A classic song from Sir Elton John starts with this line: It’s a little bit funny; this feeling inside.
Despite what I claimed the past two weeks –that I’ve no lack of materials to write about for each of my five cornerstone content areas — I suddenly find myself feeling today, oh what’s the word for it? Stuck!
Haha…so much for the euphoria the past fortnight.
Maybe this is what all champions feel the day after winning their coveted competition trophy. And I’m just thick-skinned enough to put myself on that winner’s podium right alongside them. I mean, c’mon, 500 essay and poetry blog posts in four years! I deserve to be on that champion’s podium too, right?
But, I am now feeling that ‘day-after’ reality called Life, slapping me awake after the heady dream the night before.
I’ve had this feeling in the past. Like the time I won an open destination airline ticket and was feeling on top of the world. Then, the next day, I was agonizing over where to go and what to pack. Or, the time I completed my Masters’s after attending multiple weekly night classes for two years with the commensurate eyebags to show for it. Then, wondering a day after the heady graduation ceremony, “Now what?!”
This time, though, the feeling is a little different than before.
This time, though, I am feeling more, how should I say, blase? Or maybe I’m feeling writer’s block?
Exactly what is the feeling of writer’s block?
People often talk about writer’s block, which is when a writer is stuck in his/her, well, writing. In her book The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text For Writing & Life, my writing coach Marion Roach Smith even asserted that there are at least 33 movies that immortalize writer’s block!
I don’t know if that statistic is true, but I do know one thing that is always true when it comes to my writing. For many of my pieces, I never quite know what I’m trying to say until I reach the end of each piece. And sometimes, I don’t even know what I’m starting to say, or how to even start!
This is what, for me, really happens behind the scenes when I write. This is probably also the reality of many a writer’s creative process. And this I suspect, more than anything else, is what people mean when they talk about writer’s block. This feeling that I don’t know know what I’m going to say until I say it.
Which can be daunting for anyone who dislikes uncertainty. Know anyone like that?
So if writer’s block is all about feeling uncertain, then how do we overcome it?
Go with the feeling until you hit your sweet spot!
I like what the author Malcolm Gladwell once said about writer’s block, which perfectly captures my own experience:
I deal with writer’s block by lowering my expectations. I think the trouble starts when you sit down to write and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent — and when you don’t, panic sets in. The solution is never to sit down and imagine that you will achieve something magical and magnificent. I write a little bit, almost every day, and if it results in two or three or (on a good day) four good paragraphs, I consider myself a lucky man. Never try to be the hare. All hail the tortoise.
I rarely start and finish a piece of writing in one sitting. Instead, I first dream up an idea or two. Then, I let the idea simmer in the backburners while life goes on. After a day or two, I pen a few sentences or paragraphs to let that idea form. I try not to force it or insist it has a distinct beginning, middle, and end. At least not for another day or two. Then, on the day of my deadline to publish my piece (which in the case of my blog is always Saturday and Monday), I let the words flow to wherever they want to go; to their own “sweet spot”.
It always surprises me when time’s up and I publish what I’ve come to call my “little miracle.” And the feeling is always one of amazement. As though it was someone else who wrote those words. Not me.
But of course, it is me.
And now that I’m past 500 posts, I can afford to be just a little bit, oh what’s the word I’m thinking of? Blase!
“Blase”, or what my little miracle feeling will be from now on
Since I started blogging regularly and intentionally in 2019, I’ve caught myself many times trying to perfect every piece I churn out for my audience. I wanted very much to serve up something meaningful with each post, so visitors to my blog don’t feel they’re wasting their time reading my stuff.
I still want to do that. For what’s a writer without readers, right? And who would take time to read if there’s nothing in it for them?
Yet, now that I’ve hit the sweet spot of 500, I feel I have earned the right to take it easy. To be more sanguine or even blase about my writing.
Now I don’t mean that I’m going to be slack, or I’m going to write without meaning and intent anymore.
All I’m saying is, I no longer need to prove to the world I’m a writer. And with that needless burden of proof lifted, I can now flow forward serenely into a new season of writing. One that is willing to take risks, be bold, even brazen. But never losing my voice and who I am in each piece I dish out.
For I firmly believe now that I can better trust my creative instincts, as well as the writing process I’ve used over these last four years. Yes. Self-confidence and structure. These will henceforth see me nail each writing project more confidently.
It’s been quite a journey, but I can finally say now that I have truly arrived at my writing “sweet spot”.