Discovering Writer’s Block

I need help.

I’m writing this partially as a self-reflection exercise to debug this mental block but appreciate any pointer and/or sanity check to calibrate my possibly skewed reality, please.

Situation: The past 3 years I have slowly developed a collection of files and notebooks filled with drafts, cues, and notes of thoughts and ideas I want to write about and publish. But I find myself holding back on the speed at which I dispense these pieces out there.

Yes some of them are still scattered, raw, and less actionable but I have honed a system / workflow that helps me get enough of them organised, compiled in one or two places, ready to be acted upon.

Why? Is this normal? Is this writer’s block? Am I self sabotaging?

Anyone struggling with the same thing? Any advice?

I feel with my life situation and schedules now I could be consistently dishing out at least one quality post a day and it’s frustrating to somehow not achieve that.

I would come up with excuses to stop me from unpacking, expanding, articulating, connecting, and…. writing.

Some other times I would start working on something, feel so close to completion, but then get stuck.

I’d say:

  • Still incomplete
  • Not yet fully formed
  • Not deep or profound enough
  • Still disjointed, scattered, incoherent
  • Not yet connected to more points I am sure is related and can help solidify the point, without going into a rambling mess of tangents
  • Not yet distilled and perfectly articulated
  • Too much darlings / fluffs
  • Not enough attack points
  • This idea is not that important, better work on that other one first.
  • It doesn’t flow yet
  • It’s not logical and solid yet
  • These extra words seem unnecessary. But having and revisiting many alternate articulation of a concept definitely helps me absorb things better.
  • Nah let’s not post 5 negligible pieces in a day. That’s too noisy, could be annoying… junk.
  • Too preachy. I don’t like my tone in this.
  • What am I trying to say??

Why am I finding it so hard to arrive at that decent “publishable” finish line?

I’ve played so many mental gymnastics to fight the crazies.

  • What’s the one point you want to make? What do you hope people take away? Make it. Done.
  • Do you want to inform, entertain, or inspire?
  • No one wants to read your shit. Publish whatever you want.
  • Quantity over quality. Lower . your . standards
  • Publish it now, you can edit later.
  • Publish it now, you can add or remove wordings when you find a better articulation later.
  • No one knows you’re missing one extra study. and you can add it later.
  • It is enough to just throw this one alternate articulation into an ocean of other perspectives. You don’t need to create a mega evergreen post. Just one extra piece of could be the final blow that helps someone out there “get it”.
  • Play with constraints. Start with a tweet, then 500 word version of this. Then a 1k version.
  • Play your own game. You score by publishing. Pay no mind to vanity metrics.
  • You just have to write, and it gets easier. Perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • You don’t find your voice by talking to yourself. You find it by practicing and conversing.

How do you tame your thoughts? Get the map to that just right level of zoom, and turn on the right combination of layers to help the readers navigate effectively and efficiently?

Tune that tension between a simple silly idea (“who cares? so what? how can anyone apply this? how will this be useful or helpful to anyone? who is this relevant for?”) and intertwingled web of beautiful mess (“duck, stop. I’m NOT writing a book”).

Perhaps I am demanding too much (contradicting things??) from my writing:

  • succinct, concise, but enough different articulation to drive the point and help people internalise it.
  • readable, flows, logical, coherent
  • actionable, but general enough to be applied as a model or heuristics
  • not too abstract, not too concrete. or at least, clear if it’s tactic, strategy, concept, or principle
  • tight, no loose ends. no dangling points

Am I afraid of saying the wrong thing, wanting to please everyone, having to defend it, offending people, sounding stupid, saying something obvious ?

How to get out of my own way?

Okay nevermind… this is indeed writer’s block.

Can’t believe I have never articulated my struggle and verified it on Google.

Perhaps I should look into codifying these couple of skills and share my findings…

  • how to break ideas into manageable pieces
  • how to clarify your thoughts, outlining, and getting good angles
  • how to know if a post is done

Also published on Medium.

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