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On Writing (and Evolving) Online

A stunning spiral staircase and lots of books at Trinity College's library.

My husband is obsessed with Chinese tea. I’m more of a coffee gal, but I enjoy watching him prepare a cup of tea, from choosing the type in our cupboard to letting it steep to pouring it. There’s an appreciation for delicateness here that I’ve not really experienced, at least with coffee. He recently wrote a piece on Medium, “The Walls We Build Around Us,” on writer’s block, obsession, and the Egyptian Revolution — a story, he says, he has needed to tell. And so I entertain the idea that he has patiently steeped two years’ worth of thoughts — on his six years in Egypt, his life as a nomad, and his struggle with writing — in a teapot he bought in Chinatown last year, when he moved to San Francisco and we started our life together.

I, too, struggle with writing. I experience lapses of drying up, in which I don’t write for many months. It happens each year, and no matter what I’m immersed in — an MFA program, or an editorial position in which I read many blogs each day to find stuff worth sharing — I’ll hit a wall and nothing, or no one, can offer the spark I need to get going again. I’ve written about this before and have accepted these lapses, but they never get any easier, especially as I see fellow writers writing all the time — and seemingly everywhere on the web.

Which brings me to a question that Nick, and also my friend Miranda, have brought up recently: where, online, does your writing live?

In his piece, Nick talks about freezing up as a writer and wonders how to build and maintain an online presence:

How, exactly, do you organize your online presence? Where does your writing live; how is it compartmentalized; to what extent should you strive for an overarching coherence?

On her blog A Literal Girl, Miranda ruminates on this bit with her usual eloquence; she struggles to find an online home for her writing, and a space that best reflects her:

I keep imagining a kind of perfect online mobility: not having a website or a singular blog and trying to keep this one plot of web-land mine, but taking all of my content, all of my stuff, with me wherever I go. Finding a way of being on the Internet that better respects the fluidity of self.

Her post is worth a read, and the comment I’d left on it planted the seeds for this post, so I suppose I have both Miranda and Nick to thank for the spark I needed. I’ve also wondered where my writing lives, and what this blog, Writing Through the Fog, has become — and what it should be. A few years ago, when this blog was picked up for the first time (by The Atlantic, The Vergeand The Daily Beast), I made a pact with myself: from then on, anything published on this blog would be as polished as possible. Standalone pieces I’m proud of. Writing that’s good enough to share. Anything else didn’t belong.

Photo Jun 25, 1 57 28 PM

Since that pact, I’ve tightened up my writing and always consider my readership — even more so than when I was freelance writing and reporting, probably because I was writing, completely, as me. It was a great personal goal, but has also been quite paralyzing — I’ve inadvertently frozen up in my own way.

Now, despite this blog being my very own online home, there’s really no space here that’s just for me — no room for experimentation and process. I’d mentioned several months ago that I had many drafts in my dashboard — posts forgotten or not good enough to pursue. And in these abandoned posts, many (probably decent) ideas have died.

I struggle to find a place online for these ideas. Should I create another WordPress.com blog for these bits of writing? What about another Tumblr? How about expanding my creative space on Medium; creating yet another appendage of my online presence on Hi or Ghost or Svbtle; or working on the submissions for other publications that have kindly invited me to write for them?

* * *

I finally published my first post on Medium — a two-minute read called “Trashing Photography.” I’d been working on a longer piece weaving two threads on the death of album listening and my process of taking digital photographs, the latter of which ultimately won the battle. But I was unhappy and frustrated with what I wrote, so I ripped the piece apart and ran the remaining 300 words that didn’t completely suck.

After publishing the post, however, I realized it was an abridged version of something I’d already written on this blog last year — regurgitated musings on the new way I take photographs. So I wondered: What’s the point of setting up an account on another publishing platform? Am I saying anything new? Does this space offer a different angle of me — an extension of the Cheri you encounter here — or am I just repackaging my thoughts?

A writer who publishes on various platforms on the web is like an animal peeing in different places. I’m simply marking my territory — expanding the Cheri Lucas Rowlands brand far and wide. While this analogy makes me laugh, it also makes me feel rather dirty, but I get that that’s what we do these days.

* * *

In her post, Miranda refers to her blog as a wasteland. Her blog isn’t really that at all — if you dive in, you’ll see she writes thoughtfully about place, technology, the internet, music, and writing. Yet I understand why she uses the word wasteland in that perhaps her blog, much like mine, has ceased to best reflect her at any given moment. That maybe this blog I’ve maintained — increasingly stagnant and sterile, made up of approved, carefully curated offerings every several months — no longer represents me, flaws and asides and all.

How could I even continue to shape and expand my online presence if I no longer allow myself to visibly grow and make mistakes and change?

Yerba Buena Sculpture

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I removed the dates on this blog. I’ve been dissatisfied with the design, but I’m not quite ready to change my theme — and to be honest, I’m not sure how I want it to look. All I know is I don’t consider myself a “blogger,” nor do I have time to write on a regular basis, so the traditional blog format — with posts listed on the home page, recent first — no longer fits me. When I do write, I rarely do so in response or in haste; yes, this piece has sprung from the posts I mentioned above, but my writing has no timestamp — I’m more reflective than reactive, and I suspect my writing would be better organized into categories than by dates.

So, I removed the dates. You can’t immediately tell when I last posted, making it harder to detect stagnancy. You can click on a post and, no matter when I wrote it, come away thinking it is fresh and new, and that I’m caught up and on top of things and busy and relevant. But more importantly, I wanted to create a sense of timelessness. It made me feel better not to place dates on my ideas — and myself.

But after thinking more about this timelessness, especially after reading Miranda’s thoughts on being on the internet in a way that respects our constantly moving and evolving fluid selves, I wonder if this is a silly idea. How would a reader distinguish a post I’d written in March 2011, summarizing my initial thoughts on digital life and online friendships, from a post published a year later, on one such online friendship that blossomed into a relationship? Or how would a new reader know that this site began as a travel blog in 2008, and that some of my most popular posts from web searches — like cliff jumping in Ibiza and places to swim in Austin, Texas — are totally unrepresentative of the writer I am now (and is writing I’m actually embarrassed about)?

In “Trashing Photography,” I talk about how my photography has evolved: the final product has become more important than the actual process of taking photos. Gone are the outtakes and the contact sheets — these days, I seem more concerned with what’s publishable. My Instagram feed, then, is a study of anachronism — random moments plucked from my day, good enough to share, yet out of context.

sifting through my Camera Roll

thousands of images not posted online

I hunt through my library

see the outtakes

and rejects of my days

the stuff I’d felt wasn’t good enough to share

yet these are the photos

unshared, unfiltered

that really tell my stories

– From “Fragments on Time: Found Poetry in My Dashboard”

I realize, as I finish up here, I’ve approached blogging in the same way. As if I’ve no longer given myself room for error, growth, and change, at least publicly. But I sense, more and more, that not writing creates unwelcome holes in my own narrative that I weave, and even if I’ve nothing to say, or feel uninspired, I should still write. My husband says this in his own way:

I already knew that the sole thing I actually needed to do was to write. . . . And yet somehow along the way I had got tangled up and trapped in the maze, fallen for the deceit  —  magnified by our hyper-connected and increasingly digital lives —  that writing is primarily for public consumption, for sharing, and that it must therefore possess a certain quality.

I realize the in-between lapses to reset — the posts that act as breathers, like this one — are valuable and worth documenting, too.

139 Comments

  1. Hi Cheri – I am brand new to blogging, and your post is certainly timely and most helpful. I have no idea what I’m doing – my blog looks like crap right now! However, reading your blog gives me hope that I, too, can evolve as a writer/blogger. I’ve always “wanted to write” but allowed life and fear get in the way. Finally, I’m determined to work through my doubts and fears, and get my blog up to snuff. I’m starting with our adventures traveling in a tiny trailer (18′ long), and I’m now enjoying your tiny house saga. Thank you again, for inspiring me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops – I had my “about” page set as the home page. I changed it, so I think the two blog posts will show up now. I’m learning, very slowly! I’m actually writing about our adventures last summer in the tiny trailer. Things have been hectic here, so I haven’t begun actually writing about the adventures yet. I hope to get another post out there this weekend. Thank you for taking a look and for your comment!

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  2. I’ve been thinking about my virtual life. I mean the one I have online. I’ve been questioning myself on whether the internet should purely be for professional use or whether I should immerse myself in it, like I would in the physical world and organise my virtual life like I would my physical one- this makes sense to me. For now, I’ve come to the conclusion that the best thing for me to do is keep separate blogs. I keep one as a portfolio for serious non subjective writing, one for my personal gardening explorations and another which is a combination of both- a sort of mixture of all sorts. This is a new idea but I believe it will take form as I go along and give me the opportunity to write subjectively and objectively.

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  3. Ha ha! I’m still reading this post as I type this comment because I wanted to remember what just happened. I stopped reading where I was at and jumped to the top of the page to see when you wrote this, especially after just having commented on another post. Then I don’t find a date so I try to find where I left off reading and I kid you not it was right at the point where you say, “I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I removed the dates on this blog.” Okay, pretty funny I think, and then I notice the comments are dated July-September, the July comments being around the time I received my shipment of books. The publication of my book was/is something that changed my “online space” quite a bit; it made me feel like I owed my book a lot more than I was giving online, so I believed I needed to write that much more about writing. And yet it feels so…confining at times. I don’t so much want to give people any advice although I know self-help, tips and advice are quite popular I’m an amateur writer and I write as a form of expression. Thus my online space becomes an expression of my expression, and then I want it to be a platform for the project that sort of started it, oh and the project that is still my backyard and how interesting and rewarding that project as been! Like you I’ve thought, Hmmm, should I only write about certain things here, then about other things somewhere else? Should I ultimately separate and categorize? Does my mix of topics and terrible inconsistency keep readers away? What do I have to share that is interesting, helpful, and uplifting?

    I too struggle with writing regularly. Some part of me says “Write more! Make sure you post every week and make sure you write every day!”, but another side will stop me from writing posts two days in a row. There seems to be something about posting so quickly that makes me doubt the usefulness or relevance of the post. One more post joins my “Draft” box, one I keep looking back on as though ashamed of it and the impatience I feel towards it; I shun it, reject it and probably hurt its feelings.

    I can appreciate your idea not to post the date at the same time that I wouldn’t do so myself. It does help me to hold myself accountable and it speaks to my progression. It would be hard for me to have written my New Year’s Day post without including some kind of date! ;-) And yet I do wonder if people read old posts and say, oh this is old never mind commenting, do people still read this? Hmmm… Life is so much about time I couldn’t stand to confine it any further than it confines me; I guess we’re learning to work together.

    Thank you for this post, I’m enjoying your writing. I must admit that reading this I received a nice jab of “inspiration-flies”. I’ve been pretty behind in my creative endeavors lately so this is a nice jolt, very encouraging.

    Take care,
    eLPy

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  4. Reblogged this on trailingspouseurope and commented:
    This might be for you as well; the elephant in the room. The meanderings of this piece paint a picture of inner conflict that may leave one paralyzed at the thought of the evolving self (and its attempts at self-expression). The spontaneity of author of Writing Through the Fog gives comfort at the same time as uncertainty of how to manage the ungainly, non-linear growth of words and thoughts and pieces of writing. I suppose it is important that we generators of content must always try to stay on top of our progress, to remain interesting to read for those who stop by. I’d like to keep this fully in mind, just as Cheri does in her piece.

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  5. Thank you for writing many of the thoughts I’ve had in the past few months!

    I suspended my blogging in late August – I had to get off the WordPress blogging treadmill for awhile. When I go back to my blog (which still feels like home, fortunately) my blogging will be different – though I don’t know how at this point.

    My absence has, however pointed out one thing. For all the effort I put into my photos and my stories in the past 4 years, there are only two posts that have demonstrated staying power. One is about induction pots and pans (which I researched heavily), and the other is called “Tricky Questions” which doesn’t have an original thought in it… This is a good reminder that I really am writing for myself.

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  6. Cheri I totally understand where you are coming from. I do a lot of writing online but my personal experimental writing I keep to myself. I have often thought I would like to find a space for it online but nothing seemed quite right and I suppose I fear putting out my personal expressions more than my blog posts which are written for my readers and not necessarily for myself. It’s a balance that I am still trying to find.

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  7. Wow Cheri, Thank you so much for this piece. I am a life-long closet writer, and a very recently new blogger. I too struggle with wondering if I have anything new to say, but moreover, I have an ongoing internal struggle with wondering if I have anything worthwhile to say in the first place. I have been a blog lurker for many years, never sure enough of my voice as a writer to join in. I know that I love writing. I love the process, the thoughts that ruminate in my mind while I am gathering the steam for a piece I feel compelled to put out into the universe (or into my own notebook.) I take away from this piece that the very practice of writing can be enough. I have come to terms with the fact that while I may never make a living as a professional writer, like I had dreamed of as a child, I still have something worthwhile to say, and I am not going to be afraid to get it out there in a space that is as imperfect as I am. I am learning that being vulnerable is the first, and perhaps the most important step to becoming a great writer. My blog is still in its baby stages, so I look forward to finding further inspiration from your future posts, and further validation as a writer daring to show that I something to say.

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  8. I know it’s obvious to say it, but to be a writer you need to keep writing, and that’s the hard part – to write come hell or high water. Natalie Goldberg in ‘Writing down the bones,” calls writing a practice, in the way meditating or doing tai chi every day is a practice. Blogging, then, is a great place to practice writing, and in both senses. Goldberg says that writing is like running, the more you do it the better you get at it. Some days you don’t feel like doing it and ‘resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway.’

    One of the most freeing things about blogging is that you don’t have to maunder and mither if the work will be published: that part is in your own hands; you can put all your creative energy into thinking about what you will write and how you will go about it. There are cues everywhere – from your regular readers’ comments, from the posts that they create, from the WP challenges – a huge pool of global creativity to dip into. Never has there been such a wonderful writers’ workshop, and at a desktop near you.

    There are risks, though, for the writer who wishes to produce other kinds of works. So beguiling is social networking and that little ‘publish’ button, that it is easy to let it overtake everything else. But then maybe that brings us back to the writing practice, the creation of a writing discipline – only allotting so much time to a given post, creating and sticking to deadlines, making every word count, telling a good story. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s something to aim for. Because feed-back can be instantaneous, blogging gives writers opportunities in ways that nothing else can – to become better writers. As Gail Sher also says in ‘One continuous mistake’, ‘If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.’

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Cheri, and also for the follow.

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  9. Well, this was timely…more evidence that Life unfolds as it should. After a recent course in travel writing, I came away fired up to start a blog and get myself beyond the Daily Journal app on my iPad. Today, I finally set aside enough consecutive hours to sit down and figure out how to get started….thanks to the WP help pages! I haven’t posted yet, but have my first one in Draft. It’s not all crystal clear, and as I followed the guide pages, I came to the section on Exploring, then to Freshly Pressed. After scrolling through the smorgasbord of offerings (promising to limit myself to 3 for now, as I’d lose myself in them forever!) I landed on yours for opening, Cheri….one of those instinctual moments….and met not only you but all these other commenters that you have drawn together! Suffice to say I am thrilled, inspired, excited, determined, and dead curious to see where I go with this. You have all released me…..I found ‘travel’ alone to be too restrictive, but you have all convinced me to simply be me…..eclectic, varied and mercurial. I can’t wait! I’ll definitely keep looking to you, my first find, for continued inspiration. Thank you!

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  10. Pingback: On The Struggle and Reasons To Write | The Random Rants and Musings of Miss Lai Lai

  11. I enjoyed reading this post very much. While I did not start my blog to be a “writer” I have become increasingly focused on it. My topic still remains central but behind the scenes, so to speak, I work on my writing. I doubt I’ll ever be a great writer, which is fine as what I want is simply to be good enough. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

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  12. I’m sorely late to commenting on this, but what a beautiful, evocative read. I’ve never been evasive about my online persona, it’s pretty much me (though I do think my blog is more somber at times — if you met me, you’d think, “What a cheery girl.”) I’m at a stage in my creative life of acceptance. Writing completes me. It feels dissonant if I don’t do it. I violently resent it when something interferes with my process. Call it dharma, a calling, an obsessive tic I can’t shake, but it’s ever present. I don’t have an MFA, a literary agent, but it’s an activity I’ve done since I was an awkward ten year old girl, wearing scuffed, hand me down corduroys, getting teased at school and internalizing the awful tragedy of my parents marriage. I started with clunky poetry and went from there. However, as an online presence that centers on travel, my blog style and my purely creative style are warring cousins. Sometimes both meld well on the blog, other times I do a straight up, ‘hey go to this place, you’ll like it’ piece. I hope the two cousins can call a truce. I feel your writing may not come frequently, but you always create this slow, intricate tapestry where words are treated as precious jewels. Nothing wrong with that. Write when it comes, I say. For myself, I’m so old that I’ve got nothing to lose. Does aging equate to fearlessness? Maybe. :)

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    • I love the imagery of warring cousins you’ve created in my head!

      You are right — the surge of writing doesn’t come frequently for me; I appreciate your description of “slow, intricate tapestry,” as I do feel that’s how I try to approach ideas. They build up over months, many of them similar and intertwining, and when I feel I have enough threads to weave together some kind of *bigger* idea, I feel comfortable enough to write.

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment (and just saw your tweet, so thanks for sharing it, too.).

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  13. What is blogging in a multimedia format if i cannot be a magpie, selecting bright and interesting things that take my fancy and reworking them into something else with my stamp on it then setting it free for my own and shared enjoyment and reuse?

    I blog when I am inspired to post something in the window through which a passing world may glance. Should I do that regularly as a creative discipline, or an occasional dipping of my toes in the waters? There is a smorgasboard approach which in my short experience surveying and marking out my cyber-paddock contains a little patch of poetry – sometimes haiku, rhyming couplets or free verse; a free-range comment; an interesting perspective that someone has on something meandering past the gate; selected photographic signposts; polished gems of microfiction; diarised creative pursuits journaled; a memorialised meal or social gathering; some news from outside… Occasionally I even throw in a link to some music that inspires me while I enjoy the view… This is why I feel that identifying as a ‘blogger’ covers so many creative, productive and interpretative roles.

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  14. I just came across this blog in the WordPress feed and I’m glad I did. I have recently deleted a blog on Blogger and changed platforms. 1. because, I’m taking a new direction with my photography and 2. because I felt I needed focus. The social media world provides us with so many options for inventing and re-inventing ourselves. These choices of medium become somewhat overwhelming — trying to keep up with posting and ensuring that what you post is of a standard to encourage others to want to follow you. Then there is the fostering of relationships online with people you will never meet. No wonder we have lapses and dry up. We are trying to hard to keep up.

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    • It’s the paradox of choice, and the ability as you said to invent and re-invent so easily, with the clicks of “delete” and “edit” buttons. It’s overwhelming. I try hard to ignore it all. I mean, it’s helpful to check out what’s new — what social networks and tools are out there — but you don’t have to use everything that comes your way. No need to spread ourselves thin!

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  15. I stumbled across this post in the WordPress feed, and I just want to thank you for writing it. I feel like it’s exactly what I needed to hear at the moment, after constantly pressuring myself to create polished works, create a brand, and consider my readership etc. I’ve since taken a step back, created a new blog, and I’m going to loosen the reins and write what I want. I’m going to bookmark this post and come back to it.

    Again, thank you for sharing! I’ll definitely be checking out your other posts.

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  16. When I created my blog, I had a clear idea of where I wanted it to go. But our thoughts and words take us on unexpected journeys sometimes. I have decided that my blog doesn’t need one, specific focus anymore. My blog is evolving into a collage of my life, thoughts, journey, etc, and I am starting to feel more comfortable and excited about this. I have discovered that I have more reason to write. My blog and my writing isn’t perfect, but my blog allows me to be as creative, daring or conservative as I want to be when I do write.

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  17. I’ve spent many hours forcing myself to write, to come up with something “blog-worthy” but the more I force myself, the more my mind went blank hence making me frustrated. Fortunately, I’ve found a way to deal with this issue. Each time I’m having what they call “writer’s block”, I relax a bit, go out and not think about it. That’s the time ideas appear. :)

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    • I wrote about writers block on my blog a few days ago. I had a really bad experience with a publisher (which I’m not going to moan about, don’t worry) but after that I found it really hard to write anything for at least a couple of years. And then I realised if I just wrote small stuff, and didn’t expect anything too much of myself, then the whole joy of it came back. I’ve only just started blogging and I love it, because the posts are expected to be small, and it helps to be able to talk to other people and read about their struggles. So thank all of you here, for allowing me to know that I’m not just scratching about on my own

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  18. I cannot even consider myself as a writer or a blogger… and it makes me more depressed to think that it’s the only thing I can do now, and I think that I can do best, yet the blank page just stares back at me most of the time.

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    • Just think, you have just made a start!!!!!
      Try a new point of view maybe, looking at you looking at that fresh piece of paper. Sometimes just writing for the sake of writing helps me.

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    • Peter Lotis Abram says

      If you cant write about anything, then you need things to happen to you. Put away the pen and paper for awhile and live. Take risks. Be bad. Keep notes. Then when you’ve got the time, make sense of it all. But first, take risks.

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  19. Hi Cheri, you touch on so many ideas that have come up in my own thinking about writing especially blogging. For me, my blog is a hole in the ice through which I can surface whatever is hidden and invisible. Your thoughts on timelessness/standaloneness of pieces vs consecutive continuity of a writing timeline that reflects your evolution is really interesting to me. In terms of having something new to say: I think we all have leit motivs running through our lives which we revisit over and over, not so much in a circular motion but more in an ever deepening spiral as we gain depth. Our most current writing can’t help but be invisibly powered by everything that’s come before and perhaps that could be reason enough for not needed to date one’s work. Thank you for such provocative writing!

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    • I love your imagery – the icehole in the ice but especially spiral image rings true for me, and I have used it often, though I generally see myself ascending the spiral….revisiting the same issue or circumstance with a higher and higher level of insight and coping..

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    • Our most current writing can’t help but be invisibly powered by everything that’s come before and perhaps that could be reason enough for not needed to date one’s work.

      Agree! I seem to circle back to the same ideas, no matter what a post is about. Whether I’m writing about music or growing up or internet friendships, the themes that run underneath are the same.

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  20. It is interesting to see which posts get views further down the road. I try to write at least once a week, with as much quality as possible, and then throw it out there. Sometimes it sticks well, and gets a lot of response, sometimes it falls flat and just lies there jiggling. I often feel like I’m trying to hit a moving target, but know I must stay true to who I am and what I am interested in.

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  21. Cheri,
    What awesome writing your post has sparked! It was an absolutely delightful experience reading and rereading all the comments here. With so much feedback, you should be saying goodbye to those dry spells now! It’s a circle – you say this post developed from a comment you left elsewhere. Look at the response! As I see it, in the creative sphere, someone somewhere expresses himself some way, ending a certain spell for another and the favor is duly returned. This is an awesome online community you’ve drawn together with your disarming honesty and delicate intellect. Looking forward to growing here.

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    • You’re so right that it’s all a circle — throwing thoughts out there, and then grabbing ideas and inspiration where we can. Thanks so much for reading this — glad what I’d written here sparked something in you.

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  22. Reblogged this on The Written Odyssey and commented:
    This post is partially about change and accepting who we are. I’ve been thinking about how we change throughout our lives, and I thought this post seemed rather appropriate. Well written and well thought out, it made me think about ways we can expand ourselves as people through our writing. Happy Reading, everyone.

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  23. Thank you for sharing this. I recently discovered that I am a writer. I struggled with this for years thinking that you couldn’t call yourself a writer unless you were getting paid to do it. This notion has been wiped out of my mind by my own love of the craft. I’d love to hear other tips on getting ‘the word out’.

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  24. Thank you so much for this post! It moved me deeply. I am at a different point in my relationship with writing. I am just starting my first blog which is a huge scary thing for me as I do not write consistently and never have. I have months where lots of writing comes out and months where nothing will. I also create in many other mediums and wonder where is the space for that online and how limited or not limited should my blog be. As a new blogger I am allowing myself to just do it. Not to worry about what other people say, or if they read it, or if the writing is itself good in anyway. For me just putting it out there period is the goal. Of course I do not have the pressure of being published or having my posts picked up by anyone. However I wonder if perhaps a similar kind of letting go could assist you with your current block? I agree with you, as I have experienced it, that blocks while hard are needed to rejuvenate ones creativity. I truly appreciate your openness and honesty in describing something that all artists struggle with.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. This says it all! I started my blog to promote my book and now find that I continue it mainly because I love to write. I have had a hard time staying consistent in what I write about and when I post. Staying on a schedule makes it hard to post on demand unless you are very inconsistent about what you write about. I now write what comes naturally and think my blog will improve because of this.

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  26. Funny, I just wrote a piece called “To Write. Or Nor to Write” about my own similar (though not exact) struggles with writing, so thanks. I knew why I capitalized Write, though I didn’t share that, and you have given me some words to expand my understanding of my own process. Again, thank you.

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  27. Hey — I just wanted to say that this blog is a real inspiration. I only just wrote my first ever blog post about 10 minutes ago and this piece has already caused me to think about how my writing style will undoubtedly change and adapt through time. I know it’s not designed to be a how-to guide but, thanks anyway :)

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  28. This made me smile. I’ve just started and I feel many of the things you talk about. I especially love the poem about the camera roll. i know everything that’s in there yet I will go through it every day and decide there’s nothing worth posting. And then I’ll do it all over again.

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  29. centa says

    I have had the most trying time of trying to blog. I’ve managed to create a bit of a presence on fb, but stumble and fall with wp…I mean the split self that wants to claim space online for my writing as well as conversation or feedback, and the part that obsessively edits to the point of no return and no fun…. is crazy making. At least you have made yourself visible enough to gain praise from a few big sources. A coach recently suggested I try Blogger and I managed to get a blog up with one post, but then went in and tried to reformat it, and edit it, and it had been converted to html and it just wouldn’t behave…..so I gave up… I too take photos, make prints and pots, and I teach movement. I wish there was a blog for dummies who have an aesthetic sense. But I don’t think that the technology is entirely the issue. It’s about being able to explore, for me, the mini essay, the public diary, a place to collect my work…

    You mentioned a few platforms I’d never heard of…

    I like the idea of streamlining different sites into one. I just want someone else to do it. I have a hard enough time getting to the work itself…although I know, in the time it would take to send someone the text or images, I could put them up myself.

    The older I get the less my brain seems to be able to digest technology — and I used to write software manuals for a living!

    sigh.

    Thanks,
    Centa

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  30. 8rent says

    Wait, aren’t you connected to WP? Isn’t there some kind of conflict of interest here? I mean, it’s a good post, don’t get me wrong, but still.

    Like

    • Hi — yes, I work at Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com). We proudly promote posts published by Automatticians on Freshly Pressed, provided they’re appropriate and fit our editorial criteria. I was a WordPress.com user before joining Automattic (and had been featured on Freshly Pressed, too), and still, first and foremost, consider myself a user of this platform and continue to write stuff here as part of the community. Another member of our editorial team chose this post for Freshly Pressed, and I’m happy she thought it was deserving.

      Like

  31. Thanks so much for posting this. For someone (like me) who’s new to putting their content online it’s reassuring to know that even well-established writers have some similar anxieties.

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  32. I have had a poetry blog for the past two years (not at all my first). What was different about it was that I published first drafts. I made myself do it. I kept it anonymous. I do not like a lot of the stuff and would probably be embarrassed to have much of it “published.” It has however been very useful as a tool for keeping writer’s block at bay and keeping me working on things. My writing (all my writing, not just my poetry) has greatly benefited from it. I feel pretty free to experiment and fail. I am very glad I did it.

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  33. Thanks Cheri. Your thoughts resonate completely. I’ve only just started blogging, with one post to my name…and it feels like a huge step. My commitment to myself is to write and post at least once in two weeks and make it something real for me. I’ve spent too many years being unable to write and fearful about putting myself out there, so reading what you wrote is actually quite inspiring. Thank you!

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  34. There is something about wanting to make a mark, to leave an impression, and to categorize oneself within this world we call the internet. We – at least I – tend to think that we need to stand out as something, as someone among the millions of writers/bloggers out there or among the millions of people in general. Though it may not necessarily be so. In the desire to achieve such a goal, we try to orient ourselves and our work in the direction that we think best reflects who and what we want to be categorized as. We then leave all the other ideas and works in a dark corner, soon to be forgotten. Even though these make up who we are. Even though these matter. Even though these reflect who we are in reality – a complex being with so many significant and insignificant ideas worth sharing. In a way, we are hypocritical, because we hide certain aspects of ourselves – though possibly unintentionally and unconsciously – in order to let one aspect surface. And this one aspect is what gets reflected in our blogs, in our writing, in our works. There is that notion that one space should reflect only one aspect (e.g., one blog for one type of ideas). There is that need for organization or maybe, a need for categorization. Who are we as a writer? Who are we as a person? What do we really want to tell the world about ourselves? And it becomes a hurdle, but we manage – we create different spaces that reflect different aspects of ourselves. I think that works – in a way. I have created several WordPress blogs in the past, only to stop doing so when I couldn’t see the point of having to create so many spaces that show seemingly various versions of me. I am me, and what I write and post should reflect myself in its entirety, without having the need to put the different pieces of me from various spaces in the internet together.

    Thank you for writing such a thought-provoking post by the way.

    Like

    • Thanks for highlighting another struggle of mine that blocks my writing. There are so many parts to me. I am a minister. i am a political activist. I have a mixed-race family. I have a history of deep depressions. I grow vegetables. I sing professionally. I struggle with self-doubt. I have just become a great-grandmother. My son is a rock star. I have tried to compartmentalize and un-compartmentalize. Where can I share my deepest spiritual beliefs AND my political beliefs AND my personal struggles and not offend someone? So, many thanks. It’s always good to know I have company!

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      • Well said, and thanks for sharing this glimpse of you. Interesting how we try to compartmentalize our lives/ourselves. In the end, it’s nice to have this space as my own, different interests and all…

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  35. We naturally evolve as people as well as writers. To share that growth encourages others to explore themselves as well. We have the ability to decide what to share and what not to. I try to show my journey, warts and all on my blog, hoping it will give others courage and inspiration.

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  36. Very thoughtful. I guess we share similar interests in writing and photography. Where you hooked me was when you said, “A writer who publishes on various platforms on the web is like an animal peeing in different places. I’m simply marking my territory — expanding the Cheri Lucas Rowlands brand far and wide. While this analogy makes me laugh, it also makes me feel rather dirty, but I get that that’s what we do these days.”

    I might add that not only does it make me feel dirty sometimes, but it also feels like a bladder infection. The various platforms just don’t always respond to the penicillin of what I write.

    Thanks for making me think. You’ve caught my attention.

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  37. Writers draw from the same pool of thought. They re-arrange a given number of words to express themselves on subjects that have been touched upon thousands of times before . . . and yet each thought is unique, each original writing a little different from all others. Such is the way in a creation where the whole is truly greater than the sum of all its parts. . .

    Write your stuff with passion, but enjoy doing it and don’t forget to laugh when you only sell six books (like I did) . . . :-)

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  38. Insightful and honest post. Started my blog to put down what I had already written but found myself hesitating. Realise now it’s the “date thing” that has got in the way ’cause it seems to imply a thread and I have not written in “sequence” — just random thoughts. At least I am now aware of the problem and can check out options for categories, etc.

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  39. I started my blog this summer after my sweet Cheesie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. The blog was a good way for me to *talk* about my dogs and I was surprised how far my thoughts reached to so many.
    Scout is still very much enjoying summer and the blog for me is a good thing.. Clears my head, makes me content…

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  40. You write so beautifully, it’s so easy to feel the thoughtfulness and reflection that has gone into each sentence. I find it difficult to believe, but reassuring to know, that you experience these dry spells as I am only beginning my writing journey and have been “lapse” for ten days. I think now that I too will return for a deeper look at my discarded beginnings. Thanks for posting.

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  41. Thank you. I started blogging in order to learn to write and communicate. The click on the Publish button usually occurred well before the post was polished, after which I refine bits and pieces. I worried that clicking on the Update button so often wasn’t the way blogging was supposed to work. After reading your post, I’m not so worried anymore. I always felt guilty that those few followers who had opted for email notification got the lesser me. I still feel guilty about that. Maybe my Mum has the right idea, dipping into old posts like they were finger paintings on the fridge door. It’s not about the thought. It’s about the growth.

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  42. Brilliant. I have only been blogging for a while and have so many facets to me. I weave in and out of a lot of causes, thoughts, ideas and I was wondering whether to try and compartmentalise some into a different blog(s). But like you said, they are all parts of me and we are not fixed but evolving. You can never be the same writer twice kind of thing. Thanks for clarifying, sort of as I am too fluid for fixed clarification, my way of being/blogging

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  43. I don’t know if I still go through the writer’s block, since I’ve tried to make myself used to pushing through and just writing something. I too have been working on my blogs and the only problems i encounter are ‘what should I talk about’ kind of stuff. Like, what am I going to rant on over here as opposed to over there. I’ve written a lot of stuff but have to spend my time doing all this editing now and then I get bored and yadda yadda.

    Anyway, I like your blog.

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  44. I believe the only way we can truly call ourselves writers is by being original. Yes, this is extremely hard to do when we now have billions of opinions from a variety of sources, but the way that you have written in this piece shows exactly how beautiful raw thoughts can become. I think I would still love your articles just as much, even if they are not perfectly filtered. Keep writing and showing your true raw self.

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  45. I just started blogging earlier this summer. Although I’m enjoying the experience, I haven’t really found my voice yet. So far, I’m just posting thoughts and reactions to events as they come to me. I’ve devoted a bit of time to reading blogs for inspiration (and because there are so many talented bloggers out there!) and I realize I have eclectic tastes. My blog is very much a work in progress and I have a few half written posts that I might get back to. I really like your idea of not dating your posts. Nanette

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  46. Thanks for being so incredibly honest. This is similar to a struggle I’m dealing with now. As I write more posts and gain more readers I can’t help but want more and more readers and continuously check my stats and wonder how I can write pieces more appealing to attract more readers. But the starting point and initial philosophy behind my blog is simply to share my tales of growth and learning in the hopes that they inspire my readers, whether it’s two or two hundred. It’s something I have to remind myself on a consistent basis so that when there is something I want to write I feel the freedom to do so rather than deny myself who I am as a writer simply for the sake of numbers. I can’t help but feel that nowadays what with an overload of things catered to us and our needs some of us are truly seeking people who are themselves, who share their inner thoughts and feelings as opposed to stories catered to us. Not sure what your particular solution will be, but I think you’ve taken a crucial first step with this post by acknowledging the discontent you feel. It’s stories like this that allow readers to grow and change. It’s only forward from here!

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  47. Cheri, thanks for giving me the incentive to post something, even if it’s half-baked and not ready for prime time. Writers write…often if not always well. Loved the verses about the camera roll. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, too.

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  48. Hello! I read your post by chance and frankly I find your post fascinating and thought-provoking. I echo with what you feel. I have read some of your posts and I like them. Your writing justly reflects what I think at times, and I appreciate them. It gave me the thought that you are a good writer as well as a sophisticated thinker. I love to write too, despite not having good language and writing skills, and my thoughts take much time to organize, not to mention the experience of occasional writer’s block.

    I love your writing and thank you for your work which made me ponder and had self-reflection.

    (Btw, I am a Chinese and I have tea sometimes.)

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  49. I’ve had to deal with a lot of online demons and because of this I haven’t posted on my personal site in months…reading your post has really made me think. Thank you!

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  50. My online presence – I ponder it constantly: the pieces of me on WordPress and Tumbler and Facebook and Twitter. (Aside – I will not use Medium – those line by line comments terrify me.)

    What sort of person do they represent? What sort of writer? I resent advice that says to succeed one must have a narrow focus. There is nothing narrow or focused about me. I write words. Those words span a myriad of genres and ideas. I will not shove myself into an easily swallowed shape to feed my followers. (Besides, most of my followers are spam-bots and they aren’t picky.)

    A part of my mind says none of this matters – blogging isn’t respectable writing anyway, no one important will ever see what I do out here, so why worry? Just use this as a place to practice for the real world. In that case, the dates are important, they show progression, prove the worth of my daily practice. As long as I continue to improve, my time here is not wasted.

    And perhaps by the time I am good enough, all the respectable writers will will write on ad-supported blogs and the clogged filters (publishers and agents) will be thrown away. I’ll be in good company and finally earn my daily bread doing what I love.

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  51. Where does my writing live? I write children’s fiction, but no one reads it yet. I am waiting for my first book to be published and I’m close. I think to some extent, I want to get my work into readers hands, but I do blog weekly with a very limited readership. I would say there is a spark of life with my writing.

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  52. Sometimes I get very frustrated because I really want to become a good writer and in most of the time I feel that I haven’t done anything good yet. Your post is great and motivating. I wish I could be as good as you are in writing.
    Thank you.

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  53. I considered many things about what you wrote, and I will continue to do so in the days to come. I can understand that work writing might have to be different. I suppose the feeling of needing that difference can spring from the true expectations expressed by one’s boss. However, I wonder, ever so often about the inner whining and rather childish need to be popular, to do it right. I think about those two things and their connection to being enough. I ponder about the need for solidity in and of expression. A published, printed, and bound book grant this to the author. The readers look for what it is that they wish for, need, and/or require of a text. A painter moves from canvas to canvas. There is a feeling of beginning and of ending. Some artists, I know, continue to fiddle with works, worrying about its being ‘right’. Many artists, consider all works, as a work in progress, never having an ending. Each one placed into the public eye becomes frozen for the viewer. The viewer then completes some sort of image about wisdom and understanding of the work and the of the artist. I often notice how some artists struggle with being stuck with these ideas and with what to do about them. I say this: Picasso had blue phases, I have photography blogs, poetry blogs, topic and genre blogs, personality blogs. I write to please me. I am the audience. If someone stops and shows a wish to walk alongside me for a while, I’m glad for the interesting company and for the opportunity to be exposed to things from outside of myself. Marketing tells us, forces us–in a way, that we MUST sell, MUST create desire. Marketing tells us that we must change who we are, how we express and so on and so forth. I do not agree. I do what I like.

    As for the writing breaks, I think natural ebb and flow is identicalish, for all of us. Outside is pressure to produce, to apply a traditional work ethic to writing. It has more value if it is work. Leisure and enjoyment being viewed, still, as bad. I know many authors who write in huge jags and then choose to release the works evenly spaced over time, I’m sure you do too. God forbid anyone would know I was smiling at the clouds going by, and enjoying my tea instead of straining to write something earth shattering! :)

    I like what you’ve shared here. Thank you.

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  54. I am glad you solved your problem. It’s the pressure we put on ourselves that stagnates. I remember feeling like that after the last time I was Freshly Pressed and hoped it would happen again. I would freak out if I found a typo after posting. After months of stressing, I relaxed into my own writing style. I went out on a limb and added The Boob Report after being diagnosed with cancer in April. The exercise of writing is one of the reasons I started a blog, but I also use it to connect with other writers. I have made some real friendships here on WordPress!
    The best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard was to just keep on writing.

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  55. I’m so glad you wrote this piece. I totally agree. It’s true what you say about the Intermediate Periods of Writing. It’s like the First Intermediate Period in between Ancient Egypt’s Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom: nothing makes sense if you don’t look in between periods. And really, there’s no problem about writing about those spans of time–as writers we feel that no one gives a damn about those “uncreative, lonely moments”. In truth, we readers do like those moments. Because we like to read about what you write, those ideas in your head, and we also like to read about what goes on in your head before you came to the concluded ideas in your head.

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  56. Thank you Cheri. Reading your blog was reading my mind and thoughts in black and white. I often have months when I write and write and write but dont post it assuming, assessing it is not worth it. Though at times, even though the writing isn’t apt, it definitely is cathartic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and helping me find mine. Congratulations on being freshly pressed and good luck.

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  57. Reblogged this on Sincerely,Stephanie and commented:
    I’ve felt so much pressure (pressure that I give myself) to perfect my blog lately and this post by, Cheri Lucas Rowlands was a breath of fresh air.
    “But I sense, more and more, that not writing creates unwelcome holes in my own narrative that I weave, and even if I’ve nothing to say, or feel uninspired, I should still write.”

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  58. Perfectionism can stop me in my tracks. Fortunately, I started out as a reporter for a small daily newspaper. The discipline enforced by an editor — write one or two stories, at least, every working day, or be gone — inoculated me against writer’s block (on most days).

    Where did our writing live? Not my problem. Whatever survived the editor’s pencil found a home, however lowly, on a page. The demand for stories to fill newsprint was unceasing. We did not imagine that our words were immortal. It all sped from the typewriter to the printing press to the fish wrapper in less than 24 hours. Then we did it all again.

    The down side was that daily newspapers often churned out formulaic and inaccurate news. The up side was that all of us, editors and reporters, from highest to lowest, oldest to youngest, worked every day — come hangover, hell or high water — and we learned and improved (or not) over time. As reporters moved up to larger dailies, the editors became constantly more ferocious. What a system!

    Sad that the daily newspaper, source of discipline and apprenticeship to many great writers and legions of mediocre hacks, is on its deathbed. I don’t know if anything can replace it. I love blogging, but most of us no longer benefit from daily deadlines and demanding editors.

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  59. Anonymous says

    I can see from the comments already here that yours is a fairly common dilemma. How do you remain true to yourself as a writer when you know an audience has fixed you in their minds in a certain way. It’s my dilemma too — or has become so recently. I asked a writer friend of mine “how do I get over this fear that my audience will judge me harshly if what I write now is different or not as good as the piece that brought them to my blog in the first place?” She said, with Zen like calm, “you get over it by getting over it.” It sounds flippant, but it’s not. Your writing belongs to you and you share it with your readers. You share it with them, but they don’t own it. And you create because of some whim or desire within you, not because you are given permission to create by the audience. Write because it is what you must do. Express yourself because you are not you unless you do. Pursue, explore, discuss, share your curiosities because it is your curiosities that make you who you are, it is your curiosities that fan the flame of your self and your soul. You will lose some of the audience along the way, but you and they were not a match anyway. And others will find you, others with whom you are in harmony and who will celebrate your eclecticism, your imperfections, your experimentation because they are so obviously the manifestation of freedom. Easy for me to say, harder to achieve, but certainly the advice I am trying to follow myself.

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    • Good insights and sound advice. I started my blog a few months ago to “document” bits and pieces I had written. Thought it would be easy enough — just paste them there — but then I keep wondering whether it will bore readers. Thank you for reminding me that I mainly write for myself.

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  60. Thanks Cheri for this post. It was totally worth the read. I too had a lot of experiences in getting stuck and frozen and not knowing how to motivate myself again. This was an enlightening read for me.

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  61. Blogging is a challenge. I try to write a post a month, but often have writers block as well. Sometimes I find it easier to wait when I have some free time and come up with 3 or 4 ideas. Then I can bang out a handful of posts and stagger them so they are published 30 days apart. That way I look more prodigious than I really am!

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  62. scottmathson says

    I see so many people relating to this post and I can attest that I am one of them as well! I have had dry spells on my blog that last months. I find the “walls” around writing music to be even taller, as a singer-songwriter let me tell ya that it is really difficult to write verse and chorus that actually mesh, blend, and flow. This is a very well written and designed post and I wanted to give my personal kudos! Keep it up.

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    • I couldn’t agree more. My first blog was posted January and still thinking what’s worth posting next. My devilish conscience is telling me; “Oh, c’mmon, blogging is not your thing.” But the angelic side (whom I am always in favor of) says; “You can do it”. So I am not giving up. :)

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  63. I enjoyed reading your post and the comments it provoked.
    I started my blog after blogging on a travel blog, sporadically, spring boarding to food blogging. It has evolved into a miss mash of everything and nothing. It works for me. As I age, I find nothing is more important than following my inner spirit. It’s always nice to find that someone has discovered and enjoyed reading something I’ve written, but more important, the fact that I sat down to spill my guts and simply enjoyed my foray. ;)

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  64. I have precisely the same struggle. I live with a pint-sized idea generator, and sometimes I write because I don’t want to waste good material, even when I don’t have time or energy to give it appropriate attention. I am always grateful for the stand-alone, guffaw-inducing quote, but those are few and far between. Typically they require some time and attention to make worthy of hitting publish.

    I take breaks at times, and for myriad reasons. This week, I am taking an unplanned break because I am still feeling every word of the last story I published. It feels disingenuous to talk about nonsense when my heart and brain are somewhere else entirely. And that’s okay.

    Regarding flow. As a writer, runner, and sometimes yogi, I highly recommend a good vinyasa class if you are seeking a flow state that won’t be too hard on your ankles. Your heart and quiet mind will thank you.

    Cheers!

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  65. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on your experience in blogging. I’m new to blogging and learning how to get better at writing. But your blog and others comments have been uplifting for me.

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  66. I find blogging, books and journalism, (the places where my writing lives), three very distinct genres and voices. My books are mine, a year or more of reporting, analysis, reflection, with a narrative arc and very distinct point of view. They are the most visible and permanent planting of my flag, as it were.

    My journalism, from women’s mags to the NYT, is a mixed bag, but I liken that work to that of a carpenter or tailor — you want a suit 38R in navy wool, I make it for you to order. I am not designing a novel personal vision but meeting my client’s needs for a commercial product.

    The blog has become, in many says, the most satisfying place for my writing as it allows me to have voices that range from outrage to lyrical, a range far wider than most commercial outlets welcome or allow for. It is weird when I meet colleagues or friends who tell me they read it as I think I am writing for distant and invisible strangers, which frees me. But the dialogue about ideas is precious and rare. I enjoy it a great deal.

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  67. Thank you for the thought provoking post about the writing process. When I get stalled, for whatever reason, I try to escape the doldrums by composing as if I were writing myself a letter. It’s not for everybody, but it works for me.

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  68. There is a lot to digest in this article, but our writing / lack of writing episodes are as unique and individual as we all are. I see my writing like a garden. I plant an idea and often it stagnates in the ground, not its fault but mine for not pressing on with the idea and exploring it further, other times it explodes surprising me and those (hopefully) that read it.

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  69. This was so encouraging to read – adding perspective into the world of writers. Since I restarted blogging, I haven’t hit that roadblock just yet, but in every other writing experience, your thoughts definitely translate into mine. Its refreshing to remember that writing isn’t about perfection, but the art of putting simple thoughts onto paper and sharing it with people – which is exactly what you did. =) Looking forward to more imperfect, yet powerful inspirations!

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  70. I understand your post. So many ideas and so little time. Blogging is a chore, but not one I chose to ignore, instead I barge through it like a closed door, and quote as the Raven, “Nevermore.”

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  71. Laura Cole says

    Have you read “The Art of Fiction” by Joan Didion? It’s actually an article about non-fiction, she brings to light some of the anxieties of the writing and editing process. You’d love it.

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  72. Cheri

    Great post. It has so many different strings all weaved together and each more meaningful. Great food for thought.

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    • Thanks! Regarding the different strings here — those I’ve talked to about hitting that writer’s wall all seem to have their own blocks and fears, from shaping their presence across multiple sites; to confusing writing with publishing; to wondering what is “good enough” to be shared; to creating a sense of stagnancy on their site, as if they then cease to exist. Some ideas here seem to resonate with others in different ways — glad you enjoyed it, too.

      Like

  73. Have you read Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running? It details the similarity of writing and running. According to him, writing is like running in which one needs to practice and focus. However, you have to avoid overworking so as you still have something to give, be it energy or idea, the next day.

    Like

    • I’d just commented to someone I work with on the similarities between writing and running — I was a very active long-distance runner for years until a number of injuries to both ankles led me to stop. But when I was doing both — writing and running — I noticed I was at my happiest and most satisfied, on a deeply personal level. And when one activity halted, I found myself in a slump.

      At present, I don’t do either! One is mental, the other is physical, yet both achieve the same thing for me — a natural, much-needed flow running through me. Your comment reminds me that I need to push myself to get back into running somehow — at least a gentler jog I can handle, which would probably shake me up and achieve a similar effect.

      And no, I haven’t read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — I’ve heard of it, though. Noted, and thank you!

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  74. So my comment or question may be more along the lines of process. In Nick’s blog, he commented on the difference between the easy flow of speaking versus a sometimes challenging writing process, what ever those challenges may be. It seems to me that the blogging platform is one that promotes top of mind thoughts to elicit some sort of dialogue by those who may be interested. As I use my voice recognition software for posting this comment, is it dictation for a writer different from typing or writing your thoughts out? Would writing an editorial piece be different if you dictate your thoughts instead of crafting it with a word processor with your hands and mind?

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    • pharaonick says

      Hi Jonathan,

      Nick here! That’s a really good question. I think dictating your thoughts, rather than typing or writing them, does make a big difference, and can completely change the flow of creation. I know there are some authors who “write” their books this way, in order to remove as many barriers as possible between the freedom of their thoughts and the words that end up recorded. As for me, I’m not sure how I would respond, and it is something I should try.

      But in the piece you reference I was talking more about the interactive and participatory nature of having a conversation, and how this – along with the very nature of verbalizing rather than writing something – allows for a transience to the spoken word. Which can be either liberating or a cop-out, depending how you look at it. Either way, I don’t think I would find it any “easier” to express myself verbally if I knew those words were being recorded in some manner: I’d still end up choking on their perceived permanence.

      Like

    • This is interesting — I’d never thought about this before. I could see how dictating/articulating verbally one’s thoughts, specifically to get them down on paper, would be much different than unlocking those ideas with typing fingers.

      (Since I am probably the least articulate person in conversation, and admittedly can’t think and speak eloquently on the fly, this approach would be a disaster for me!)

      Like

  75. This is not the first time you posted something in which I screamed “That’s exactly how I feel!”.

    I too, don’t post that often on my blog, at least not as often as I used to, when I thought no one was reading my blog. And I felt like a ‘failure’ as a writer, whenever I go months without writing there.

    I felt paralysed, not that I don’t have anything to say, but more like I’m too scared to write for the public. I felt that my blog was my ‘private’ space, my playground, where I feel I should be able to write anything that I want – unlike when I write freelance for magazines during my sabbatical – yet, in the last few years, as I found out more people I knew were reading my blog, I got more self-conscious. And so I don’t write as often.

    However, I have found that carrying my Moleskine and noting down my thoughts offline, has allowed me to sift through those thoughts, and pick the ones I felt comfortable enough to share to the “world”. Still, I feel I don’t write enough on the blog, but I have accepted that it is okay, as long as I am still writing, offline or online.

    Anyway, I always, always enjoy your posts. I always look forward to it, knowing you don’t write as often, but when you do, it’s a post I keep coming back and devour, often triggering my own stream of thoughts on these topics on writing and online presence. So, thank you for always writing here :)

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    • I’ve received a number of comments here that encourage me to just write, but also to find that space I need, somewhere between private and public. My Moleskine is one such place, as well as a shared Moleskine I’ve started with my husband, which is another layer of public/private space, and an interesting activity in itself, too.

      I used to write in a journal for years and years — I have a stack of ‘em, the first dated from when I was in middle school in 1990, and the latest I think covers 2008-2011 or so. Mainly filled with thoughts and insecurities about relationships, my career and professional hopes, and my dreams and ideas of “adulthood.” They’re so fun to look through sometimes. Embarrassing, too. I realize now that I’ve cut myself off from such a liberating outlet. Our blogs and online presences across the internet have certainly taken our focus away from these private, much-needed places. Thanks for reminding me of such spaces and sparking me to note my thoughts offline.

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      • First of all thanks for your post. Very insightful and reflective. I have also kept many journals over the years. I often go back for inspiration. Many times I end up with a poem based on a journal entry. It is interesting how something that I wanted to be so intimate can end up being something I feel I just have to share. I starting blogging for different sites. Now that I have a few personal blogs I struggle with some of the same points you outline. I get a lot of good points from the comments posted for the bloggers I follow. The comments posted for your post were pretty much on point. Thanks again.

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  76. I loved this post! It, in itself, was very fluid… poetic and enchanting. I think your writing kind of jumps off the page, and is probably why you’ve had such success as a professional writer! You’ll have to find the middle-ground between writing for the public and yourself.

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    • Absolutely agree about trying to find that middle-ground. I’m flattered from your comment that my writing “jumps off the page.” I tend to think my writing is rather quiet and simple, so I’ll take that compliment :)

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      • Yes, please do, you are very talented! Writing’s funny because it’s meant to be this communicative and social thing and yet sometimes it feels too personal too share! Definitely one of the most private of the arts.

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  77. The publications that invited you to write for them did so because they liked your style of writing and “voice.” Why would you want to change or sanitize the things that made them take notice of your blog in the first place? On the other hand, being more polished in your writing is a good idea, but you shouldn’t agonize over too much over what is good enough or not good enough.

    Also, how will you learn and grow if you don’t take a chance that a piece of writing will be considered no good by someone else? Every artist has experienced that.

    Isn’t it funny how you never hear about the ones that didn’t take the chance?

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

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  78. Pingback: The Problem with Medium as a Platform | Books I Read

  79. I really love the idea of not putting dates on your posts. We are so obsessed with time and being relevant – I may borrow this idea :) Always enjoy your writing.

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  80. Pingback: What I’ve Read Recently - A Literal Girl

  81. I’ve often grappled with these same issues. I’ve striven after perfection and I’ve thought that I should go with the good enough. In the end, for me, the inward struggle has boiled down to what a blog means as a genre, standing as it is somewhere between public and private for a lot of people and having the ability to evolve over weeks, months and years unlike a book or a magazine article.

    Articles in an online magazine have to be perfect –complete articles sent out into the world. But blog posts can be revised, re-written, even re-published in the future with the constant possibility of improvement. True, it reflects who one is as a writer but I think the expectation from a lot of readers is that the writer is also human (as opposed to a book where the writer is simply a writer–a professional). So there is a lot of forgiveness for draft-y and notes-ey writing.

    Having said that, though, I realize the danger of incomplete or badly edited pieces of writing floating around in the world tied to one’s name especially if the blog is used as a sort of portfolio to exhibit writing prowess.

    But perhaps reader perception is changing too in the way that a blog is viewed or judged as opposed to traditional forms of writing as we have been used to? Is there a possibility that an overly perfect blog with no temporal markers on it such as dates might alienate regular readers because it takes away the person and only shows the writer? I’m still pondering that one.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

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    • This is awesome — thanks for your reply. Love the thought that our blogs live somewhere in between public and private — this is right on, and it reminds me that, yes, there *is* still space for me here, and yes, I *am* human.

      I definitely am leaning toward re-displaying the dates, actually — your phrase “no temporal markers” really makes me re-consider.

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  82. There’s lots to say in response to this — and I think these posts by you and Miranda have inspired another one in me (how’s that for SYNERGY!) — so for now I’ll just say this: 1) There is an undeniable tension now between the desire to publish only ‘quality’ work, and the desire to publish frequently (for whatever reason). 2) When I spoke in my piece about the need simply to write, to keep writing, I was not envisaging these (less polished?) pieces as something you would necessarily have to release into the wild.

    Great post, and food for thought as always! You have a valuable knack for taking the personal and transmuting it into a universal question.

    PS Yes you did read THAT correctly!

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  83. Dear Cheri,

    I have a suggestion for you concerning your issues with the traditional blog format. I was unhappy with the archives section, but also with the categories section. It’s something that bothers me in general when I visit other blogs, but also and more importantly it bothers me on my blog. Because my blog is not a blog – I publish short stories. So I came up with the idea of a page named “All the Stories” where I simply list the stories and the readers can scroll down the page, have a look at the titles and read whatever story catches their attention. No dates, no categories, no tags appear on this site, there’s only the titles. I am very happy about that choice and the page has a lot of clicks, which tells me it is a good page for my readers to get some orientation.

    Concerning the writer’s block: well. It’s a thing that happens to all of us, I guess, because sometimes we don’t wanna write but maybe we want to take photos, dance, or express ourselves in other terms and forms. Which is part of the writing process and therefore perfectly fine. I don’t know, but I always think that everybody who is seriously writing knows about this and will not judge. And we should not judge ourselves, either. These are just some thoughts and I know they might be of no actual help, but. I wish you all the best for finding inspiration and for designing your online place to your taste.

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  84. Oh, Cheri, I have gone through this so many times in my head. When I originally began my blog, I wanted all of my writing to be polished, and each piece to be able to stand alone. I wanted an editor, when s/he received a submission from me, to be able to click on my blog and always land on something I was proud of. Which meant I could only publish near perfect content. I found out very quickly that that approach was crippling me. It locked me up and made me second guess every idea I had, every post I began. The two pieces you picked to press, though? Those just poured out of me and I didn’t think twice about them. I didn’t scrutinize or endlessly edit, but wrote what I felt and hit “publish.” Had I followed my “rules” of polishing, I’m not sure my blog would have ever grown. I’ve got a lot of fluff in there, from those days that I don’t know what to write about, but because I kept writing, I got to the good stuff too. And it doesn’t hurt to know that Hemingway wrote crap, too ;-)

    That being said, I love that I can come here, to Writing Through the Fog, and *always* find rich content, thought provoking musings, and exquisite writing. The depth of your thinking, paired with the name of your blog and the mystic photography, give me a glimpse into your reflective mind. I feel like I get a sense of your character, and your narrative, despite (or because of) the spaces between your posts. The gaps in the narrative lend a sense of mystery, which seems part of your character as well. But I love your thoughts, and I love your writing, and I would love to read more of your words.

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    • Andrea — what kind words. Thank you. Great to hear your perspective on the posts of yours I’d freshly pressed — that those pieces just poured out of you. Really interesting!

      I’m happy you find stuff worth reading here, and it’s interesting to hear about what my gaps/lapses reveal about my own story! When I visit your blog, too, I always enjoy what I find. Glad to be following along :)

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  85. I like the idea of removing dates, too. I started to blog because I felt the need to establish an online presence but it does take time away from the writing I really want to do – or maybe it’s my own way of avoiding the challenging process of writing my novel? If I haven’t blogged in over a week I start to feel a little panicky about getting another idea to write about. I’m not sure I like this whole idea of the need to have an online presence if you want to be a writer!

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  86. I’ve always felt like thoughts when written down as words have a much greater significance. And when you know that you’re going to be writing for an audience, even the most mundane thoughts that you have become fodder for public consumption.

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    • Love that last thought about how even our mundane thoughts become fodder for public consumption! (I feel like I do this with photographs on Instagram in particular.)

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  87. Really interesting thoughts. When I started blogging I had a plan, too. Well sort of. But now, eight month later, I lost track of it. More or less willingly.

    I have decided for myself, that I will write about the things that are important to me. Regardless what others might think. Or if the writing is worth a Pulitzer.

    I don’t think I will ever be a really good writer, I simply lack the language skills, I guess. Being a German some constructs simply feel weird and I won’t ever get really accustomed to them.

    So I’m not writing because of writing, it’s more the content, I’m focussing on.

    Does that make any sense?

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    • Writing about things that are important to you — +1. I feel the same, and I continue to do this here. Sometimes I feel as if I helicopter over the same ideas and themes again and again, writing about things I’m truly curious and passionate about. In this regard, I *am* writing for myself — and that makes me happy.

      Yes, your comment made sense :) Thanks for taking the time to reply.

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  88. Ergh, weird. These have echoed some of my recent thoughts almost precisely.

    I think the problem and the solution are one and the same thing, and, when boiled down to utter smut, fairly simple to identify: If you write for someone/something other than yourself… you’re gonna have a bad time.

    No creative writing should be compromised. When it is, it loses its unique flavour. And if this is the stew you’re brewing, the stew in which you’re looking for nourishment – an insipid pot of compromise – then, well, you quickly lose interest in your self’s words, whatever they are.

    Tis a hard balance to strike, especially when, in the back of your mind, you’re considering your “online presence,” and how you’re being received by the (spooky dooky) outside world. “Do they love me? Please tell me they love me. WHY WON’T THEY LOVE ME!?” Self-defeating tomfoolery. But hey, we live in a social world, regulated by social norms, marked by social standards. Whatever to do? F*h3d if I know.

    (Sorry if this reads like it was written by a drunk unicorn; I’ve had too many coffees and not enough food).

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    • I’ve yet to receive a comment by a drunk unicorn — this is very welcome :)

      Thanks for the words. I’ve nothing to add, really — perhaps I’ll just shrug and reiterate what you’ve said: we live in a social world…and this writing for others, this maintaining of our online presences — it’s just something we do. My husband and I have chatted a bit more about these posts we’ve written — he talks about how we weave/equate writing with publishing even more so these days, when they aren’t the same thing. We can write, and that’s that. We don’t need to publish and share it; no one needs to see it. This is easy to forget when the “Publish” button is so easy to click.

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  89. i can relate to so much of what you are saying. i have a journal on my computer where i just dabble away on a thousand different topics just to keep myself writing. i find it helps prevent me from having those dry spells. that being said blogging is sort of new to me and I havent really sorted out how i want to present myself online or even where i want to take my writing next. It’s an interesting journey in and of itself though so we’ll see how it all turns out. on a side note, I like your style of writing. Insightful and well thought out. :) I wouldn’t worry overly much about your content. It’s an interesting read and there’s new people popping up all the time that havent read your old stuff. like me!

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  90. That is a pretty clever idea to remove the dates. I too had made a similar pact with myself which caused me to delete a lot of my old material, and then when I would dry up I would just take the best parts of my old material and create something I was more proud of. But now, having finished with that process, I am constantly wondering if there is really anything more that I have to say. I turn to writing exercises just to try and come up with ideas. Eventually something random will trigger a new idea but I am always wondering how long this can go on for. How much can I really have to say? I want to write everyday, but I don’t want to just put filler material on my blog, so I’m constantly marveling over people who put out such interesting material on a daily basis.

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    • I am constantly wondering if there is really anything more that I have to say.

      I was going to go further here and talk about how all I really do is obsess over and write about the same themes over and over again — time, photography, memory, etc — in different ways and on various places on the web. (You can see examples of this in this very post.) So, I also wonder if there’s anything more I have to say, other than rehashing the same ideas each time. (Not that this is a bad thing…) It may be something I’ll write about soon. Thanks for the note.

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  91. “I experience lapses of drying up, in which I don’t write for many months.” It’s happened to me too. I can identify. Fortunately now, I’ve found my momentum and I’m writing every single day, working on my novel, almost as if I’m in a rush to get all the ideas and words out of my head because we never do really know when the next dry spell will come…

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