This Blog is Blocking me: What the F**k do I do about it?
It’s been a challenging year.[i] As a consequence, I missed last month’s blog post deadline and am perilously close to missing this month’s. The primary purpose of this article is to get something, anything up on the site. I am also going to explore some of the reasons why keeping the blog going is difficult, and what I can do to make things easier. You may find this post helpful if you also have trouble achieving apparently simple objectives.
What’s the problem?
I write articles for the blog. Then, when they’re about 70% done, I panic and switch to other work. When I come back to the blog I start a new article rather than finishing one. Basically, I’m happy writing articles but don’t want to publish them.
Why is this happening?
In no particular order, these are the reasons why I think I’m struggling to write for this site:
- Buried in more important work
- Technical issues with the website
- Lack of site traffic
- Attack of the grammar trolls
- Articles about grammar are scary
- The internet is stressful
I’ll go through each in turn, identify the problem and propose a solution.
I’m buried in more important work
Problem: I have a lot of other work to do. This is actually a good thing. I’ve just received the second round of reader feedback from my first novel draft[ii], director’s notes for the play I wrote over the summer, and I’ve started work on a new book[iii]. So it’s not like I’m not writing, I’m just not writing for the blog.
Solution: Books and plays are more important than blog posts, and “I’m writing too much” is a great problem for a writer – so I shouldn’t worry too much that I’m prioritising other writing. But is one article a month really such a burden? If I’ve really got too much work on, then the solution seems to be to find an easier article to write. Say, a rant about how much trouble I’m having writing blog articles?
But: I am writing articles for the website. I’m just not publishing them. So file this problem under “lame excuses.”
Technical Issues with the Website
Problem: Since I migrated to the new host I’ve had lots of changes to make to the site, and that has come with the usual problems: dead links, weird caching errors, subscriptions that work then don’t work then work again, formatting errors on some types of telephone, etc… etc…
It feels like every time I open up the blog there’s a new stupid computer problem. It’s getting better but technical issues are eating into my actual blogging time. Plus they’re annoying and put me off visiting the site at all.
Solution: To a certain extent this goes with the territory and most of the problems are now fixed. But if this stuff keeps getting in the way I should look at simplifying the website. Maybe the caching function wasn’t necessary? Unfortunately, the only way out is through…
Lack of Site Traffic
Problem: As the writer of a writing blog I am one in about four hundred and seventy eight billion. That’s right, there are 64 writing blogs for every person alive on the planet earth today. In amongst all that competition it is hard to get noticed, and hard to attract visitors. Sometimes it works out – I had more than 200 readers for my article about the Bath Novel Award. Sometimes it doesn’t – my piece about rising action got 6.
Now it shouldn’t matter to me. This is an online reflective journal: the point is to help me learn about writing by writing articles about writing (mouthful much). If I’m lucky enough to get feedback and make connections, that’s great, but the most important thing is that I write. Sure, readers are good for ego. But if you’re looking to stroke your ego on the internet you’re just asking for trouble.
However, I got into a conversation with a publisher where they starting talking about the importance of a “platform.” And now I’ve started to worry that in order to get my book(s) published at all I’m going to need to be some sort of internet E-list celebrity. It seems they don’t want you to just write a good book, but also to bring a confirmed audience along with you. And I thought it smelt bad on the outside.
Solution: Not writing or posting because you’re worried nobody will read is silly. Getting dispirited because nobody reads is normal, but with regards to that I should focus on my main objective: writing to get better at writing, with a specific emphasis on the study of technique.
Of course, I may now also need to build an audience. Which would mean changing my approach to the website. But if worrying about that stops me writing at all, well, I need to forget about it!
Attack of the Grammar Trolls
Problem: I suck at proof reading. I have an advanced grammar check installed, I run both this and the internal word checker, I read articles out loud before I publish them, blah blah, blah blah. And yet errors slip through. Naturally readers assume this is due to lack of effort, which drives me almost as nuts as the problem in the first place.
Now, ok, fine, it’s the internet, a few spelling mistakes won’t be noticed in the general morass. But the last two times I’ve had someone actually talk to me about something they actually read on the site all they said was “oh yes, that was the article with the really bad grammar error, can’t remember what it was but you should proof read your work.”
Now, here’s my problem. If this was an amateur blog about computer gaming then I could just shrug and say, fine, whatever, I’m doing my best. But criticising a writer for poor grammar is fair game. How am I credible if I can’t even write straight? Basically, this sort of criticism makes be feel like a total and utter fucking fraud, and that feeling makes it really hard to post new articles.
Solution: Develop thicker skin, I guess. I need to keep reminding myself that the point of this blog is to improve, not pretend that I was perfect in the first place. I have to write through this, just like I am trying to write through shallow characters or shaky plots. Keep writing.
Articles about Grammar are scary
Problem: Following up from the last, the next bunch of articles I have almost ready to go are all about grammar. This is for a good reason. I’m a dyslexic who went to a secondary school and didn’t pay a lot of attention in the process. When I did A-Level English my teacher literally told me to stop trying to use apostrophes rather than continue my catastrophic efforts to learn how to use apostrophes. I need to blog about good grammar because I need to work on my grammar: I’ve come a long way from my days of thinking multiple apostrophes were acceptable precisely because I’ve kept on working.
But my feelings of being a fraud are magnified a thousandfold when I’m writing instructional blogs about good grammar. There will be errors in the posts. With the best will in the world there will be errors. And when I post my grammar articles I will get comments along the lines of “how can you write about grammar when your grammar is wrong?” And then I will be sad and stop writing.
Solution: Are we back to developing thicker skin? Learn not to listen to people on the internet? And in the meantime, I’m fucking sick of people who have never mixed up “you’re” and “your” being the gatekeepers for what is and isn’t good writing. I suppose the main thing for me to do is look back at my earlier blog posts and notice that this is working: I am getting better. Suck it up. It is working.
The Internet is Stressful
Problem: People say shit on the internet that they would never say to face to face. Anything you put on the internet is there forever, and there’s always someone available prepared to be an arse about it.
Worse yet, if you want to build a “platform” and get people to actually read and engage with your stuff, you’re going to increase your exposure to dickheads. And life is tough enough without inviting interactions with dickheads. Hell, we’re writers, right? Really kind comments about our writing from people with our best interests in heart can send us into paralysing spirals of self-doubt. So what the hell are we doing on the internet? Run! Run far, far away and never look back!
Solution: I suppose acknowledging the problem and taking a step back from time to time is a good thing. Much as a platform may be important, writing good books and plays is more important. And for every ten utter dickheads you meet on the internet is somebody really cool you would have never have met otherwise (ratios may be wrong). Remind yourself of the good things. Shrug off the bad things as best you can.
Hell, at least I’m a guy. If I was a girl I’d be getting rape threats. Wow people on the internet suck.
Where do we go from here?
I’m not sure. Publishing this would be a start. I thought about trying some simpler stuff I could put up (short comments on other writing articles and stuff I’d seen), but I’m worried that I’ll stop writing the more useful articles and just do that once a month. I don’t want to build a platform. I want to write books and plays.
I’ve learned a lot from this blog and I’m not about to stop. Hopefully working through this article has helped me clear my head and some time in the next couple of weeks I’ll stick up the article about grammar and rhetoric, or sentence anatomy, or how to respond to criticism. Or just another moan about how blogging is hard.
I wish I was a better writer. I wish the stories in my head came out better on the page. Sadly, wishes don’t count for shit and all I can do is work harder, keep studying writing, and keeping writing these posts so I can internalise what I’m reading. Thankyou for taking the time to read this article – and if you have any suggestions for how to make blog posts without being crushed by anxiety I’m all ears!
[i] For any readers who aren’t English, “challenging” is a euphemism for “mind-blowingly fuck awful, fuck this shit, I’m blowing up the world and getting the fuck off.”
[ii] They like the book! They really liked the book. See, this year hasn’t been so bad. People enjoyed the book! I can blow up the world and get off now 😊.
[iii] This is so much fun. I wish the world would leave me alone so I could get on with writing the new book. Seriously. I know how to blow things once. I kissed a chemist once, I’m sure that’s how knowledge transfers.