election anxiety countdown

55 Days: Publishing

I’ve not been sharing these posts widely. When I began the series of 100, I wasn’t sure what it would become, if I’d keep the promise of posting each day, or if I’d be happy with the results. And I wasn’t sure who it was for. I knew I wouldn’t be writing in the easy Buzzfeed style that plays well on social media. I also doubted these would be sharp literary genius, given the tight deadlines (and all the doubts almost every writer has about their sharp literary genius).

But I also didn’t want to be overly influenced by an early response to a fragment of the whole. I knew some of my stories would mention friends and colleagues. Would their memories match mine? Would they think it inappropriate to write about our relationships? About the work?

We are terrified that we will hurt family members, that we will be abandoned or rejected. That we’ll be sued or thrown into writer’s jail for saying all of these mean things… If we don’t write it for ourselves first, we may not give ourselves the permission necessary to make it truly live. Something magical tends to happen when we let go of the result… We develop a newfound compassion for ourselves and the characters in our story. We forgive. We are transformed through the experience. But first we must be willing to write our truth.

—Alan Watt, The 90-Day Novel

I spent week two of this series contemplating truth. I was then contemplating how to write about the election; the importance of speaking truth in confronting a President so willing to lie; the triviality of restating truths when all my likely readers are already opposed to Trump. But in that contemplation of truth, I was also confronting anxiety about my obligations to people I might write about, people from jobs and relationships from years or decades ago. A more conventional memoir — with a longer incubation than daily deadlines allow — might treat these stories more thoughtfully. But my more conventional memoir might never be finished, let alone published.

Every line we succeed in publishing today — no matter how uncertain the future to which we entrust it — is a victory wrenched from the powers of darkness.

—Walter Benjamin

Benjamin’s line — from one of his last letters — predicts the Trump-era tagline of the Washington Post and reflects my motivation for writing as my contribution to ending Trump. Experience tells me doing nothing leads to regrets and what-ifs. Work inside politics left me with a cynical view of the players and tactics considered most effective, and the personal compromises they require. Writing is the tool I have invested the most in since leaving paid political work seven years ago (I’ve now spent more time away than the six years I spent as an insider).

But now I have forty-five posts completed. Fifty-five to go. Nearing the halfway point. Friends I’ve bumped in to and talked to — some who are mentioned directly or obliquely — have given encouragement. I’m considering how this kind of writing might continue after we reach day zero, how to sustain publishing regularly in the long term. Reaching a larger audience is the logical next step. Telling more people about these posts than those I’ve run in to at socially distanced picnics and on phone calls with friends might be warranted. I might have to get back on to social media.

In three days, there will have been 49 of these posts. We’ll be at the halfway point. The featured image art from each post will fill out a nice 7×7 square, perfect for Instagram.

Before we reach that mark, I’ll have to flesh out my conflicted opinions about social media here. If I’m going to rejoin the social media party, it seems impolite to begin with a rant against the hosts of the party and by implication, an indictment of my friends who use it most actively, the ones I’ll be asking to help build and sustain an audience here.

Thanks for reading!

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