On those days when it is hard to write…

Some days…

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I try to maintain at least a loose schedule for this blog–one which the holidays have completely thrown out of whack, I might add–which requires a fairly steady stream of material.  There are ways to make it a faster easier job and there are times when only a “production” will suit.  One of the important things is that I keep writing everyday, even if it is just in my journal.  (On rough days I let my research notes count as my “writing” but this is really cheating.)

There is always room to improve one’s writing and it is impossible to make any progress without actually, you know, writing.  So, some days I get stuck.  I don’t want to write or I don’t want to blog.  I can find plenty of other work-related pursuits: reading (this can go either way), research, traveling, etc., but it doesn’t get the writing actually written and I always have to make time to sit down with a pen or at the laptop and pound text out.  (To be fair, sometimes this is super easy,too!)

I figured I was not the only one who has these problems, so I decided to share from my experience and see if it helps others or if others have advice for me.  Here it goes:

First, a little about my work life.  I blog as a way to keep writing and to get my writing, interests, and specialties “out there” in the internet forum.  It does not put any money directly into my pocket (maybe later).  I am working on a non-fiction text about sharing history with youth and a novel that is historical fiction (set in the 12th Century Renaissance).  (For those keeping score, the non-fiction will be finished before the novel.)  Additionally, I try to find freelancing work, but only here and there until the books are further along.  (Oh, and I home school my teenager…but that isn’t truly “work,” it’s just work…)

Motivations

Obviously, if you write to eat, you have motivation aplenty.  But, sometimes a particular project burns you out, which can impact the quality of the project.  Do something else for the day–maybe two, but be careful!  Clear out cobwebs or the slush or whatever and get your voice back in tune and your creativity humming again.  This may mean working on another project for a day or two, it may just mean you go to the movies for the afternoon, and it may mean that Friday is a really short work day before you get into the chaos of all the stuff packed into your weekend.

If you write a blog, the problem may stem from boredom, writer’s block, or doubts about the worth of the project (such as those that stem from viewership or lack thereof).  It is hard to get around the boredom factor except by pointing out that your blog is probably about something that you really like, so you probably are not bored with the content.  Maybe the set up has lost its luster or the implied demand that you write consistently is bogging down your blog.  My own has been reworked or revised a handful of times when I needed to refocus, but it has never changed so much that I needed to delete posts or cut content; it still all fit in the framework, but gave me some new avenues to search out.

This is a different problem from sitting down and not knowing what to write.  I have taken several approaches when this has happened to me (click on links for examples): 1) hop on Twitter and seek inspiration from content providers, either celebrating, commenting, or criticizing news and opinion pieces; 2) literally pull out my old Bedford Reader and give myself a writing assignment–some of my most successful pieces came about that way; 3) use current events–my most successful post to date is my post on North Korea (during the missile scare), one of my favorites is on Qatar being awarded the World Cup bid for 2022; 4) arrange a field trip–I‘ve done well with travel-based posts and they help me build a portfolio; 5) develop post-types that are relatively quick and easy that I tap into at ease, such as recommended web reading or book reviews, though these are not my most popular.

Doubting the validity or quality of your work is hard.  When one has an interest in something, it is normal to want everyone to share it, but that is not always the case.  There is advice for bloggers out there and there is the social media network.  For most of us, it takes a lot of legwork–or, social media time–to attract attention and interest.  Tap into your friends and build up your online profile.  This is a problem for other writers, as well, and it takes time and a determination to continue to fine tune your craft.  If writing/blogging is your ultimate goal, seek out freelancing opportunities that can help build awareness about your work and expertise.  (By the way, if you aren’t an expert on your subject it will be harder to drum up interest.  The only exception to that are charlatans: internet “commentators” who are ignorant but say the sorts of things certain people want to hear and create a generic following.  Do not be that person.)

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Inspirations

Part of a writer’s job is to find a compelling story or report.  Every writer has a niche–that’s not to say a box!–but, an area of expertise or personal experience that resonates well.  If you look at the projects of the authors you like to read, you can see this in action.  I read one author’s book about chess, though it was really about the draw chess has had on people of diverse cultures and times.  His other books were related to mental health issues and this book fit into his niche though I wouldn’t have guessed it before I learned more about him, and that help me see his book in a whole new light.  It is all about following your interest and pursuing it to the extent that makes sense for you, your background, and your expertise and experiences–that’s what makes it your work and not someone else’s.

When I made the decision to become a writer, I knew it was a gamble (still is!), but I also knew that I had experience and expertise in history, combined with a love of travel, food, religion, and culture which could be combined with my experience and expertise in teaching history in a plethora of exciting ways.  I just needed to make it compelling.  Some of the stuff I post on this blog is going to be less popular–and I know that, generally–but I enjoy it and it doesn’t take away from the other stuff I write that the general population enjoys more.  Still, if I am going to pitch a magazine or book, I have to go with the stuff I know is of bigger appeal (unless, of course, I make a big name for myself that carries some leverage–which I haven’t done, yet).  The only impediment to many of my ideas are the logistics which, when I am no longer working on a book, will be more easily managed.

I hope this is helpful.  Maybe others have some better suggestions, if so, please share them in the comments.  I have down days or overwhelming days or days when nothing seems to go right and it is hard to sit down and make progress.  Getting through these days in a productive manner can be challenging, so hopefully there are some ideas out there.

In the meantime, I raise my pen to my fellow writers!  Keep up the good fight!

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2 Comments

Filed under Historian's Journal

2 responses to “On those days when it is hard to write…

  1. Aaron

    Well said and thanks for the encouragement! I have to say, Erika, that this post is one of the best written posts in a long time. I wonder what it was about the topic that inspired you to be so eloquent?

  2. Thank you, Aaron! Writer’s block on the blog and the impending completion and publication of my first article were big inspirations! Some days I sit down with an idea or project in mind and my hands can barely keep up with mind because of my excitement and interest. Other days I just stare at the computer and keep getting “distracted” by social media. Those are often the same days I tend to find my categories boring or uninspiring, but it usually passes by the next brain wave I get.

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