I’m teaching a kid to ride a bicycle. “Be careful not to run into that mailbox”, I tell her. She doesn’t know how to steer yet, so she zeroes in on the mailbox, focussing so hard on not hitting it that she rams it head on. If I hadn’t said anything, she’d be fine.
You didn’t come here to read about bicycles, so what’s my point?
You’re trying to write something, doesn’t matter what it is – let’s say there’s a guy in your department, he’s unpleasant, he does his job badly. You want to get rid of him. So you’re writing a report to your boss about him. But there’s all these things you can’t say – you don’t want to look like a snitch. You can’t be sarcastic and snippy. You can’t be insulting or angry. You can’t be unprofessional. So this half page report takes 8 hours to write, every sentence rewritten a dozen times.
Or you’re writing a blog post. You’re outraged, and everyone loves a good rant. If you can throw some useful info in there as well, it’ll be a hit, right? But you’re not free to write what you want. You want to point fingers and name names. You want to accuse the guilty and call them to account. You want everyone to know and to destroy their reputation. But you’re afraid of the backlash, that people won’t trust you anymore, or that they’ll write a rebuttal that says worse things about you.
Every time you go to write, you’re choked by all these things you can’t say. Your funny, angry tirade becomes a dry recitation of facts.
So what’s my point?
First, to get past writers block, one way is to make shorter the list of things you can’t write. After all, no one is forcing you to publish anything. You can write any vile, mean-spirited, angry thing you want, if you store it on an encrypted hard drive under a folder called “Tax Documents ’05 to 09”.
Second, I’m not hard enough to take my own advice – I stopped writing on my blog shitjobtales.blogspot.com because all the things that made good stories were things that would cause my parents and my brother to give me a hard time. Hey, maybe they had a point. Probably they did. But I got so tired of having to censor myself for them that I stopped writing. Sure, I could just disregard them and write what I wanted anyway, but every time I write something raw online, it causes fights in my family. So this is why I’m into technical writing now. Just the facts, as clear as possible. No emotions, no opinions. Does it still have value?
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