I have decided to write this blog post for myself more so than my online audience. It’s the first time I’ve done so since becoming a paid writer. For those of you who don’t know me or my story, I started blogging over two years ago to document my experience as a teacher living on a remote island off Arnhem Land. I used the blog to post photos, describe day-to-day experiences and share resources and information I gathered about the local Indigenous people and land I was living on.
A lot has happened since I published my first post, not only impacting what I write but the way I grapple with the writing process and the opinions I share. When I started off, nothing was off limits. I mostly wrote descriptive recounts about weekend adventures, so excited to get the words out I would often hit ‘publish’ before editing. At that stage only a few friends and family members read my posts, curious to know what I was up to since I had gone ‘off the grid’ and deactivated Facebook. They would sometimes advise me of spelling errors which I’d shrug off and go in and change days later.
When I moved to Japan I planned to work as an English teacher, but the working conditions were so unreasonable I decided to look for other forms of employment. I knew my options were going to be extremely limited considering I could say little more than ‘hello’ and count to 10 in Japanese. I sent a bulk email out to English news and magazine outlets casually asking if they’d let me write for them based on my limited experience. I was really surprised when (arguably) the biggest news media company replied within a few days. I feel I got the ‘lucky break’ people talk about, because after I wrote a couple of articles for them, I had other companies commission me for bigger and better jobs. Even though I’m now living back in Australia I get contracted to write a couple of articles per month, which I am truly grateful. However, there is a huge downside to being a paid writer when you’ve got your own blog.
I’ve become so concerned about what I write on my personal blog for fear of judgement. Instead of just writing the first thing that pops into my mind, I feel I have to pick my topics more carefully. Rather than be excited by my growing online audience, I feel nervous about who might stumble across my post and disagree, or worse, become offended by what I’ve written. I’m being advised to carefully consider my target audience and ways I can create revenue off the content I write about. With so much at stake, it’s just easier not to post at all—and I guess that’s why I am rarely posting these days.
Today I have decided to reclaim my blog as a safe space to write whatever, and for whomever chooses to read it. I truly enjoy expressing myself through words and art and only today realised how restrained I’ve been feeling each time I go to post something up that doesn’t relate to travel.
This is a public notice to myself to write freely and frequently from this day on. Of course I could have just thought it or even said it aloud to myself, but I feel taking time out to write it down and publish it for friends and family to read helps solidify the commitment.
I would love to hear from others who have felt the same sort of restraint because of the way their careers have progressed or whether self-perception has wreaked havoc on their ability to carry out tasks instinctively and without fear of judgement.
I almost feel like I’m writing my very first post again, uncertain of what’s to come and how much it will mean to me tomorrow and the next day. I feel good about re-establishing a space for me to practise creativity and hope others can understand where I’m coming from.
Casey (Louey) Hawkins