Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Writing About Having Nothing To Write About
Lately, I've been going through a dry spell with my writing, which is not uncommon to many writers. “Writer’s block” is the most often-used term, and I've got it bad. My two works-in-progress are not inspiring me, and I am struggling to come up with posts to put on this blog. Then, this morning, it came to me. Why not write about having nothing to write about?
Contrary to what it may appear, I don’t just dash off whatever is in my head and post it to Wicked Awesomology. Some bloggers treat their blogs almost like a web-based diary that the public is invited to read. Not me though. I treat mine like a regular column that I would contribute to a newspaper or magazine. As such, I have to strike a balance in my posts between things I want to write about and things viewers will want to read.
That awareness of audience tends to be what stymies me the most. Back when I was teaching, I constantly stressed to my student the importance of keeping your audience at the forefront when you compose a piece of writing. I've seen 10 year-old-boys put together ten page stories about Pokemon characters that make complete and perfect sense to them, but without background information would make virtually no sense to most other people, not to mention be of limited interest to anyone but themselves. When choosing a topic about which to write for this blog, there are certain things I try to avoid.
Complaining: Writing can be cathartic, and there is a great temptation to sit down and rip something a new one just to get it off my chest. And while it may feel good to put together a piece like that, I believe that readers will only put up with it from time to time. After all, with all the whiners in the world as it is, who wants to sit down and read more whining for entertainment?
Repetition: There is such a thing as taking a good idea and beating it to death. I've seen the statistics on viewership of my various blog posts, and noted what type of articles has garnered the most viewers. In general, it has been my nostalgia pieces about my childhood and teenage years. Those posts are fun to write, and serve a personal purpose for me in preserving my memories, but are not the kind of thing I would want to write and readers would want to read every single week. The same applies to posts about my cats and my hillbilly neighbors. While they provide ample fodder, you can have too much of a good thing in this format.
Sports: I am a huge sports fan, but only post about them on rare occasion. Wicked Awesomology is not a sports blog, and many of my readers are not that into sports. Those who are may not be into the particular teams, events, or athletes that I am. As such, there is a risk of a sports post being a complete wash for a sizable segment of my readership. That doesn't mean I won’t write about sports. It merely means that I am choosy about the topic. For those readers who do not care for the Boston Red Sox, be thankful for this.
Controversy: Some people write to be provocative. I am not one of those people. The purpose of this blog is to entertain and also to give me a forum for flexing my writing muscles. I stick to that focus for a simple reason: In order to attract and maintain regular readers, I need to be providing a somewhat consistent product. Going from a gently humorous reflection on an adventure I had with my grandparents as a child in one week’s posting to a screed on the gun control debate in the next is too wild of a swing for most readers, I feel. Of course I have plenty of personal opinions about politics and current events, and sometimes share them in person and on my Twitter account. Only rarely will I post about politics or controversial current events on this blog, and then I will choose my words carefully so as to state my case clearly while remaining respectful of those who do not agree. That, of course, is a lot like work, so I usually avoid those topics.
Forced humor: One thread that runs through almost every post here is humor. I don’t set out to be humorous when I write here, but my sense of humor permeates almost every interaction I have, so it comes through. My posts are not too different from my personal conversations in that regard. That said, there are some times and topics that just do not lend themselves to laugh out loud comments, so I either avoid writing about the subject altogether, or give it a straight treatment. Trying to be funny when something just isn't a funny concept is a recipe for disaster. A related issue is sarcasm. I’ll be the first to admit to being a sarcastic wiseass, but that rarely comes across as I would like in my writing, so I have to put the brakes on sarcasm much of the time.
These self-imposed restrictions sometimes get in the way of finding a topic for a blog post, but they help maintain the quality of my posts, so they are not a bad thing. I’d rather post nothing than post garbage. I've had some ideas for posts lately, to be sure, but they've often fallen into the “complaining”, “controversy” or “repetition” categories, so I've nixed putting them on here.
So there you have it: an entire post wherein I wrote about not knowing about what to write. I've dealt with writer’s block before, and it never lasts, for me or for anyone. The idea fairy will come for a visit soon enough and Wicked Awesomology will get back to my version of normal. If she doesn't come soon though, I may have to resort to a slew of crazy cat stories.