In a previous life, I had a secret baking blog on WordPress. It was called Thoughts and Cakes. I was young and full of hope of making a life selling cakes and used books. There were silly posts like ‘how to make Mascerpone cheese in an Indian kitchen’ and recipes for Armenian Nazook (I no longer remember what that is) and Nutmeg cake. The blog was doing okay, then after about three years of lurking around I shared it on my social media. People could not’ve been kinder, they said incredibly kind things and shared it with their friends and family and the blog grew overnight. There was only one problem, I simply couldn’t write anymore.
This is what happened. I couldn’t believe the nice things people told me, I was convinced that I was getting away with something and if that blog had continued to live people were going to figure out that I was a fraud and a fake. So I left it at that point where the people still liked me. Maybe that is a feeling all of us have at some point in our lives to varying degrees.
That was about five years ago, a lot of things have changed in this time, now I have the luxury of walking into a grocery store and buying a tub of Mascerpone but I no longer bake, my beloved camera died and I am much more cynical but it turns out the imposter syndrome still remains the same.
The last few posts have been the ones most close to my heart but it seems like the more honest I get with my writing the lesser and lesser engagement the posts get. Some of you have openly expressed your dislike about the last posts and I am incredibly grateful for that, that is exactly how it should be. I don’t want you to have my back no matter what. But there is also that part of me that wants to be liked and keep all of you around.
The solution in this case of course was starting another blog and another secret internet life which I have been doing since Feb but that is also going to have the same fate, its just a matter of time. So here I am trying to keep this going. Trying to get a thicker skin and trying to believe there would be a few people around even when I let the guard down. Let’s see how far it goes.
PS: Some people who are reading this blog are absolutely not allowed to hate me, you know who you are!
Writer’s block, that I know, been there, have set up a tent and have spent whole summers there. But this is not that. I can write easily in my journal but I simply cannot write on this blog! Saturdays nights around 3am is when I make stupid life decisions, like painting my black hair purple or counting the number of followers on this blog. It is 150, in case you were wondering and that number has been haunting me since. Probably on this blogosphere, it is a minuscule non-number, but you must know I eat lunch alone in the storage unit of our office to avoid talking to a group of people and hence 150 seems like a big-ass number
I tried going to the core of the problem because that is what I do now and came up with the following
- When I started blogging under a made-up name I was trying to outsmart the ‘fear of rejection’. If no one knows me, it wouldn’t matter if my writing was good or bad, right? It was going very well in the beginning primarily because literally, no one was reading hence there was no way of receiving virtual rotten eggs back. Then people started liking and following and my writing changed quite a lot. I picked up some good habits, like proofreading and using Grammarly to correct errors but it also got me worried. Instead of writing what I wanted to write, I started writing what might get more likes and traffic and views. It was writing things only when I was sure of it being received well. It is like showing only photoshopped and touched up pictures of my life on social media.
- Also, some of the readers started having names and faces and now I have people to disappoint in this virtual world. Would so and so like my post? made me hit delete on a lot of the drafts. Whenever a post did not receive any attention, I tried staring the notification button into blinking…BLINK DAMMIT BLINK.
- This blog started as a place to chronicle my PhD journey one day at a time and now I write about anything but that. A lot of things interest me, sketching, books, fiction, feminism, and most importantly mental health. And sometimes it feels like the blog is getting too chaotic just like my head.
- Whenever I come across a well-written post on some other blog, I want to come back and cover my blog with a tarpaulin so no one can see it.
- Every time I publish a post I feel as if that was the very last post idea I would ever have, a fear of running out of ideas.
- The feeling that I am faking all this. Imposter syndrome
- And I sound like somebody else in writing
So the intense need to please people and a fear of running out of ideas are giving me a severe blogger’s block.
Do you know the phrase, Dance like nobody is watching? A few years ago I used to dance with a group, we did shows in many German cities. The choreographer said to me after a show, “your moves are okay but you have to express more on your face and smile”. The mantra dance like nobody is watching worked well when dancing in front of a mirror but when people were watching me for real, it was hard imagining they weren’t there. So he gave me a piece of advice that seemed counterintuitive then, What if you imagine that people are watching you even when you rehearse alone and try to smile as well? So while rehearsing I started imagining an audience. It was terrifying at first, but doing it over and over made that situation less foreign when I went on stage.
So maybe that is all I need, sharing fake sounding pieces until I have the guts to sound like myself even when somebody else is reading.
Have you ever had a blogger’s block?
How do you deal with it?
I really know what it is like to ‘want to be a writer’ but not being able to write anything at all. I have always wanted to write but had very skewed ideas about the process. For one, I believed strongly that writers were either born with the ‘gift’ or weren’t. Also, I imagined the writing process to be smooth and uninterrupted. As some of you know, I was given the diagnosis of AVPD two years ago which is a case of extreme social phobia, so my snarky inner critic is a bit louder than some of you out there. Over the past two years, I have found some tricks that help tone down the inner critic and to actually get the writing done, hope it will help at least a couple of you. This article will be in three parts and today’s tips are to get yourself to start writing.
So part one is for people who suffer from extreme writer’s block and perfectionism like me ie when you cannot even get yourself to start writing. If you are already a writer who writes then it might not help you much.
- Give yourself small goals\ aim to be a writer, not a good or bad one: At this point, you are trying to get something on the paper. We will set plenty of time to judge and rip apart our own writing in the later stages, so now you are just writing. Period. It might be easier to start aiming to write something short and simple, like a flash fiction piece or a four-line poem. If the first ever time you sit down in front of that imaginary typewriter is to write a novel, it might overwhelm the already hesitant writer in you and kill the story even before it even takes shape.
- Use writing prompts: A prompt gives a starting point, it is that first step in beating a blank page. This helps to narrow down the thousand possible stories that we would want to write to something solid and specific. My friend L at her bookstore hosts open reading nights and gives out one word prompts like ‘disagreements’, ‘gift’, ‘boundaries’ etc as prompts . Prompts can help invoke memories or give a nudge to our dormant imagination to get to work. You can also take up sentences like “It seemed like a gift at that point..” and start to build something around it. Of course, this does not apply when you already have a specific idea in mind. eg: Friday fictioneers use photo prompts
- Listening with attention/ Talking out loud: This is a technique I learned in a writing workshop. The theme of the workshop was at home on planet earth and we were split into groups of two and were told to ask each other questions like, ‘what was your first memory of being with nature?’ or ‘What changes would you like to see happening in this world’ then we were given uninterrupted ten minutes to answer that question and later write down what we talked. It made the ideas appear more tangible and also helped trick the brain and distract the inner critic by making a story up by telling it out loud before writing. If you cannot find anyone to do this exercise with talk to yourself (Please don’t tell me I am the only one who does that!)
- Sketching or something like that: If both the ideas above don’t work, you can try sketching. Here also nobody else has to see it. So use stick diagrams or flow charts to get a basic idea of what you want to write. Even if nothing productive comes out of it, it will be a good creative stimulation for your brain. Sketching is one of the many possible creative distractions you can try, I mentioned it because it might be easily accessible to a lot of you.
- Give yourself a deadline or sign up for a writing challenge: Like the wise Calvin says believe in the power of ‘last minute panic’. A looming deadline can help us focus on getting things done than making it perfect. Finished is always better than perfect.
[Originality is overrated, so when your inner critic at this point tells you, what you are about to write has been written before and in a much better way than you will ever be able to do, tell the voice to take the advice and shove it.]
In the next part we will discuss some ways to prevent ‘killing the work midway’ and to keep the momentum going
Happy writing folks,