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Writing—Or Not

Does writing come easily for you, or do you have to force yourself to do it? I tend to lean toward the latter extreme. It’s one of those things I almost always enjoy once I do it, but have a lot of trouble motivating myself to do.

I wouldn’t call it writer’s block. To me that term connotes a desire to write but a lack of ideas to write about. My case is more an avoidance of even trying. Or thinking about it.

I’ll give you an example: last September I pitched an idea for a book review to the editor of a newsletter. She liked the idea and encouraged me to write the review and submit it. I warned her that I tend to take a long time to review books. That was in September. It took me a couple of months to get around to reading the book again, and a few more months to start writing anything. I decided I needed to read two or three similar books to compare with the book I was reviewing. That’s a reasonable thing for a book reviewer to do. Of course, it took me a few weeks to read those books, and by then almost enough time had passed for me to need to re-read the book I’m reviewing. I skimmed it and re-read the first two or three chapters. I have no idea whether the newsletter editor still expects anything from me. I’ve been avoiding her.

Last week I actually got back to working on the review, with the help of a couple of books on writing. Each day I would read a chapter of a book or writing, and that would get me in the mood to write a bit. I had been unhappy with the approach I was taking with the review, and I restarted from scratch. It felt good! I wrote a bit every day, and my progress through the week was such that I set myself a goal of finishing a draft of the review by the end of the week. It almost worked. Thursday and Friday I got sidetracked by two tasks that had to be done then, including filing my income tax return. The week ended without the review getting finished, and I haven’t touched it since.

The writing book I’m reading now is helping—at least it helped me make progress last week. It’s called The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers and it’s written by Betsy Lerner. Its chapters have titles like “The Ambivalent Writer”, “The Neurotic”, and “Touching Fire”. Lerner understands fully the demons that haunt writers, and her advice is to “face them down”. She describes bang-on the combination of ego and insecurity that drives many writers to write—or not write.

By the time I read the part where Lerner says people write either because they have to or because they want people to love them, something had clicked inside me. I realized that I didn’t need to write to get people to love or like me. I didn’t need to write. In fact, for a few days, I didn’t feel like writing at all. I wasn’t afraid to write, as I had been before; I didn’t feel the need.

I can still write when I feel I have something to say, or when I feel a creative tension that needs to be released. I’m still too much of a perfectionist for writing to come easily, but I’m getting better at being okay with imperfect drafts.

What is writing like for you?

 

Be good to each other

J

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  1. April 25, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to your future writings.

    Enjoy Writing? Writers Wanted

    • April 26, 2012 at 8:36 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the comment and for following.

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