The Frustrating Craft

You know what sucks? Having a modicum of talent in a specific area, yet not being able to fully utilize that talent. Like a football player with good hands, quick feet and an innate sense of “the moment” who doesn’t have the option of playing football. Or a singer with no microphone.

Or a writer with no idea what to write.

I’m sitting here, staring at my keyboard, and I can’t think of a single thing to write. I’m drowning in words, up to my ears in catchy turns-0f-phrase, simply overloaded with metaphorical creative power (and by that I mean I literally have the power to create metaphors), and I can’t think of a single topic to write about. Not one.

Nada.

Zilch.

Zippo (who was a Marx brother, I think).

I get away from the keyboard and I can think of ten thousand things to write about, ten million angles to write from, ten billion other ideas that make me really believe that my calling in life is to write things that make people go “Ah-ha!”

But when I sit down, when I really get ready to “git-r-dun!” I go blank as a freshly hung white-board.

And I think the reason I go blank is because I write with my audience in mind. Who that audience is, I can’t tell you, but I have some sense that they’re out there, waiting for me to produce something worthwhile, and the pressure just adds to the mental muddiness. And perhaps most damaging of all I wonder – “will people want to read this?”

That’s a dangerous question to be asking. Because I don’t know who will or will not want to read anything. I don’t know how certain people in this day and cyber-age get thirty-thousand readers on their blog about flowers, or how some dude starts a Twitter feed called, “S#!& my dad says” and turns it into a CBS sit-com. Even when I read the latest Internet sensation’s blog or helpful e-book, I’m still brought back to the same thought: “Keep your audience in mind.”

But when I keep them in mind, I end up finishing nothing because I’m not sure that what interests me will interest anyone else. I’m not writing because I feel like I have something to say; I’m writing because I feel like I have to say something.

That’s writing for the wrong reason. I know this, and I think that’s why I shut down. I’m trying to think the collective thoughts of others instead of listening to my own voice. I’m trying to produce for an artificial deadline and an artificial audience.

Well, I’m tired of it. I’m tired of all of it. Like I said yesterday, I think I’m going to keep my mouth (and keyboard) relatively quiet until I have something I really want to say. Need to say. Until then, I’m going to concentrate on reading and other stuff, and see if I can get my own voice back, write for my own satisfaction.

Yeah.

6 thoughts on “The Frustrating Craft

  1. While I was reading this, I was thinking…. don’t write for anyone but YOU. Write for YOUR enjoyment. Don’t worry about “your readers.” It reminded me of the last movie I saw, “Julie and Julia”. Modern day Julia Childs wrote a blog everyday about what she was cooking from Julia Childs cookbook. She cooked everyday for a year. She wrote for her enjoyment and later it turned into a book, movie. She had tons of readers and at one point she couldn’t believe how many she had. Maybe you should see the movie, if you haven’t. You probably haven’t since its a girl movie. IDK, just my thoughts. 🙂

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  2. Phillip Roth stated that he writes with a profound disregard for his audience, noting that he would be crippled if it where otherwise. Cormac McCarthy (my personal favorite) languished in poverty and obscurity before some mediocre filmmakers got their hands on his material. Even Stephen King says that writing is a lonely craft in which your primary audience remains the man in the mirror. I want to take you to lunch on Tuesday when I come in… we can talk about it…

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  3. 1. I completely, completely understand what you mean. When I am away from my desk, my mind is buzzing with thoughts, phrasing, and the little connective devices to my writing together, so on and so forth. On some days, when I get back to the desk, it’s all gone. Not really; I remember bits and pieces, but they seemed so much more fantastic and urgent when they first popped into my brain, and now? {Inevitable big sigh.} Those moments have happened, do happen, will happen to everyone who’s ever written anything, at all, full stop. But: they pass.

    2. I realize it may not be the medium you were aiming at, but: you blogged. Blogging is writing.

    If you can blog, you can write. If you can write, well–yes, that’s just it, isn’t it? You can.

    3. The audience conundrum. . . “Who will read this?” — I can’t say it matters. If you’re a best selling author, people are reading, you know they are, but you still don’t know who they are, beyond the possible demographic sales report or fan letter. The fact is: there is an audience for everything. If you want to write something, no matter how far fetched it may be, please do it because I may be the person who’s been waiting for just sort of thing to come along.

    Have faith.

    -J.

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    1. J –

      I think you effectively nailed all of the major tension points i experience. I think I just long to know that what I write connects with someone – that someone sees value in the work.

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      1. Funny you should mention connectedness. I just read an amusing and eloquent blog entry to do with the topic of connectedness (here: http://www.nopointsforstyle.com/2010/05/apologia.html )

        And as far as knowing that your writing connects with someone: I’ve replied with a comment, haven’t I? So has Jenny, so has Cameron. We feel the connection. Anyone who has ever experienced writer’s block of any kind (book, poem, play, essay, book review, news article, thank you card, birthday card, wedding vows, etc.,etc.,etc.) feels connection to what you’ve just written. And writer’s block–though common among people who write anything–is hardly a universal theme, in comparison to. . . oh, I don’t know, say: love, sports, sex, power, hunger, poverty, inspiration, disappointment, children, attraction, etc.,etc.,etc. The list goes on, and on, and on like the bloody energizer bunny. You wrote a blog entry. (Think of how many blogs there are in the world that people can read) and three people rather quickly commented quickly. We’re connected. Someone is connected. If you can do it with a blog, you can do it with something else.

        Go get ’em!
        -J.

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