Eric Karjaluoto

Why I Stopped Writing

TL;DR: Imposter syndrome got the best of me. So, I took a break from writing here, and lost a valuable outlet. Now, I’m taking another run at this blog.

Gone

“It doesn’t pay enough.” That was my (unintentionally) glib reply to a neighbor’s question: “Why haven’t you written any new articles?” I immediately regretted the response.

My real answer was complicated, and we were at a potluck. I wanted to save those around us from a long-winded explanation. I also thought I was being funny. (I am almost never funny when I try to be.)

What you end up doing

When I started blogging on Ideas on Ideas, I didn’t know what to write about. So, I started with what I was doing: operating a design studio. Something clicked, as designers found a commonality in the posts. A few people reached out to say (mostly) nice things.

Along the way, I wrote two books. The first meandered but had its moments. The second was bland but contained useful information. Both were too long. I learned a lot from writing those books.

I wrote for design magazines. I contributed guest-author posts. I also started writing on this blog. There were other projects, too. For example, I noodled with a blog about living purposefully.

I also wrote for pay. I crafted mission statements and brand strategies. I helped shape creative briefs and design directions. I wrote lots of copy for websites.

It’s curious: I went into the design profession to make visuals. Nevertheless, most of my work involves organizing words.

Books the Author Regrets — But “Grew From”

Anxiety and me

I stopped (and started and stopped, and started and stopped) writing on this blog for many reasons. One related to time. I don’t do anything in moderation. When I write, it takes over. This means putting client projects aside. It also means posting too many articles—and worrying that I’m bugging readers.

Fear of what others think is a problem for me. I worry that writing in the first person reads as self-involved. I then worry that writing in the second person appears bossy.

I regret the contradictions from one post to the next. I fret the possibility of giving a reader bad advice. I lose sleep over receiving an email that tells me I’m a shitty person.

Most of my articles are self-directed—sort of like I’m coaching myself around obstacles. Yet, I felt like many posts read as the blathering of some know-it-all. I kept asking myself: “Who am I to lend advice to anyone when I still get so much wrong?”

I figured it was time to be quiet. Actually, I aimed to be invisible. Read more. Reflect more. Go unnoticed. I’d come back and write once I had figured something out… but I don’t think it works that way.

Writing

Sometimes I wish learning was transactional. E.g.: Take a course and come out with x knowledge. In my experience, learning isn’t like that. Rather, it seems like you struggle to make sense of a challenge—and continually bump into new ones. What if you never truly know? What if you just make attempts and reflect upon them?

When I don’t write on this blog, I end up sending emails to myself. These help me make sense of matters I grapple with. I know everyone functions differently. For me, though, writing helps organize thoughts and make sense of situations.

It’s not only that. Writing allows me to get thoughts out of my head. I don’t know how your brain works, but mine obsesses over challenges, scans for patterns, and proposes hypotheses. Much of this is useless, or nonsense, but I do occasionally stumble upon insights that make sense. (These are almost always obvious in retrospect.)

I also write to connect. I’m an introvert and spend many hours on my own. This suits me fine. But, when I write I feel linked to others. This might be of little significance to you, but it’s important to me.

Two introverts broker a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Two introverts broker a mutually beneficial arrangement.

Where do I go from here?

I’m not sure that I should hit Publish on this post. It feels like an apology or cop-out. I can’t get over the desire to write, though. Before starting again I wanted to explain myself.

I am not an expert. I can’t say what works in design, marketing, or business. I have lots of opinions, but many are inaccurate. The best I can do is tell you what I noticed—or experienced.

I see this blog like a diary. What’s contained aren’t essays or position-pieces. They’re letters from me to me (and possibly you). I’ll try to post one article a week. This should give me enough time to reflect on a topic. I also hope this posting frequency is just infrequent enough to not burden you.

Mostly, I’ll write about making things, and running a small business. My work revolves around these two topics. I know something about both of them—yet they continue to elude me in new ways.

Sign up to receive new articles by email:

Email *

There’s no charge to subscribe, no spam, and I won’t sell your contact information. You can unsubscribe from this list at any time, with one click.

All comments—including critical ones—are welcome. I just ask that you keep them polite. Please note that although I can’t respond to all comments, I appreciate every one of them. 🙌

 

  • TheoJanuary 21, 2020 11:39 am

    I subscribed to RSS because I loved your writing. Keep it up! 

  • Lisa MikulskiJanuary 21, 2020 12:45 pm

    I'm glad you are back. As you may remember, I was an avid reader of your words. I too have struggled with "what to say" over the years. I've started and ended a number of blogs on various subjects and have written from two continents. While I make a living as an arts writer there was more that I wanted to say ... from a personal standpoint, perhaps even inspiring some folks with the mistakes and discoveries I have made over the last three years. The thing that I found most important was to be authentic. To write with (or to find) my own voice, and as Sini Rao suggests, to write for an audience of one. In doing so, I believe you will find a great following. You have always had wise things to say. I look forward to your new posts. 

  • AdrianJanuary 21, 2020 12:52 pm

    Thrilled to have you back. 

  • DylanJanuary 21, 2020 2:48 pm

    Hey Erik!
    Just wanted to pop in to push back on the self-reviews of your books 😅
    Speak Human caught me at such a pivotal time when I was just starting my career, and it helped shape how I could think about my work. That, and one might never know where a piece of writing meets its reader, and how much it's needed.

    Hope this iteration of your journey treats you well 🙌 

  • DylanJanuary 21, 2020 2:48 pm

    hahah also, please pretend I spelled your name right 🤦‍♂️ 

  • Eric KarjaluotoJanuary 21, 2020 4:23 pm

    Thanks for all of your replies! I appreciate the kind words and encouragement. 🙂 

  • Ken SotoJanuary 21, 2020 5:23 pm

    Good to have you back Eric. I was a reader for long time, bought and recommended Speak Human to many.

    *I also write to connect. I’m an introvert and spend many hours on my own. This suits me fine. But, when I write I feel linked to others. This might be of little significance to you, but it’s important to me.*

    This rings true to me, probably many others. Keep up the good work. 

  • PaddyJanuary 22, 2020 2:15 am

    Always enjoyed your writing Eric, especially all the great stuff on Ideas on Ideas.
    Happy to be subscribed.
    Paddy 

  • AnjaliJanuary 22, 2020 7:57 am

    I'm happy to see you back here! Keep writing. I love your work. 

  • Jimmy OfisiaJanuary 22, 2020 8:09 am

    I must say that I am very happy to finally read your new blog post once again. I am using IFTTT to send your blog RSS to my Pocket list, so I will ignore your newsletter subscription box right now. 🙂 

  • seth godinJanuary 22, 2020 5:14 pm

    welcome back

    we missed you. 

  • Joel JucáJanuary 22, 2020 7:40 pm

    I just wanted to let you know how grateful I am for you to share so much knowledge. I completely agree with the "acquiring knowledge is not transactional" idea - it would be awesome if there were a way to do so, but it's unrealistic, and the way you share as you learn is awesome! You inspire me to do the same, and I wanted to let you know that there's one guy down in Brazil who's always inspired when he reads your stuff.

    Regard the Impostor Syndrome, I face it too and it's serious. If that's the case, don't feel ashamed to look for professional help. IS is horrible, and more frequent/present than we think.

    I hope you keep on writing - and I wish you all the best! 

  • Lisa WilderJanuary 24, 2020 4:24 am

    Welcome back, looking forward to your posts.