I was shaking my head wryly when I saw the prompt of the day — I knew quite a bit about feeling stumped, especially when it came to writing.
This might be only the second post on this blog, but the blog itself isn’t exactly new. I created it in 2008, I think, and it originally had one post, vaguely alluding to heartbreak. It never was updated after that mostly because writing about feelings was never really my forte, and I blogged about books elsewhere and daily observations often came in 144 characters on Twitter.
I don’t write about books much any more, and I’ve been mostly silent on Twitter.
I’m trying to figure out why I’m having so much trouble writing.
- I’m being too judgemental of my own writing. I write a line, I delete two. I keep thinking I could phrase that better and try again (and again and again and again) and after a while the idea loses its appeal and I end up not writing at all.
- I keep editing while writing. I’ve been an editor for ten years and I automatically scan sentences for errors, and even when there are none I keep seeing how it could be improved. I tell myself: just write on, edit it later; no one’s going to point and laugh when you inevitably misplace an apostrophe (the horror: imagine misplacing an apostrophe), but most days it doesn’t really help. Some habits have just been ingrained too deeply. (I just went up a few lines to fix a subject-verb agreement problem even though I told myself I’d write this to the end first.)
- Another ingrained habit is to put aside what I’ve written for a few hours, and come back later with fresh eyes. While it works great for articles that aren’t pressing, or things that often require multiple drafts like stories, I’ve found that it doesn’t work when I’m blogging about my thoughts. After a while I just feel my thoughts grow more and more distant from what I’ve written, and I begin to wonder if the post is relevant to anything at all. I’ll just end up feeling even more reluctant to hit that Publish button the longer something lingers in my Drafts.
- I feel like I’m rehashing things that have already been written by better writers. There are people out there who are more eloquent than me, who are better at organising their ideas than me, who can deliver more convincing arguments than me. Why should I bother?
- That crippling fear of what if no one likes this? I have old pieces I keep, and upon rereading I realise that they’re not half bad, but I still keep them in hidden notebooks in the dark, hidden corners of my room (or in Google docs, in this case). Those pieces would have been good enough for submission as they were, but I kept second guessing myself instead of sharing them.
- I start something and often feel like it isn’t finished, so I stash it in a folder, intending to expand on it later. It usually stays unexpanded. I probably should just give in and post those as they are, incomplete as they may seem. Like this post, for example. It feels incomplete to me, but I will not give in and hide it somewhere! (I hope.)
Everything seems to boil down to this: worry less, write more!