Writing Paralysis


I’ve been avoiding blogging for two years now.

Specifically, I’ve been avoiding writing on this blog for four months.

I set up Lizzie Mack at the beginning of this year with the intention of integrating it into a regular writing practice. I’ve always loved blogging and essay writing, so this year I committed myself to getting back into it.

I signed up for an essay writing class, I purchased the domain name, I set up the blog. A week later I completed my first, and only essay for my essay writing class, and buried the blog to the nether regions of my bookmarks.

For someone who “loves” writing, I’ve become quite expert at avoiding it.

The thing is, as an adult, the stakes and standards for writing are a lot higher. When I was in high school I wrote the same way I spoke and was rewarded for it. My inability to tell you the difference between a preposition and an adverb was overlooked all the way through the completion of my masters. Surprising no one but me, as I approached and moved through candidacy, the standards for my writing became much higher. Suddenly, where I placed my commas and footnotes mattered, a lot, and I took it really personally.

So personally in fact, that I took the critique as an indication that I couldn’t write at all.

To this day, I can recite almost every rejection and major criticism I’ve received on my writing, and almost none of the accolades.

The criticism felt like failure and I had no clue how to rebound from it, or how to fix the problems they indicated.

I probably wouldn’t even be writing this post right now if it weren’t for the status messages two professors I have the utmost respect for posted.

Neither could figure out where to place to commas, and they have been getting hammered for this [seemingly small] issue since they were graduate students. I know on face this seems random and inconsequential, but to me it was revelatory. I suppose theoretically I’ve always been aware that everyone receives rejections and criticism. But apparently I just needed to be reminded again in the right place, at the right time:

Everyone who writes for a living gets criticized, rejected and hit over the head by everyone in our lives who understand the rules of grammar a bit better than we do. It’s not personal, it’s not unique to me, and I am not special in my level of grammatical ineptitude (is that even a word?).

As a mentor reminded me on Friday, the only way to learn how to write is to write. If I am indeed serious about being an academic, a writer, or even your everyday participant in the public sphere, I have to stop allowing myself to be paralyzed by anxiety.

So, today I worked on my dissertation, and now I am working on my blog. Both pieces of writing are probably far from brilliant, but the path to brilliance is [apparently] paved with lots of practice.



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