Hello everybody, I am Jerry and I’ve got a case of writer’s block.
It’s been two years since I’ve published anything on Elephant Journal. This article was the first article I had ever published.
Writing it was a process of insight, as putting it into words somehow made things clearer for me. Then, there was the editing process with an editor who managed to press my buttons. Her feedback agitated me—I felt attacked. Was the article not good enough? Was I not good enough?
These were the exact kind of responses the ego can come up with. The fact that I recognized these responses for what they were made me believe I had a long list of articles up my sleeve.
I haven’t published anything since.
I haven’t presented anything for editing since.
I’ve been suffering from writer’s block.
Since that first article, I’ve thought about several topics and written some drafts. But nothing got to the level where I was confident enough to submit it.
Wondering if I was alone in this, I turned to other Elephant Journal authors. Did they recognize this writer’s block? What causes it for them? And should I, perhaps, just write about my blockade? I mentioned my reasons, and received positive responses and support.
One reply stood out: “I love this topic. And I agree—sounds like it needs to be written about, regardless of whether you send it in for publishing!”
Whether you send it in for publishing or not.
Why had I not thought about doing this? I wondered how many articles I hadn’t read from people who write primarily for their own growth, but long to share it so others can grow too. Then I remembered this quote: “Write from the scar, not from the wound.”
This article is the result of my exchange with those supportive writers. So with an appropriate amount of awkwardness and anxiety, I present to you—drumroll please—my list of reasons for not publishing on Elephant Journal (until now):
1. Lack of Topic
Are people really interested in reading about this, or is it just my own little personal demon? What if I spend hours writing an article on a topic nobody cares about? “Kill your darlings,” writers say. Well I’ve killed them all—unnecessarily, according to the feedback I’ve received. Let’s just hope this topic is worthwhile.
2. High Standards (a.k.a. Comparing Myself to Others)
I visit Elephant Journal pretty much daily. That’s what good quality content makes you do; and although some articles don’t appeal to me, so many do. I read these articles and, at times, I’m amazed. I am amazed by the openness and vulnerability these authors show. I am amazed by their writing skills. It’s as if an angel appears as soon as the writer opens their text editor, giving them some sort of divine inspiration. These people are such wonderful writers. How could I even dare to think that my thoughts deserve a spot among them?
Wait a minute! Isn’t this what about 99 percent of the articles on Elephant Journal are about? How we’re supposed to accept ourselves? How it’s not helpful to compare ourselves to others? Then why am I doing exactly that?
3. Confusing “Success” with Self-respect
Okay, I confess: I did actually submit an article after that first one. But it wasn’t accepted, and the revision suggestions offered by the editor felt contrary to the point I was trying to get across. It hurt—my ego got a pounding right there, right then. I have come to realize that our society focuses more on our achievements than on whether we’re being our best, individual selves. It has become so easy for us to use our definition of success as a measure of our self-worth. For me, “being published” with my specific message was my definition of success. When I failed, it felt like not only was my article rejected, but I was rejected. And that sure made me more hesitant to submit again.
I’ve learned I’m not alone in this. Others also mentioned this as a partial cause of their writer’s block. The funny thing is that my article wasn’t actually rejected—the editor just wanted to open a dialogue around it, but I ran.
Ever since I started reading Brené Brown‘s work, I’ve started realizing that vulnerability isn’t weakness. It requires strength to put yourself out there. The personal touches in so many articles are one of the backbones of Elephant Journal. But it’s also scary as hell. When I write about my fears and insecurities, I am taking a huge risk. People might actually read this! The math is simple: sensitive topic + personal story = vulnerability = scary.
I love Brené, and I fully believe in her message. But man, I’ve got a long way to go before I reach the point where vulnerability feels okay.
5. Lack of Direction
The last reason I haven’t published anything until now is that I’ve lost my bearings. I’ve spent the last two years working through a lot of personal issues—old truths have faltered, old beliefs have died, and none have come to replace them. I have become that sailor Seneca was talking about: “There is no favorable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go.”
How am I to write an article if I have no clarity in my own goals and direction? I’ve learned that when we write something, we must start with the conclusion: what point are we trying to get across? I struggle with this. I have so many questions, but hardly any answers.
But maybe that’s exactly the point. Maybe that’s the lesson I have to learn: it’s okay to not have all the answers. As long as we keep asking the questions and searching for the truth, we continue to grow.