Last week, having fallen headfirst down the Google Scholar rabbit hole, I found a pair of funny articles on the subject of writer’s block. Those familiar with academic writing will likely find the most amusement from them, but they’re pretty audience agnostic.
Perusing these pieces of satire, I started thinking about my own writing process. I have always written, but until recently would not have described myself as a writer. I’m not sure why I felt this way. Every job I’ve ever had has entailed significant amounts of writing and I’ve published articles on everything from music criticism to technical finance topics.
Since taking a creative writing class in college that focused on memoir, I’ve been hooked on that style. Blogging is memoir in that it’s an autobiographical first-person account of a part of my life. I’m comfortable writing this way, conversationally and candidly. It’s from that last part, the bit about being candid, that I’ve discovered where my own writer’s block originates.
The times I find myself staring at a blank screen or page, willing words to find their way onto it, it’s not because I don’t have something to say. It’s because I’m unwilling to say it. My writer’s block is a function of my holding back from saying what I’m really thinking or feeling. Everything is there, in my mind, but my Jerk Brain is nixing it before I can get it down.
What will people think if you write that?
None of your words matter.
No one cares what you have to say.
Your writing is banal and derivative.
Writing is cathartic for me because it involves tackling Jerk Brain. That’s why, especially on days where I’m convinced I have nothing of value to say, I sit down and write anyway. It’s another act of defiance against the voice that tells me I’m a failure. Usually, the days I’m convinced I have the least to say are the ones where I experience the greatest breakthroughs in my writing. Those are the days where I am forced to be rigorously honest with myself about why I am suppressing my thoughts and feelings. When I overcome that reticence and write from that place deep inside where my truth lives, that is when I grow.