posted 10 May 2011 in Volume 14 Issue 6
To blog, or not to blog? Hannah Gannagé-Stewart explains why writer’s block can slow down even the most prolific web author
There’s nothing worse than the apologetic ramblings of an uninspired blogger. The strained excuses that pour from a guilt-ridden mind, full of self-loathing because having identified yourself as a cyber-sage, brimming with wisdom, suddenly you’ve run out of words. The pace of the internet makes it difficult to keep up at the best of times, but when writer’s block has drained you of any worthwhile material and the world seems to be rushing ahead without your input, bloggers guilt can feel like the worst of afflictions.
It has got so bad in my case that I have gone from updating my blog three or four times a month to just three times in almost a year. Worse than the infrequency though is the guilt of publishing something I’m not proud of – just to fill the void.
After several months of silence, my loyal (some might say mislead) followers began to ask what was happening. ‘You haven’t blogged in a while, Hannah. I hope something’s coming soon’. It’s at that point that the paralysis sets in. I realised that my posts were actually being read. Not only had people read it, they wanted to read more of it, which is a two-fold trial.
On the one hand, the risk I took making myself vulnerable by publishing it in the first place appeared to be just that – a risk. On the other, I managed to make it entertaining, which has left me both vulnerable and inadvertently committed. No blogger really wants either of those things, surely? The trouble is, beginning a blog is pretty easy. It’s too late by the time you realise that raised expectation comes with the territory.
My blog began as a means of chronicling my journey into journalism but, as with most self-motivated writing, it soon became a more personal and candid account of my life in general. This posed its own set of problems. How much could I write before offending people and what lasting impact might the contents of my blog have if it got into the wrong hands? Despite these things worrying me, the frank accounts of my life attracted far more positive feedback than my more cautious, earlier entries had.
But what happens when your circumstances change, or you change? The tone of a blog you wrote in one part of your life could be completely unrepresentative of the person you become later. My blog had relied heavily on a bit of healthy dissatisfaction with my lot to fuel the self-deprecation and humour that people so enjoyed reading (and I enjoyed writing). So you can imagine my immense disappointment when things started to work out. I got a job in publishing and raised enough money to stop sleeping on friends’ sofas and get my own place. How was I going to draw on the ludicrous experiences in my life if it became normal? It was a terrible misfortune. What was I supposed to write about now – how well it was all going? That explains the hiatus, which led to the guilt, which led to the ongoing inertia. But it doesn’t explain the guilt itself.
Why do I feel so consumed with remorse when I fail to unleash the latest self-absorbed, farcical extract from this thing I credit with the title ‘my life’? I would happily accept that my guilt is symptomatic of the same misplaced self importance that probably inspired the blog in the first place. But when I asked a friend for her opinion on why it caused me such distress not to have kept up with the blog, she looked at me with familiar impatience and said, “Hannah you feel guilty about everything.”
Once I’d stopped feeling guilty for burdening her with the question and for my perpetual guilt, I realised that she was right. Burdening cyber-space with a barrage of proto-journalism in my more inspired days used to cause me just as much guilt as the creativity drought is doing now. So is there an answer to this self-inflicted inability to blog? Well, yes there is: a healthy bit of emotional detachment. If you invest too much of yourself in anything it becomes a pressure. If you’re writing something with the intention of it being read, your primary concern should be the reader. Only and always blog when you have something to say, the rest should be kept for a journal. I hope I can take my own advice; the guilt will be unbearable if I don’t.
Hannah Gannagé-Stewart is an editorial assistant and occasional blogger. She can be contacted at email@example.com