What to write when you can’t write




It’s almost impossible for me to sit down to write without first sifting through at least ten cliched topic ideas. The year in review, recent awful incidents domestic and abroad, how the summer holidays went, my increasing frustration at the unbridled gluttony of Christmas, resolutions for the new year, how good it is that my kids have grown up some. I could do a list, a top ten or a how to. Once I have sorted through all my crappy ideas, I then have to sit frozen for a period while I wrestle with the fear that I can’t write anything. The awfully romantic thing is that I wrote way easier and quicker and (I think) better when I was depressed and wanting to hurt myself. So now I have this worry that I’ve got nothing to say. After crippling self doubt comes the first few words, helped along by a nice lubricating glass of whatever it is at the moment. So then I worry that people will think I am too reliant on alcohol but I have already approached that unease and I prevailed. And then a few more words come, always in little spurts, a sentence at a time, scrutinised for repetition, banality and adages. You won’t believe how often I consult the dictionary and the thesaurus while composing a post. One thing I can’t stand when reading is obvious writer’s habits. A turn of phrase or way of expressing something that a writer uses over and over. So I am hyper vigilant to it in my own writing. Having said that I am in no doubt that most readers could find banality (!) and habits in my stuff.

Sometimes I end up with something I really like and think is good. Like this one. I really liked that one. Then most other stuff is simply OK. Maybe some of it is a bit boring to read, but I haven’t been game enough to publish something here that I think is truly crap. All writing wisdom says you have to just write, and write heaps of crappy stuff before you get to the good stuff. I think my blog is the writing equivalent of the girl who takes 200 selfies and posts only the one where her chin is just so, her eyes are open enough but not too much, and her hips turned just enough to make her look thin enough but not like she has too big of a butt. It’s a bit exhausting. I wonder if all the really cool bloggers I know and read have this problem. Or if their version of crap is my version of good. I’m sure they must at least occasionally write a bit of crap.

I wanted to finish with one of my original cliched ideas. Original cliche, see what I did there? A friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook in her Christmas wishes, I know for some of you today will be wonderful & for some it will be heartbreaking. We all get our turn at both in life. I thought that it was an expression of such lovely and true empathy. There has been a great deal of sparing of thoughts and thoughts going out to and thoughts and prayers being cast about in recent weeks. But my friend’s comment stayed with me right through the day, and the next several days. And I really did spare a thought. Lots of them. My thought sparing came with honest pain in my heart and a humble, joyful acknowledgement that all who were expected at my Christmas table were there. I always liked the idea that you could carry a bit of pain for someone at times when it was unbearable and make it (not less painful) just that tiny bit shared. So I hoped, in my thought sparing, that I did it at just the right time, for the many, many with an empty seat at the Christmas table.

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