Today I want to talk about something that I call “scrubbing.”
In all the different stages of my writing career, one thing has remained constant: the intense fear of publishing, of knowing that my work is out there in the world, unable to be edited.*
Most people don’t know this, but I started out by writing Twilight fanfiction. In fact I had three moderately popular stories going between the publication of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. But when the final book ruined the plotlines of my stories and the entire series became a laughing stock, I completely erased them from my FanFiction account, my history, and my life. I scrubbed them.
When your work exists on a self-moderated platform, it’s all too easy to give into that publishing fear, to take back the work that you later find yourself embarrassed or disappointed by, to scrub. And by the time I started writing my Harry Potter stories, my Twilight work was embarrassing. I had improved as a writer during the intervening months and scrubbing was the obvious thing to do. Little did I know then that this would be the first of many times in my life that I would seek a blank slate.
As I’ve mentioned before, I spent the last few years of high school as an active member of an online Harry Potter forum. I must have written nearly two dozen stories during that time. Some were longer chaptered stories, most were just a few pages, but each was carefully advertised and posted online. Then in early 2011 I scrubbed my profile completely and my FanFiction past became a buried secret.
At the time, scrubbing felt good. It felt like the right thing to do. I no longer stood behind the content or quality of what I’d written, so why leave it up online where anyone could stumble upon it? Why not focus my energy on moving forward into the next big project?
Towards the end of 2010 I started to get really invested in YouTube, even more so than my writing. I had started following a number of content creators – musicians, vloggers, educational channels, etc. – and it inspired me to try making videos of my own. For the next few years this would be my occasional focus. I didn’t get very far in this, school and living situations often got in the way of filming, and so, after a final failed reboot in the summer of 2014, I scrubbed my channel as completely as my FanFiction account.
It is my greatest hope that this blog won’t turn out the same way, but I can already feel the pull of the eraser. I constantly fight the need to edit, reformat, and delete; the feeling never quite goes away. I do my best to mitigate this by waiting days or even weeks between when I write articles and when I post them, but when I reread my work I always think of newer and better ways I could have said something and I have to stop myself from wondering if I should have ever posted at all.
Will I ever be satisfied with my own work? Will I ever stop wanting to scrub my past? These are questions to which I might never know the answer.
*Note: you can actually edit posts on self-moderated platforms, but in my mind once something is out there, you should pretend as if it’s a hard copy. Otherwise you’ll be constantly reworking the same posts without ever publishing anything. Even most published authors would agree that written work is never really “finished.”