I really hate to start things this way, but I feel like I’ve come to a crisis point.
I’ve been gone from the blogging scene for the past 4 months and though I’m really excited to be returning, the idea of a grand reemergence has me paralyzed. I must have written 4 pages of content I can’t use. I just can’t decide which way to go. I feel like I’m trying to solve a puzzle or find a formula or something – intro + picture + personal story + facts = blogging success? No… news story + personal take?
With my deadline steadily approaching, it’s a total disaster. While I'm struggling to force out a coherent thought, I’m watching blog after well-written blog being published by my friends. I even overheard someone saying they usually finish a blog within 2 hours – and they’re good, lengthy blogs too. More like articles.
And I begin to panic.
“What’s wrong with me?! I used to do this all the time!” Maybe I’m not as good as I thought I was. Maybe I’ve just read too much blogging advice – be truthful and interesting, set the tone for all forth-comings blogs, be personal, but don't scare people away with your issues,use simple language, yet write creatively, impress your contemporaries, do it quickly, thoroughly, perfectly.
Here's how this works out: I start a blog, I’m on a roll, it’s going okay now, “ooh! LOVE that sentence…”… and then suddenly “what the crap is this? You’re rambling, Erin. What’s your point?” *delete, rewrite*
“Who cares?!” *delete, rewrite*
“Oh yeah, that’s original.” *delete, rewrite*
“Pretentious... Crap.... You’re not committing... Not good enough!”
*write, write, write*
*write, write, write*
I start questioning my ability to write AT ALL. After a long day trying to force something out, I left Friday defeated, but doing my best to keep my spirits up. It was the weekend after all. “I just need to try writing at home where I’m more relaxed. I’ll get myself started there and then I won't need worry when I come back in to work. ”
Saturday I was back on the case.
I decided what I needed was some inspiration. I googled “Best Writing Blog Awards” and found some great, hilarious stuff in the process. Unfortunately, this backfired and the greatness of these other bloggers only made it worse. "How can they be so consistently interesting and funny? How can they find something to say for themselves every day?! Am I hopelessly dull? Do I really have nothing to say for myself?"
This was clearly not helping, so I decided to change tactics. On the advice of an effective blogging article, I decided I probably just needed to pin down exactly where my strength lied. My boyfriend suggested that my strength was in giving advice. "A lot of people go to you with their problems and you usually have some helpful insights to offer when they do."
“That’s it. I’ll just talk it out! Why didn’t I think of this before?!” I felt like I had made some grand discovery. I tried recording myself. Unfortunately, it turns out speaking unprompted is even more difficult than writing (and way more embarrassing to review).
Shake it out! Shake it out!
“I’m just in too dark a mood to be the likeable sort of Erin I want to be in my writing. What I actually need to do is not think about writing. I need find my happy space. THEN the words will flow.” I threw on my big, comfy microfleece robe, grabbed my kitten (right!) and a snack, poured a glass of wine and laid down in bed with a Woody Allen movie. When it was done I went hiking through the woods behind my house. “It’s working! I’m feeling so much better now!”
Or I was… until I tried writing again. Uplifting music didn’t work. Wine didn’t work. Coffee didn’t work. Inspiration didn’t work. I couldn’t even decide on a subject anymore. Free-writing wasn’t happening and I now had TWO blank pages staring me down – the one I pulled out to outline my blog and the one on the computer screen that the completed outline was supposed to help me fill.
I returned to work today no closer to completing my blog than I had been Friday and even more anxious. "What if I just can’t write anymore? What am I going to do?" Helpless, I did what any blogger would do - I turned to the internet for advice:
"Oh great internet, what in the heck is wrong with me?"
Wikipedia:“Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing as a profession, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition varies widely in intensity. It can be trivial, a temporary difficulty in dealing with the task at hand. At the other extreme, some "blocked" writers have been unable to work for years on end, and some have even abandoned their careers.”
Me: … “unable to work for years… abandoned their careers…” ?! Oh, God… this is so seriously not good. I’m paid as a writer. My ability to house and clothe and feed myself and my family depends on this being a temporary set-back. This can NOT be a years situation!
Wikipedia:“Throughout history writer's block has been a documented problem. Professionals who have struggled with the affliction include author F. Scott Fitzgerald and pop culture cartoonist Charles M. Schulz. It can manifest as the affected writer viewing their work as inferior or unsuitable, when in fact it could be the opposite.”
Research Penn State: “Writer Ernest Hemingway dodged bullets as a war correspondent, fought bulls in Spain, and hunted big game in Africa-but when asked to name the scariest thing he ever encountered, he answered, ‘A blank sheet of paper.’”
Me: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Schulz, and Ernest Hemingway, huh? I guess things turned out alright for them. “Viewing work as inferior or unsuitable…”, fear of the blank paper… YEP, that sounds familiar.
Research Penn State: “The anxiety of writer's block can be particularly potent when there is pressure to produce. Explains Kasdorf, ‘When being a writer is entangled with your personal identity or when your product is going to get you tenure or not, that raises the stakes.’”
Me: Well, CRAP. So what do I DO? I feel like I’ve tried just about everything!
Internet: How about what you’re doing right now?
Holy crap. You’re/I’m right.
I did it! I’m doing it right now! And you know, I actually feel like there’s some deeper lesson in here? Like, I don’t know...
I still think it's good to challenge ourselves and I still think that sometimes it's good to be a little intimidated by a project, but at some point I guess you just need to forget perfection, take a risk and start writing.