Great Expectations

Shawn Blanc

What do you write as the very first post on the first day of your new job as a full-time writer? I have no idea.

Ever since I can remember I have wanted to be a writer. And now that I actually carry that title it doesn’t fully seem legitimate.

C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ernest Hemingway — they were writers. I, on the other hand, feel like just a guy who writes. Of course a guy who writes is, by definition, a writer. But where the aforementioned greats were ones who had such a wonderful command of words, I on the other hand always feel like I’m guessing.

Alas, Clive, Jane, Robert, and Ernest are no longer with us to answer the question when you wrote, did you feel in control or were you just guessing?

But if you ponder it for a moment, you can’t help but think that maybe they were shooting in the dark, too. And when you think of it like that, well then, you start to realize that perhaps it’s not so much about being a Good Writer as it is about being a Passionate Writer.

Writing should be about standing behind your work and truly caring about what it is you have to say. If you happen to be good with words then congratulations. Dispassionate beautiful prose, however, is still dispassionate. Or, as Anatole France put it, “a tale without love is like beef without mustard: insipid.”

Emotion, honesty, truth, passion. These are the backbones of writing. And these are the very things that can be the hardest to put into our writing. I often find myself caring more about how I say things than what I am saying. The how and the what are certainly important, but not equally so.

I can get more concerned about using too many semicolons than I do about putting my heart into every sentence. Because I can’t get criticized over a semicolon. Well I can, but so what, right? There are rules and guidelines for style that I can refer to in order to justify or correct my semicolon usage.

But when we put our heart into something and get criticized for it, that hurts. And so, in a way, we shy back a bit and we put just enough of ourselves into our writing to give it a hint of breath and no more. Or we shy away from emotion altogether and focus solely on other factors to make our writing garner attention.

Passion and emotion have always been my motivation for writing. I am a passionate person — we all are — and writing is one of the ways I’ve found to express those emotions. I’d like to get better at it, and slowly I am learning a little bit more every day.

And then there are the moments when words utterly fail me. Such as now, when I try to express the gratitude and excitement and nervousness I feel as I begin this new journey of writing full time. This is something I never saw coming that morning in Colorado over six years ago when I started that Blogspot account and wrote that first blog post talking about my vacation.

Today, as I write this, I’m sitting in the same place I usually sit when I write an article for shawnblanc.net: my office. Writing this article feels no different than the hundreds of other articles I’ve written over the years. But now, in this moment, the expectations are greater…

There are my own expectations of what will I publish today? What will come tomorrow and the next day and the next day? These are not just expectations of what the site itself looks like and what gets published to it, but also how I spend my time on the back end. A few thousand words published to the site can represent dozens of hours of work.

Secondly are the expectations of the readers and the members. Now that my full-time job is to publish this website, what does that mean to you? Only you know. I have tried not to think about it too much, but that is easier said than done. For years I’ve always tried to keep just a couple people in mind when writing here. But now that the economic success of this site hinges in no small part on the continued growth of a strong membership base, there is that sudden pressure to write for all of you at once.

You and I both know that is not a recipe for success. My goal is to simply keep on doing what I have been doing for the past four years. I have no plans to reboot this site, change its focus, or change what I’ve been doing so far that got me to this point. Though the pressures and expectations are new and different I am intent on staying steady.

The only thing that has drastically changed is that I now have many more hours in the week to devote to publishing this site. Which means the only difference you should notice is an increase in consistency and quality. I have many ideas that I am looking forward to starting on over the next few weeks and months, and I am very much looking forward to iterating, improving, and generally upping the overall awesomeness of this site.

Some of you have been here since the very first post. Some of you are brand new. And I am grateful that you chose to show up, sign up, and go on this journey with me.

Thank you,

— Shawn

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