The Blank Page

IMG_1230For me, the hardest part about writing has always been coming up with an actual idea that I wanted to write about.  I really envy the writers who say they have dozens of ideas rattling around in their heads, and their only problem is finding enough time to do the actual writing, which they often regard as a chore.  I’m the exact opposite:  I love the process of writing, of experimenting with different words and phrases until I get it just right.  I even like editing my work, because I find that after taking a short break from the creative process, I can see so much more clearly where there is room for improvement.  For me, the problem is simply:  what in the world am I going to write about?

English was always my strongest subject in school, but once I got to the age where the teachers no longer assigned topics, I usually struggled with finding an idea for all those assigned essays.  It got to the point where I was searching for my topic while I was still reading the books, which definitely took the enjoyment out of reading.  Later, when I decided to try my hand at fiction, I had the same problem.  It took me forever to think of my plots, settings and characters.  Once I had those figured out, actually writing the books and short stories was easy.

Sadly, the same problem continues with my blog.  I have a self-imposed schedule of two blog postings a week, which means that I have to actually come up with two new ideas each and every week.  I spent about a month before I started this blog thinking of ideas for posts and even writing a few of them out, just to be prepared.  But I used those up a long time ago, now it is not uncommon for me to feel a bit of panic on the morning when I’m supposed to publish a blog post and I realize that I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to write about. (I am in awe of the people who post every day.  And I know I’ll never be one of them.)

I think the problem is mostly self-confidence.  Of course I have ideas, especially for this blog.  I have lots of things going on in my life, and lots of opinions about the world around me.  But I also have a nagging inner voice that counters most of my ideas with the discouraging words, “Who cares?  Who would want to read about that?”  I think that ultimately, my struggle isn’t with finding ideas or topics,  it’s with having the confidence to put my thoughts, ideas, and feelings out there with the assumption that anyone else is going to find them worth reading.  Because the bottom line is I write, just like most writers do, with the intention that someone else is actually going to read it.

In my fiction writing, things finally clicked when I learned to stop worrying about what an editor was going to think of my story and simply started writing the stories I truly wanted to write.  When that happened, the characters, the plots, and the settings came much more easily.  When writing for my blog, I am slowly learning to stop thinking about what my followers and readers want me to write, and to simply write about whatever topic is foremost in my mind at the moment.  I keep reminding myself that this isn’t an English class and I’m no longer trying to earn that perfect grade.

The blank page, or computer screen, will always be a little bit of a problem for me.  But with each blog post, with each story idea that I develop and write about, the process gets that much easier.  I’m learning to trust my own opinions and ideas, and I’m discovering just a little bit more about who I really am and finding the courage to share that person with others.  And that’s more than enough reason to keep writing.

53 thoughts on “The Blank Page

  1. Definitely write your blog posts for yourself, Ann, same as you do fiction. After all, no one is as harsh a judge of your own work as yourself (I’m speaking generally, of course, not you specifically!), so they should be (as they always are!) good!

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  2. I love your honesty in this post. I struggle with exactly the same thing and I don’t post as often as you do. I can feel the difference when I write from a place of authenticity and truth and when I’m writing what I think people might want to hear. Or I find myself censuring my words for fear that someone from work might stumble across it or that I might hurt someone’s feelings. It’s frustrating sometimes. One thing I love about your blog, Ann, is your consistent voice and willingness to share your struggles and challenges as a writer, blogger and person in general. I love your blog voice!

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  3. As I read your post, I realized I am about to hit my 4 year anniversary and I have surprised myself. I am not much of a writer, so it is even more surprising. I started the blog mostly for myself and found a few others that liked pictures of flowers. Just keep on going and maybe be more flexible about your posting schedule. Write when the inspiration hits! I found out that the readers have changed over the years, so your blog will always be new to others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I have found that my readership is a changing group, too, so that does make it easier to not worry about repeating myself. And I think that I might get a bit more flexible about my posting schedule, or at least simply write when I’m feeling ready, and then wait to post it according to schedule. I think that I’m afraid if I give up the schedule, I’ll eventually give up the blog as well.
      And for the record, you’re a much better writer than you think you are! You blog is very good, which is why I follow it….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Been there, done that. The worries you are having now, Ann, are the ones that I had in all my older blogs, because after the first few posts and particularly when you start getting a good number of readers/followers, the thing of writing for yourself slips away and you find yourself writing for your readers. And when you try to rediscover your authentic self, your own voice, those same questions arrive: will I bore my readers? Will they care? Is it worth it? What can I write? And even – as you’re discovering – where can I find ideas for new blog posts and actually have them written and ready on schedule?

    While only you can know what you want for your own blog, I think it’s a mistake to set a rigid schedule as it puts an artifice on the whole thing. Most people reading are not the ones who will hold you to your schedule, that will be you.

    I made the decision with my current blog to ‘go organic’ which means I write when I feel the need and when there is something I want to say or something I want to show (ie, my photos) and I don’t follow a set schedule anymore as that caused me more anxiety than I could, personally, cope with.

    As for ideas for posts… I find that a lot of inspiration comes from reading the comments in other people’s blogs. I hope you find things easier, soon. I love your blog and thoroughly enjoy your posts – even the ones that I tardily haven’t replied to! (Blame tiredness, please, not your writing.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Val! I think you are right in that I might need to be more flexible about when I blog. I know that several of the blogs that I follow and really enjoy reading (such as yours) don’t post on a regular schedule, and that hasn’t stopped me from reading and enjoying them. I think I created the schedule just to make sure I keep writing the blog, but I’ve been doing it long enough now that I’ll probably stick with it anyway. And encouragement from kind and talented writers such as yourself has helped a lot. Thank you for that!

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  5. This is your most important line in this post: “When writing for my blog, I am slowly learning to stop thinking about what my followers and readers want me to write, and to simply write about whatever topic is foremost in my mind at the moment.” I think you’ve been blogging less years than me but have many more followers…you are a great writer. People like your writing! I post every day and I do it for me! It’s been a complete experiment really…that’s why I started…the poetry, the photography and essays. It’s a place to help me through life. And making my blogging family has been a wonderful added extra. Just relax and go with it. I’ve found very little criticism here and they usually just go away honestly. So just write! I would love to see all these ideas you have honestly! I have this feeling they are waiting to burst out!!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! One of the things I enjoy most about your blog is it’s variety. Sometimes you write about your own life, sometimes about what you see around you, sometimes you post poems and other times mostly let the photos tell the story. I get the feeling that you really enjoy blogging, and that makes your blog a fun place to visit. Thanks for encouraging me to do the same…letting go of my need to please other people is a struggle for me, but I’m getting there. Slowly, but I’m getting there!

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  6. The best reason for you to keep writing g and blogging is that you’re a terrific writer. I always hear good singers being told they can sing the telephone book and it would sound good. Well, you can write the phone book and make it sound interesting. Write for yourself, Ann. In the great scheme of things it’s all for fun…:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, George! After years of piling up rejection slips, words of encouragement really mean a lot. If nothing else, this blog has reminded me that I really am, among other things, a writer. And it has helped me discover the joy of writing just for the sake of writing, which is something I was never able to do when I was a free-lance writer. And just so you know, your writing would make that phone book pretty darned interesting, too! So thanks for sharing it with us on your blog!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jodi! I tend to start my days reading the blogs I follow, and you blog always makes me smile. You are very talented with both words and art, but most of all, I appreciate your positive attitude and how quick you are to encourage the rest of us. Thank you for that, it really is a gift!

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  7. What a great post – and very interesting to read about your thought process when it comes to blogging. I know the feeling of not being able to think of something to blog about. I do find if I don’t force it, some idea comes along naturally, but it might not be for a day or two. Looking forward to your next post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m learning to do that too. I think the important thing is that we write about what is important to us at the time we are writing it, and then just let others decide whether or not it speaks to them. That’s hard for someone like me, who tends to depend too much on the approval of others, but my blog is helping me learn that valuable lesson. Thanks for the encouraging words!

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  8. I struggle with content as well. But I really enjoy the process of writing; the typing on the keys, the relaxation I feel when writing, and the satisfaction of finishing a post. I also really enjoy the journey each post takes me on because I find more often than not the post I thought I was going to write turns out to be something much different. I begin my posts with a leap of faith that the idea is good enough to start the journey. A good pair of shoes perhaps or a trusty back pack filled with enough words that will see me through the trek and into a successful completion.

    I am a musician and a songwriter. The best songs I have written are those where my hands on the piano had a life of their own and the lyrics that came out of my mouth were not pondered but spur of the moment as the chords resonated from the piano. I’m a marginal writer of words and music, Id like to get better, but I do realize that I need to go with my instincts, let go of the over thinking and, as Elvin Bishop said, “Let It Flow”.

    Ann – your posts are always though provoking and relevant. Thanks for that.

    -Mike

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for the kind words, Mike! But I have read your blogs, and you are not a marginal writer, you are actually very good!! I know what you mean about that magic moment when creativity just seems to flow through us. It’s almost as if the words (or in your case, words and music) aren’t ours, we are just the translator, and that feels so right! It doesn’t always happen. Sometimes I sweat over each sentence, writing and rewriting. But when the posts, or essays, or stories just seem to write themselves…there’s no better feeling in the world, is there?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I knew I was going to like this post from the first sentence. I also struggle to decide what to write about, but once I commit to an idea and think up a hook the rest usually follows without too much grief. I may be a bit more fortunate in that English was never my best subject back in my school days, so my expectations of writing an impeccable post are low, although like anyone I hope people read and enjoy them. And as far as writing for my readers want, I don’t really know what that is so that problem is simplified as well – maybe they just come for the photography. In the meantime, I figure if I continue to read blogs by good writers like yourself I can only get better, learning by example.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Dave! And I think you already are a good writer, just not so neurotic and worried about pleasing other people as I am. (And I speak from experience, because I have read your blog.) Like you, once I figure out what I want to write about, the rest comes rather easily. But boy, do I sometimes struggle with finding that topic. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. My experience is similar. I set a goal of posting twice a week based on the idea that writing more would make writing easier. There was both truth and fiction in this. Just like exercising more makes exercising easier – it also burns you out.

    At least for me, writing on a theme provided a framework that made coming up with ideas easier. I write humor essays and had a good run with the theme of “My Stuff”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve written a lot of very good posts on the theme of “my stuff” and seem to have a natural talent for humor! When I started my blog, it was going to be mostly about the trials and tribulations of aging, but that well sort of ran dry, so I branched out a bit. It might be time for me to think more about having a theme, but a somewhat broader theme. Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Good post Ann and welcome to the club! I feel that my blog isn’t focused enough; that I write about too much random stuff and there’s no real direction. On the other hand, I like having any and all topics available! I guess it’s a learning process and we’ll get better and find our voice as we keep writing…at least that’s my hope!

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  12. Ann, you have one of the most authentic, natural voices in the blogosphere. I love reading your posts! My struggles with writing are so similar to yours. I enjoy the writing process, but deciding on a topic is hard. I’m in awe of bloggers who post frequently and regularly, like you do. Lately I’ve been lucky to log one post a month and at times I’ve wondered whether it’s time to quit. I haven’t even been blogging a year yet. And then I realize that I’d rather try to improve as a blogger than to give up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words! And I hope that you don’t quit blogging, as I think you are a very good writer. I think for some people (like us) it’s just a bit of a struggle to trust ourselves enough to sit down and write about what interests us. That’s the main reason I have my self-imposed schedule, because I’m afraid if I didn’t, I would eventually just give up blogging. And it might be that twice a week is more than I’m comfortable with, and I need to cut back a bit. I would guess that it’s the same for you: you just need to figure out what schedule works for you so that you enjoy blogging, but don’t feel burned out. Good luck!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. First and foremost, I LOVE your blog! I never would have guessed you struggle with ideas or how to put thoughts into words, etc. Your blog posts are always enjoyable, and always make me think. Hmmmm, now THAT may not be good. 😉 However, for better or worse, they often make me think. They also, often bring up some long forgotten memory from my childhood, too. I’d say the ability to do that makes you a very strong writer.

    I am one of those writers who tends to have the words forming in her head before I can even sit down and start writing. When I start to write, I just write, and worry about making changes later. That said, that doesn’t mean there are some topics I may find difficult to get “quite” right, or perhaps I find it difficult to make them not sound too depressing, or whatever. I have had both wonderful stuff, and depressing stuff happen in my life. I think we all have. I do try to balance my posts so as not to write too much serious stuff. What is the blog I WANT to write, but haven’t found the right tone, or the right time for yet? The one about my daughter’s wedding. I want it to be perfect. Or as close to perfect as I can. It will happen one day but until then I will just keep working on it. It was such a special day I want to do it credit.

    All that said to show you we all have “something” that makes us pause. When I started blogging, I had some tell me I needed to only write about one topic to make a success out of my page. The problem is I’m a pretty eclectic individual in likes and dislikes, and in what I like to talk about, read, do, how often I like to blog, etc. If I had attempted to write about just one topic I would have bored myself in no time. Thus my eclectic page. I say all of that to point out not to set restrictions on yourself. Write when YOU feel like it, not because of some self imposed timeline. I think once you relax about your blogging timeline you will find yourself more relaxed with your writing.

    Another good blog! And, hon, you are a very good writer! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to write such encouraging words! Personally, I like the fact that your blog has good variety (I had also heard that the need to stay with one theme is essential, but I’ve seen plenty of good blogs—yours included–that don’t do that), and I also understand that some topics make us feel that we can’t post about them until we get things just right. Which of course they will never be, but at some point, it will feel “good enough” to post.
      And I think I just might ease up a bit on my blogging schedule. I had it at first because I thought it was the only way I’d keep the blog going, but now I think I can exercise a bit more freedom than that.
      PS: I’m looking forward to reading the blog about your daughter’s wedding, when you are ready to share it. Thanks again!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I think all of us writers share this fear to a certain degree though for me now it’s simply a matter of writing from the heart. Be true to yourself Ann,and you can’t go wrong. Your posts are always worth reading.

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  15. Influence Coleman, we write publicly to influence. We hunt and peck to impact, or dance fingers over keyboards to sway, others… Ann.

    Snark 140 characters, long form 2500 words, or comment on a Facebook pass-along, to my reply to this.. your post, is an end to a means in ushering a subject or someone to a specific area of emotion, thinking, or action. Influence.

    Which is why one of the few social media marketing shibboleths I believe actually depicts an on-line reality is, the “Influencer.’ Given that everything from human attire to personal aspirations can be commodified, those who Influence the choices of others do hold sway over markets.

    And that exchange always begins with those willing to do so. Those who are publicly suited and able to state their case, express a preference, dish doubt, double down on an idea, or narrative a life lived and learned understanding.

    So each of your post Coleman is a product. So you’re right to evaluate your efforts often. But in reading this comment thread Ann, you’re already an “Influencer.”

    So what are you postin’ about next.

    Regards,
    Doug

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    • Garage sales, actually! But I do see what you mean. If we didn’t want anyone else to know, we’d journal privately, not blog. So in that sense, our writing is always an attempt, on some level, to influence. But for me, it is probably more about communicating what I think and feel, because to me, “influence” means that I want others to think and feel the same way, and I honestly don’t always want that. I think the public part of my writing is more just letting others know what I’m thinking and feeling, and if they connect to it or it speaks to them, great. If not, or if their connection is simply to think “but that’s now how it is for me at all,” that’s also okay. It is complicated, I think, this world of online blogging and I’m still evaluating just exactly what I’m doing here…. And thanks for taking the time to comment!

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  16. I enjoyed this post. A lot of what you say really resonates with me. I have a lot of ideas or topics to write about and often wonder if anyone will read my posts. In the end I’m working on silencing my inner critic and I’m going to keep on writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Pingback: Why Consistency Counts, in Blogging and Life | Midlife Awakenings

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