A New Form of Writing Block

I’m learning something new about writing inhibitions. I’ve always known that a block could inhibit not only the writing itself, but also completing a writing project and even submitting writing for publication. I’ve worked with clients who fall into the latter two categories. They have no trouble sitting down and writing pages and pages about whatever interests them. But many of them have great difficulty completing the writing process for any of those pages. And by that, I mean revising and refining what they’ve already captured. They come to see me with hundreds of pages of writing that’s been lying stagnant and chaotic in their metaphorical drawers.

Other writers are able to complete the revision process, paying close attention to the pacing, the musculature, the grace of their prose, but become completely stuck when it is time to send that writing into the world. I’ve worked with writers who have completed two entire novels they have turned their backs on, to begin a third.

I’ve helped most of these writers figure out just what was keeping them from moving on to the next stage of the writing process. Usually, it’s not all that different from what prevents writers from sitting down to write in the first place.
But now I myself am confronting a writing inhibition I’ve never had to deal with before: promoting my book. You’d think that once her book was published and out in the world, a writer could sit back and enjoy what is these days a major success. Though that was true in the past, it’s no longer true, and writers today are asked to commit body and soul to getting word about their book out to the world.

Doing this requires standing tall and large. It requires bringing your book to the attention of everybody you encounter. It requires thinking of all kinds of new ways to sell your book. It requires asking favors of friends. And accepting those favors.

That’s where I find myself right now. And I tell you, it’s a struggle for me. A mighty struggle. And it’s a struggle for many of the same reasons getting words onto the page once was. Standing center stage was dangerous when I was growing up. My family didn’t tolerate it very well. Which means that I learned to make myself very small, or to disappear altogether. And now, trying to promote “Small,” I feel like a terribly greedy person asking favors of friends. I feel self-centered for constantly mentioning my book. I feel undeserving. Unworthy.

Luckily, now I know how to be nice to myself. How to make myself feel safe. I learned how to do this while I was working through my paralyzing writing block. And I am confident I can do it again, not to put words on the page this time, but to put word about my book out into the universe.

This is all part of being nice to myself. And the first “niceness” I’m going to offer myself is to publish this blog post. Confessing my struggle, not keeping it to myself–and not feeling ashamed–is the first step to picking myself up and beginning to stand tall.

4 thoughts on “A New Form of Writing Block”

  • Thank you for this beautiful post. I’ve been doing a lot of self-discovery on the root of my beliefs and, like you, they come back to my childhood environment. I appreciate how I learn more about myself and my writing through you. Thank you, Jane Anne!
    PS I am away for a month and brought three books with me. One of them is Small.

  • What a wonderful post. I understand this difficulty well. I love your book and your blog and your beautiful photos. Keep at it dear Jane Anne Staw. We need your book out in the world. Small steps, small steps, day by day, just as you teach us. xoxooxoxox AGSSJFF

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