It's tempting to call these periods of paralysis "writer's block." And, maybe, sometimes that might be what it is. But not most days. Most days, it's one of the three challenges ...
- I have other work that offers a different kind of reward. Cleaning my desk, emptying my inbox, checking Facebook ... all of these things offer small, immediate rewards for very, very little effort. The pieces I write may take weeks or months to get published and may be published in places where feedback doesn't come immediately (or ever). I'll write more about this when I write my reviews on The Power of Habit, which I finished last week and highly recommend.
- I'm trying to write it in my head first. I'll find myself rolling sentences around in my brain, rearranging them and fiddling with them, anticipating responses they might receive. There's something in me that wants to sit and write without editing, to just see perfect words flow onto the screen. But, inevitably, this paralysis will combine with the first - distraction - and the words will never make it out of my head.
- I'm afraid of being misunderstood. We live in a world that doesn't value nuance. And a lot of my writing plays in those nuanced spaces, thoughtfully engaged, finding third and fourth positions in polarized conversations. When I fail to express myself well (or people choose not to listen), tempers flare and feelings get hurt, reputations are damaged and truth is misbelieved.
One night last week - Friday - I had a sleepless night. I went to bed around 9, but didn't fall asleep until 3. It was bad enough that I read 1500 lines of Heany's Beowulf without even feeling drowsy. Why didn't I write then?
Just about everybody has ideas worth writing down and recording. What we lack are strategies for overcoming the challenges that keep us from getting started. Identifying some of my challenges has helped me overcome them.
If you want to journal more or write a memoir or do some blogging or write that newsletter, take some time to identify your getting-started challenges. You might be surprised by how easy they are to conquer when they're brought to light.