What are you not writing?Alice Bradley
Writing, sometimes, is kind of like throwing up.
WAIT WHERE ARE YOU GOING. Come back!
Stay with me, here. If you’re nauseated, sometimes you’re not going to feel better until you…purge. Get whatever’s troubling you out there. (This is the new euphemism I’m going to use for throwing up. “I got the troubling thing out there! All over the back seat of this cab! Oh, this driver’s going to get a big tip.”) It might be unpleasant; you might think you’re going to die–but in the end, you’re going to feel better. But until that moment, if you’re anything like me, you’ll expend a lot of energy trying to deny that whatever is about to happen, is, well, about to happen.
In the same way, many writers have something they don’t want to write. A topic they’re avoiding. A memory they don’t want to face. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction or a blog–if it’s there and you’re not writing it, in whatever form, you may find yourself blocked when it comes to the stuff you think you should be writing. You know: the pleasant stuff you think everyone wants to read.
I had this experience recently when I wrote about sexual harassment and getting older. I avoided this topic for a long time. I wondered why I kept trying to write it. Every time I did, what came out seemed too nasty. Too negative. Too not-what-people-read-me-for. It didn’t even matter if I told myself I was writing it just for me. I felt certain that somehow, bad things would rain down on me for admitting just how angry I really was. “How are you,” squeaked the stupid little voice in my head. It usually resorts to “how dare you” because it’s stunningly unoriginal.
But I finally did it, in a fit of courage/insanity. I wrote it, and it was like the floodgates opened after that. I had been wondering if my blog was dead, if there was nothing left to write, but once I got that out it was like I could think again.
Okay, maybe it took a while. I might have been a little overwhelmed by the response.
The response, by the way, was ridiculous. As in, hundreds of emails. And comments. And other blogs linking to it. I’ve seen this happen before, to me and to other writers. Because whatever you need to write almost inevitably will resonate for other people. If something in you is true and honest and dying to be told, no matter how weird or shameful you think it is, it will be true for someone else. And when that person gets to read that he or she isn’t alone? You’ve just given someone an enormous gift.
Of course you have to be conscious of craft, and revise accordingly. I don’t recommend blurting out your secrets, especially if you’re going to share them with the public. When you’re going to say what you really feel, you must be as clear as can be.
Is there some topic you’re avoiding? What are you not writing? If you don’t know, ask yourself what you would write if you weren’t afraid. Just ask the question, and wait.