Everything I said in the later revision was also in the earlier revision, but it just wasn't shared clearly.
Writing the newer revision took a non-trivial amount of introspection and vulnerability, even just to write its mere five sentences. I recall it being surprisingly hard for me to admit that the main reason I was writing this piece was to say that *I* need solitude. It was then difficult to let that reason be the center of the essay.
Similarly, it was hard for me to write the ending of the newer revision:
It feels like if I'm not careful, I could easily go my whole life distracted from what really matters.
Now, contrast this to what I how I ended the earlier revision:
It is precarious to be tuned in to the opinions of others without also taking time alone to form our own independent opinions. When our thoughts are not ours, it becomes easy to accept the thoughts of others without incredulity. It becomes especially easy to never determine what we, individually, value most. Perpetual distraction is what sustains this.
The antidote is frequent stillness. And once you are still, pay attention to what you tend to think about when you have nothing to think about. It is in this way-through slow thoughts and self-reflection-that solitude allows us to create ourselves.
But these are just my thoughts. Go find solitude and make your own.
ADVICE-Y NONSENSE, BLAH!
I also notice that the newer revision is a lot simpler. I think this was because I was no longer presuming the responsibility of ensuring that other people took time for solitude or that they "formed the correct beliefs about solitude", and so all of the details I had included for those reasons got dropped. I notice now that most of the mass of the earlier revision was focused on 'giving advice' and making 'generalizations'!
I was hiding my feelings behind giving advice!
Anyways, now I realize that I don't know what's good for anyone else and so it doesn't make sense for me to give advice. Instead, I only know what's good for me.
Update: I took down my ‘solitude’ post for vibe-related reasons, lol.
more examples of this
a short, real experience from my life in learning to understand boundaries!
This had the relatability that I think a "guide" post would not have had.
Writing subjectively mattered here especially because surely many people could hurt themselves if I made a stretching instruction manual, and I don't want to have responsibility for that.
Still, I do want to share what I do and what I find fun, and I think I was successful in doing that. (I still veered a little bit into giving advice though. It's confusing. I need to figure this out.)
This post felt much more engaging written in this subjectified way than the way I would've written it a few months ago. A few months ago I probably would have written something like "You can love someone even though they're not optimal for you" and given distant, abstract examples instead of the ones from my life. And I probably wouldn't have at all touched on the actual reason I was sharing the post: because I had this revelation.
I think I could've dove deeper in this post, but it was definitely an improvement over my prior advice-y, impersonal draft titled "Depression isn't necessarily bad".
Anything else I’ve written so far in 2023. (This isn’t a claim that they’re written 100% subjectively.)
I also have a big post coming soon about understanding an important concept that came to transform a bunch of my interpersonal relationships and relieve a lot of my social anxiety.
Originally I reified the intention behind this post as my original boundaries post, but it was totally impersonal and distant. Then I redrafted it from a standpoint of "this is the concept. and here are a bunch of detached examples of it in action." and it was still bad. But now I've rewritten it in terms of what actually happened (a cringey dating experience! distressing feelings!) and I'm much more excited about it.
I think what has surprised me the most about all of this was that my previous "advice-y" drafts became so much better when I focused on the reason why I was actually writing the post: because I had a transformation and I wanted to share it.
And the earlier revisions of this solitude essay from 2020 and 2021 were even worse in this regard believe me.