For the past few years, I’ve suffered from what I thought was writer’s block. I’ve written sporadically, and even published a couple of books, but daily writing has been almost impossible. In terms of blogging, weeks or even months have passed without a single post. There have been numerous times that I’ve opened up a blank page, only to stare at it for several minutes without a single idea of what I should write.
At the end of last year, I vowed to write ten minutes per day. While I haven’t managed to write something every single day, I’ve noticed that when I do write random journal posts (for my eyes only) I have no trouble coming up with things to write about.
I’ve finally come to the conclusion that what I’m suffering from isn’t writer’s block. Not at all. In fact, I’ve identified several things which have kept me from writing, and I’ll bet many of you have struggled with at least one (if not all) of these issues:
- Not writing just for the sake of writing. It’s okay to write stuff just for you. Not everything needs to be (or should be) published. Journaling is a great way to get the thoughts flowing. I know when you have limited time, you don’t want to “waste” those precious minutes by writing random stuff that will never see the light of day. But, writing random stuff is better than writing nothing at all. And, quite often, jotting down a few thoughts in a journal will get the juices flowing so that when you do return to your novel-in-progress, you can hit the ground running.
- Thinking too much about potential readers/reviewers. Since I began writing with a reading audience in mind, writing has become more difficult. When I began writing my first novel, it was so easy. The words just flowed. I wasn’t thinking about an eventual reading audience, I was just writing because I was so excited about the story! Once I turned my attention to agents and publishers, it got harder. And, once I published and experienced critical feedback, it got harder still.
- Self Censorship. This has been a real killer in terms of my blog. I’ve been self-censoring my writing and constantly thinking about how it would be received by others. I don’t want to tackle anything too political or too controversial. I’ve seen authors who have had their reputations smeared just because a blog post was badly received by someone who decided to create drama. I guess I’m a coward at heart, so I’ve been steering away from topics that mean a great deal to me, just because I don’t want to take a chance at offending the wrong person.
- Worrying too much about “branding.” A long time ago, I read a popular blog by a social media guru who advised authors to constantly be aware of branding. If you’re a romance author, you should write about romance, romantic settings, romance movies, and other romance-related topics. If you’re an author of historical fiction, you should write about your trips to historical sites, historical events, and popular historical movies. You get the drift: Build your brand, stay focused, don’t be controversial. I think of all this is pretty decent advice, but the problem is, when politics or world events or general upheaval in your daily life occupies all your thoughts, how can you NOT write about it? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be put in a position where I just shut up and enterain my readers with the fluff I think they might expect. I guess if we’re ONLY interested in book sales, we can be careful not to rock the boat so we appeal to everyone. But you know what? It’s impossible to make everyone happy, so shouldn’t we focus on writing about topics that enrage us, thrill us, or amuse us? Shouldn’t we write about things that warm our souls or break our hearts?
- Being afraid to get too personal. This is another tough one for me. How much of my life should I really put out into the world for everyone to read? After all, my coworkers at Ye Olde Day Job could potentially read my post. Or elderly family members who might be shocked by some of my ideas. I do think, when it comes to getting personal, we have to strike a balance, but I’ve been so careful, I’ve written almost nothing at all about my personal life, and that has left my blog dry, boring, and devoid of emotion – and oftentimes content. Trust me. I’ve written lots of posts that I decided not to publish on my blog because it’s too personal. Just because I gave birth to four human beings does not mean I own them. Yes, I have a right to tell my own stories, but do I have a right to tell theirs? I’ve held back on writing anything about my family, or interesting things that happened at various day jobs because I think the people in my life should have some expectation of privacy. However, I think I’m probably safe to tell stories about a car breakdown, or a nice excursion to the beach or mountains, or even a humorous story about a cooking disaster. Instead, I’ve written, well, nothing.
- Depression and mental illness. And, so now I’m about to get personal. I suffer from extreme depression and anxiety which have derailed my writing more times than I can count. It’s hard to worry about sticking to a blogging schedule when you’re suicidal, or when you’re so anxious you can’t even concentrate on watching a television show. Depression has been the number one reason I’ve abandoned novels right smack in the middle. It has caused me to completely drop out of the blogging community, even going so far as to unsubscribe to all the blogs I used to follow. Anxiety has prevented me from leaving comments on blog posts I’ve read. It has prevented me from keeping in touch with all the amazing bloggers I’ve met here on WordPress. Each time I crawl out from beneath a major episode of depression, I essentially start all over again. I have to read through half-written novels I haven’t touched in several months, only to discover I’m not the same person I was when I began writing the damned thing. There have been so many times people have asked me about my writing, and I’ve lied and told them I’m busy, or that I have writer’s block, instead of just admitting I am fighting a losing battle against depression. Writing this right now, I know that at some point (in a week, or a month, or a year), I’ll drop out again, leaving abandoned novels and a neglected blog. But, for now, I’m trying and that’s all that counts, right?
Sometimes a lack of writing is due to writer’s block. Oftentimes, it’s something else. If you’ve struggled with writing, I hope this post helps you identify the reason for your “writer’s block.” At the very least, I hope this post reminds you that you’re not alone.