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Writer’s Block

If I don’t change how I write, will I stop writing?

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

I have not produced any writing in two weeks. The last article I published was July 28th and was in hindsight a bizarre piece, bashed out over a few days. The week before I took much longer to curate a deeper article. That article on Cis gender has been a success from the stats from an article I published by me and not connected to a publication on Medium. I then wanted to set the bar quite high for subsequent articles.

My plan is to publish on a Sunday, giving me a week to produce something dynamic and thought provoking, or at least attempt too. I don’t want to overstate my writing by constantly publishing and I don’t think I could sustain that, unless I was a full-time writer. This plan lasted a few Sundays until last Sunday when I took a break with no pressure to publish. It wasn’t that I had writers block, I just needed a break from writing.

The previous week I slaved over a final essay for a year-long Counselling course. Actually, slave is not really what happened. It was due in on the Friday and I started it on the Wednesday morning, and finished it in-between work.

I knew once completed that essay I was headed into a week of annual leave and was sure that, absent from working life, I would find a subject and then words to fill a page or two. My target reading time for articles is around five minutes. I feel five minute reads the optimum time someone wishes to spend reading my work.

The problem with my planned week of creativity; I struggled to find something to write about that was engaging and informative. I had not lacked a dearth of topics I could write about but actually, did I have enough content and knowledge to write something of value? Was my focus lost?

Over the week and with Sunday approaching I did have my lightbulb moments on topics. Mostly around three and four am where I am in some form of awake because my cat decides that it is time to make noise to see if I will rise and play with or feed her. She was making sure I was alive, and to remind me she was a tenant of this home too.

Here was my problem. Lying in bed hearing her scratch around I didn’t have any notebook by my bedside table to write any thoughts or ideas down. Not even my phone that I could reach for and make a note. Because everything I think of at that time seems brilliant and I am positive as I start to fall back asleep I can train my mind to remember what it was when I get out of bed between six and seven am. The thing is, I never do, or if I do it does not feel that it has the cogent meaning it had at four am. Or simply I don’t write a note down. That is some learning which I need to adjust in order to capture those ideas.

Having read so many writers speak about their writing and their form of writing, from Alan Bennett to Simone de Beauvoir, I would have realised the importance of having some form of notebook or Notes in IOS! Otherwise it rattles around in my head until I sit in front of the laptop and struggle to produce.

Writing an article I want that article to portray a knowledge and an interest in the subject, even if it is only my perspective. My intention was and still is to spend a week on an article. The positive about a week of concentrated writing is the allowing the time to type, leave it, look at it again, edit, print it out, check it over, get the cat to look it over and then spell and grammar check for publishing.

I learned this process of writing during University study in 2012. Those first essays were shabby and lacked focus to the point I just passed the course. Subsequent study, and I always find something to study, have allowed my writing to improve but I can still lack focus or want to get so much content from my head to the page it becomes polluted.

This is where I would find a notebook handy. In fact, during my basic counselling skills course it was suggested to us that writing a journal paragraph after every tutor session would help us reflect and help us write that essay at the end of every module.

I did note down some ideas on Friday evening. Sunday, publishing day, was looming with little written. I tasked myself and wrote down the subjects I had in my head for a Sunday article to see what knowledge and ‘meat’ I could give produce. Here are two of my topics:

1. Dr. Jordan B. Peterson: Clips have started to appear on my YouTube feed and I’m interested in why his words seem to appeal to predominantly men of the libertarian and right. I have only found one interview so far by a woman, Christie Blatchford of the National Post, a conservative newspaper where the interview does not seem combative in comparison to other interviewers and Jordan himself. Is Jordan Peterson the conservative man’s Germaine Greer?

2. Crisis in Six Scenes: Woody Allen’s one and only (it seems) debut series for Amazon Studios. I re-watched it again this week and found depth I missed before. On release it did not get good reviews and now it seems typically Woody Allen where everyone sees a psychiatrist because they have some form of neurotic behaviour. It was from this series that I discovered the comedienne and scriptwriter Elaine May, who gives a great turn as the Marriage Counsellor wife to Allen’s neurotic and straight-laced author. For example, the touch of the first episode where she has a glass of wine in her hand at all times, depicting a woman confided to her role and subconsciously looking for excitement.

I carried out some research on both but could not get the flow of an article. For Jordan Peterson I found it sometimes annoying to listen to him in interviews. For Crisis in Six Scenes anything I had to say could have been said in a Tweet. I could not find the depth for an article.

So here I am, Sunday morning and I have written something. It may lack a theme to connect to the other articles, but that is part of the writing process that extends my writing experience. Then again, the purpose of the Sunday publication was to provide thought provoking articles, but this one is all about me really. It might just be a filler article rather than anything deep but writing it has offered me time to think about my form and format in the writing process.

I do need time to write and I need to just attempt it in small chunks and see how it flows. Then, give myself enough time to revisit the article and even print to check over and read aloud (a tip I got from a University Professor; verbalising how it flows for context, errors and grammar). Now I realise I should be doing this, rather than thinking about it without action.

Finally, I will not pressurise myself to be over-productive to get those claps and reads. It is about content and my own critique of a subject. Or it could be, like they say about everyone having one novel in them, that I have exhausted my writing and there is nothing else for me to say at this time.

That is possible, but I take from Simone de Beauvoir her process of structured writing and when she could not grasp the words, she read until she could. I think this is a valuable lesson for all writers of content.