My Publication Failed Because Of Me

For a long time, the blank white screen that appeared after clicking “Write a story” scared me. It wasn’t always like this.

I’ve mentioned this before in my past stories, but when I first started writing I wrote without caring about who would read my writing or how I would be perceived by readers.

When people started following and reading, I was ecstatic. I was happy that people were resonating with my words, and I wanted to write more in order to share lessons that I found interesting and helpful.

I met like-minded and fascinating people who were also aiming to become better writers and humans, and thought it would be a good idea to create my own publication.

I wanted to create a space where people could share their thoughts without feeling like they were going to be criticized or judged. I wanted to create a space where people could have interesting, civil, and open-minded conversations.

I wanted to surround myself with people who had the same goals as me so that I could utilize my environment to stay motivated and inspired.

I started a recruiting process and interviewed writers who all had different reasons for wanting to join. What was interesting about them was that they were all so different, yet had arrived at the same crossroad in life.

They all loved to write and felt that they had something to share with the world.

They all enjoyed thinking and having interesting discussions, and they were seeking a safe haven from the discourteous, negative, and ideological discussions happening around them.

Some wanted to get better at writing, and wanted to surround themselves with aspiring writers who they could collaborate and test ideas with.

Some wanted to join a publication in order to increase exposure for their stories.

Some wanted to join because they wanted to make friends.

Little did I know that I would crumble under pressures of responsibility. I had no experience in leadership. Not that they necessarily needed leadership, since the writers themselves were self sufficient and developed relationships with each other, but I started to question if I had (excuse the cliche) bitten off more than I could chew.

I wanted to do more for everyone. I wanted to help people edit their stories and do quality checks for them so that they could publish the best possible version of their stories. I wanted to befriend everyone individually and create deeper bonds with them. I wanted to see if I could help them reach their potentials, and in return, receive help in reaching mine.

But I didn’t know how.

Just the thought of doing all, let alone any, of these things was too heavy for me at the time. While trying to determine how I could best build my community and publication, I was laid off from my job (which I didn’t necessarily mind) and was trying to find a new one as fast as I could. With only $400 to my name, I was on a time constraint to find a job that wasn’t soul crushing.

Yeah, yeah I know. I utilized the classic Insert Sob Story Here To Sympathize With Writer And Allow Justification For His Failure To Take Responsibility. But come on, it’s my story! Let me make myself look like I had good intentions but failed only because of personal hardships and circumstances outside of my control. Can’t a guy catch a break?

What? You’re not letting me off the hook?

Fine — maybe this is the truth.

I knew what I could do to slowly build relationships with my team of writers.

I knew I could contribute more by writing more stories and encouraging the other aspiring writers to do the same.

I knew I could research information on how I could become a better leader, a better friend, a better writer, and a better thinker.

What did I do instead?

I hung out with friends without a care in the world. I played video games and watched stupid shows on Youtube and Netflix. I did everything I possibly could to distract myself from the fact that I was running away from my responsibilities.

Because I was running away from my responsibilities, I would feel guilty, which would make me search desperately for more distractions in order to suppress that guilt.

But ignoring your problems doesn’t make them go away — they compound and they become more powerful every time they’re able to resurface. What started as a few drops of negative emotion soon turned into a tsunami, and I found myself drowning with no sign of rescue.

I didn’t know how to manifest my vision into reality. But instead of admitting that and asking for help, I pretended that I was too busy with other responsibilities in life. No one could know that the confidence and zeal I had shown when first announcing my publication had been replaced by fear and apathy.

I didn’t know how to set goals and create actionable steps to reach them. So I never did.

I didn’t know if what I said I wanted was truly what I wanted.

Was I doing it because I truly wanted a publication full of free ideas and free thinkers? Or was I doing it so that I could say that I was the creator of a publication with a noble goal?

Was I doing it because I wanted to surround myself with inspiring and intelligent individuals? Or was I doing it so that I could boast to others about the fact that I had the opportunity to know these interesting people?

Trying meant that there was a possibility of failure. Daring to venture into the unknown meant that I could no longer tread on familiar grounds. Reaching for the peak meant that I could tumble into the abyss.

The threat of failure was more compelling than the promise of success.

I was in love with the idea of my vision, rather than actualizing it into reality.

I was in love with imagining, because in your imagination you can create a world where everything goes according to plan. You can create a world where you travel to the ending, to the finish line, where you reap the benefits without actually cultivating good habits, overcoming obstacles, and doing the hard work.

I conflated my failure to achieve something with my identity as a person. If I failed in a venture, if I failed to accomplish what I set out to do, to fulfill what I promised to do, then I would be a failure of a person.

A simple critical analysis of this deluded thought may have helped me at the time. But perhaps I secretly wanted to believe that this was true.

Perhaps it allowed me justification for exiting through the back door secretly. It allowed me to abscond responsibility and continue to live as I lived without having to commit, sacrifice, and persevere.

Perhaps it would force me to mature — something that I may not have wanted at the time.

Maybe I was okay with simply dreaming — succeeding in the world inside my mind was good enough for me.

And so I watched from my hiding spot as, one by one, the writers all went their separate ways with nothing in their hands but disappointments and broken promises.

I didn’t even wave goodbye.

This piece is not directed for anyone but myself. I need to write this because I have to come to terms with my regrets and failures. I have to finish the unclosed loops in the story of my life and learn to let go of the things that weighed on my conscience.

I have to figure out these lessons in order to refrain from repeating them in life. Some people find that they think best by talking to others. Others prefer meditation. Writing about my struggles seems to be the best method I have in finding cures for my ailments.

A reader once commented that I should maybe stop navel-gazing and write about something other than myself. I don’t think he meant harm by saying this, but I do remember that I initially took minor offense to this. Who was he to tell me what I can and can’t write about?

But I mulled over this comment for a long time, and I came to believe that what he said was ultimately beneficial for me as a writer.

Constant and excessive self-contemplation gets old real fast.

Maybe I’m not as interesting as I think I am. Maybe my introspection is indulgent and egotistical, but I cleverly disguise it as my “attempt to help others”. Maybe I’m the modern Narcissus, falling in love with my own reflection through the computer screen.

Ironically, after acknowledging the futility of navel gazing, the preceding paragraph is an example of self contemplation. I can never know what the true answer is because the nature of my self cannot be certainly known. It’s a perpetual guessing game until I realize that it is turtles all the way down.

Can the self be known? And even if it was possible to comprehend the self, what makes me think that I’m the one who has the ability of knowing?

I think there’s merit to his suggestion. There are countless other things that are more interesting to readers than the struggles I face in my life. There are many more insightful things I can write about rather than bore readers with my attempt to decipher the true nature of my thoughts and emotions. I will surely take his recommendation to heart and analyze more of the world without, not within.

Having said all this, I still believe that sharing what I’ve struggled with, overcome, failed at, experienced, learned, and felt can not only help me, but it can also help others. At worst, others may find my stories useless and uninspiring, but at least they will help me get better at articulating my thoughts and emotions. At best, it can resonate with other people and they may find my writing useful.

Why do people love anecdotes? Why do fictional stories captivate, move, and inspire us so much more than cold, detached, objective analyses about ideas and facts (non-fiction)?

Maybe it’s because stories are about what makes us human. Every human has a unique and captivating story, and we all secretly desire for others to listen to our stories.

We want to hear about and share our trials and tribulations, our suffering and redemption. We want to share what we’ve learned in painstaking ways, so that maybe others can avoid experiencing them. We want to share the unique insights we’ve gained by living through our individual lives.

I share my stories because I’m trying to figure out what it means to be human.

I’m trying to make sense of life, just like you. I’m trying to understand and work through my emotions, just like you.

Looks like we have some things in common.

Who are you, what are you doing here, where are you going next?

I’d like to know.

Who am I, what am I doing here, where am I going next?

I’d like to tell you.

Perhaps we can help each other find answers to these questions by sharing our stories with each other.



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William Cho

William Cho


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