Blog-Blocked

by Rob Gregory Browne

Photo-22I have never believed in writer's block. I've always felt that no matter how dire things might seem, no matter how stuck you might get in a story, no matter how difficult it might be to start a story, as long as you put your fat ass in that chair and start typing, something will come.

Because it has to.

Every writer in this crowd — every novelist, at least — knows how wonderful writing that first book was.  You may have given yourself a specific amount of time to write it or you may have simply written whenever you could, whenever you felt inspired.  But your time was your own.  You were
beholden to no one but yourself — and, quite possibly, to the family and friends you kept promising would one day hold your published book in their hands.

But again, as every writer in the crowd knows, once you get that publishing deal, you are under the gun.  You must write or perish — and that's a completely different mindset. 

That mindset, in fact, can often result in what Harley Jane Kozak calls Secondbookitis, in which the writer spends an entire year (depending on his or her deadline) screaming inside, a bundle of nerves and raw emotion, victim to late-night crying jags and a feeling of dread so pervasive that it's a wonder you can drag yourself out of bed and over to the word processor every morning.

But we do it.  We manage to sit our asses down (fat fat fat fat fat) and put our fingers on the keyboard and let them fly.

Because we have to.

So I don't believe in writer's block, simply because I can't afford to.  I have a deadline to meet, so I meet it (more or less.  Okay, Mr. Resnick, quit laughing).

Unfortunately, I have come across something that, while not potentially as devastating as writer's block, is certainly cause for concern:

Blogger's Block.

I used to write a blog called Anatomy of a Book Deal.  For two years or so, I would write a new entry every two or three days and, at its peak, the blog was getting around thirty thousand unique hits a month.  Since I was chronicling the evolution of my career as a virgin novelist, I had no trouble finding subject matter and blogging became part of my weekly routine.  It was an effortless enterprise, a chance for me to share the wonderful experience I was going through at the time.

But I didn't just write the blog.  I also became a comment whore.  I went to dozens of writing blogs and commented on nearly every post I read.  Part of this was PR and part of it was, again, the desire to share.

I think if you took all of my blog entries and all of the comments I made on other blogs over that period of time, you'd probably have enough material for half a dozen books.  Extremely boring books, no doubt, but what I may have lacked in quality, I made up for with enthusiasm (wait — how did my sex life wind up in this?).

Then, shortly after the release of my first book (KISS HER GOODBYE, a great gift for your friends and loved ones), I experienced blog burnout. 

And I wasn't the only one.  Nearly all of my friends who were coming up with me at around the same time, had also been blogging furiously, and whenever the subject of blogs was brought up you could hear the collective groan all the way across the Atlantic.

We were all suffering from blog burnout.

And slowly but surely, we all began to blog less and less, many of us shifting over to group blogs like Murderati so that it became a twice monthly deadline rather than every other day.

But despite the burnout, I've still managed to come here every two weeks and find something to say.  What I've had to say hasn't always been compelling — as evidenced by the low comment count at times — but at least I've managed to find something.

Until now, that is.

I am, ladies and gentlemen, suffering from a terrible, terrible case of blogger's block. 

Even though I knew my deadline was approaching, that I had a post to write for Murderati, I could not for the life of me figure out what to write about today.  Every time I thought about it, the wall would go up and that wall must be made of lead, because nothing can penetrate it.

I tried going back through all the recent Murderati posts to see if any of them would spur something, but no luck.  I went to other blogs to see what they were talking about, hoping I could rip-off some interesting subject matter.

No luck.

So here I sit, writing about not being able to write.  Or, more specifically, not being able to write a blog entry.  Not an earth-shattering worry, I suppose, but it does raise some concern. 

I'm blog blocked and I think there's only one thing that can save me:

Taking some time off.  So, I've decided, for the next two weeks I won't be writing another blog post.  No matter how much you might beg me, no matter how many comments you may throw my way, I will not be contributing to Murderati again until Wednesday, April 8th.

In the meantime, I have to ask you if I'm alone in this.  Do those of you who write blogs ever feel as if you have just completely exhausted any and all subject matter to blog about?  Do those of you who read blogs find your eyes glazing over when the writers of said blogs start to bitch and moan that they have absolutely nothing to say? 

I'm beginning to understand the appeal of Twitter.  You have 140 characters to get to the point.  Will there be a day when one of my tweets goes something like this? —

"I'm tweet blocked."

21 thoughts on “Blog-Blocked

  1. JJ Cooper

    I’m well into Secondbookitis and showing some early signs of Blogger’s Block. Could just be nervous anticipation of the debut’s release that has me surfing blogs rather than writing my own blog posts or finishing that second book.

    Maybe it’s the baby waking for a feed or her two-year old brother screaming at his six-year-old brother that has sent my concentration levels to an all-time low and the blog laying idle and neglected.

    Then again, the constant buzzing of the work Blackberry is grating too and does little to inspire my need to blog. Why do workmates seek to impress bosses by sending emails at midnight? We all know the emails were written earlier and programmed to be sent at a latter time.

    Twelve to fourteen hour workdays sometimes drain me of that creative urge to blog. Even on my time off, after cutting through the backyard jungle and tending to the odd jobs around the house, again I struggle with the motivation to blog. I do, however, get into that second book. Even one para or a page.

    I suppose, someone pays me to work and to write a couple of books. I have responsibilities as a father, husband and homeowner. Prioritising is tough at times. So, blogging gets dropped right off the radar. When I do get that ‘blogging time’, I generally have no idea what to write because my brain is melted by this stage.

    JJ

    Reply
  2. Alexandra Sokoloff

    Oh, man, do I know this feeling. I hit that wall about six months ago (Pari and JT will surely remember my desperate pleas for another ‘Rati to share Saturdays…)

    I realized I simply had nothing left to say about myself.

    That’s when I started doing the story structure blogs. And I realized I had no problem writing about SOMETHING – I just couldn’t write about ME any more.

    Now I have the best of both worlds – my most excellent Saturday partner Cornelia, and a sincere desire to blog not just every week, but sometimes twice a week on my own blog.

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  3. Dana King

    I don’t have any novels published (several in the drawer), but I sometimes have trouble keeping new things on my two blogs. One is strictly for writing and the other is for whatever comes to mind, but sometimes I can’t think of a topic on which I have anything interesting enough to say, and I’d rather be interesting less often than boring every day. (Some would argue that I am boring less often this way, but that’s another discussion.)

    You may be blocked, but at least you haven’t sunk to the level of begging for comments.

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  4. pari

    Sometimes I feel blocked, Rob. I think every writer does in whatever format he or she writes in.

    You WILL get Twitter-blocked someday. I guarantee it.

    For me, writing a weekly blog is excellent practice in forcing myself to push past whatever creative obstacles there are in my life — to find a subject or an interviewee or something that might be interesting to explore.

    I like the responsibility . . . most of the time.

    And I hope what I write is relevant at least some of the time.

    Reply
  5. Scott

    I hit the wall late last year, too. In 2008, my blog evolved into a review blog. I had a schedule, too. Monday = music; Tues = book review; Wed = short story reviews; Thurs = chapters from my first novel; Fri = Forgotten book review (which I was reading for the first time). I got lots of hits and I enjoyed the comments but it was too much. I suffered from Secondbookitis in that I couldn’t finish it because I was blogging too dang much. Now, I’m pulling back a bit. My only regular gig is the Friday forgotten book reviews. Ditto for commenting. I do comment but I keep them short.

    Oh, and on the second book thing, I’m writing a new second book. We’ll see how that goes…

    BTW, great entry today, especially on the bliss of the first book.

    Reply
  6. Rob Gregory Browne

    JJ, after reading that description of your life with young ones, I’m wondering how you managed to even write a five paragraph comment. I see Twitter in your future.

    Alex, I think you made a great move shifting to craft. And when it comes time to write a book for Writer’s Digest, all you’ll have to do is pull up the old posts.

    Dana, unfortunately, I sank to the level of begging for comments long ago.

    Pari, everything you write is relevant. If I don’t always comment, it’s because apparently I’m comment-blocked as well.

    Scott, thanks for the compliment — you’re being too generous — and I can fully understand having to give up that blog schedule. I’d be in some serious therapy if I had to deal with a schedule like that.

    Reply
  7. Louise Ure

    Like Alex, I hit the blog block wall about six months ago. And I didn’t even have a weekly scheduled to complain about!

    I don’t know how to solve it.

    I’m not articulate enough to write about the craft of writing, so that’s out. And if I write more about me, you’ll all know just how arid and sad my normal life is. Want to hear about getting my taxes done this week?

    Hopefully I can come up with something better by next Tuesday.

    Reply
  8. Josephine Damian

    RGB, you are a man after my own heart. Whether you’re published or a wannabe – time spent blogging is time spent NOT writing.

    Yeah, it’s nice to have an outlet when you feel the need to share – but blogging doesn’t pay the bills (not that writing novels pays well either but you get the point).

    Being tied to any kind of blogging schedule is hell – I thought Ken Bruen was smart to drop out of Murderati and the pressure to HAVE to write some blog post when he’d rather be writing his novel.

    What I love most about twitter is that it’s replaced my need to blog or visit other people’s blog. I’m much more fun, chatty and conversational there as opposed to my bombastic blogging self.

    I can already see how blogging is becoming passe because of twitter and facebook.

    Reply
  9. Joyce Tremel

    I’m not only blog-blocked, I’m comment blocked. I read several blogs, but rarely comment anymore.

    I post every Thursday on Working Stiffs, but I’ve been thinking about taking a break, too. It’s sheer torture trying to write a post every week, and it’s difficult to find guest bloggers to fill in. It’s too time consuming. My time would be better spent doing the real writing, which hopefully will earn me a dollar or two in the near future.

    Reply
  10. Allison Brennan

    I never know what to say. I’ll often stare at my bookshelves, hoping a topic will jump out at me. My topic Saturday was because I’d JUST had the conversation about taking a pen name for a second genre before I wrote the blog. And I thought, wow, blog topic! And I still had six hours to write it . . .

    Every book after the first suffers from secondbookitis. Why? Because you’re only as good as your last book. Believe me, it can be paralyzing.

    Reply
  11. Gayle Carline

    As a first-time author, I understand the importance of blogging. By talking about my book’s characters and themes, and tagging the right words, I’ve gotten: 1) interest in my book from a Dean Martin fan, because one of my characters is a Dino fanatic; 2) an offer of free samples for a drink mixer, because I mentioned my protagonist likes dirty martinis; 3) a wealth of idea-sharing from other writers about marketing. With the hundreds of thousands of books being published every year, I’ll take every piece of publicity I can get.

    That being said, I’m iffy about my blogging. Talking about myself endlessly makes me feel too, you know, self-centered, precious, yucky, etc. I like to talk about the process of writing, but it feels like I’ve got an imp on my shoulder, yelling, “Who the hell asked you?” So I try to write once a week, and make the subject something I think might interest the readers. I also end each blog with a question or two. Mostly, this is a pitiful bid for comments (*tapping mike* is this thing on?), but at the very least, I’m hoping to make people think about something.

    Gayle Carlinehttp://gaylecarline.blogspot.com

    Reply
  12. J.D. Rhoades

    I occasionally have trouble coming up with a topic for a Murderati post, since it has to be something at least arguably book related. Likewise, the newspaper column is occasionally frustrating because it’s a set length, and I need to at last attempt to be amusing while talking about politics, journalism, or pop culture. That, and I can’t say “fuck” in the newspaper.

    On the personal blog, though, since I can talk about anything–books, politics, movies, neat stuff I’ve found on the ‘net–I sometimes have to slow myself down and remind myself that I’ve already posted several times recently. I am turning the orientation more towards the “neat stuff and pop culture obeservations” because “all politics all the time” was getting boring, even to me.

    Reply
  13. Becky Hutchison

    When I first discovered writing blogs, I would pour over them and blog back almost every day or so. Now I’m getting blog-reading burn out. I’m visiting fewer blogs daily and backblogging less. Murderati is one of only three blogs that I still read daily, and that’s because I love the variety of your bloggers and your topics.

    I guess I’m realizing that the more I type online, the less I type offline, which results in an uncompleted manuscript. Luckily I still forget to read my Facebook page, and I don’t see the thrill of Twitter (except I know that Stephen Colbert has “twatted”). So maybe there’s still hope for a finished product some day.

    Reply
  14. Kathryn Lilley

    I don’t feel at all comfortable blogging about myself, I only like to blog about writing-oriented topics. Recently, my posts “read” almost like an online creative writing class. The other night I woke up and thought, I really love blogging about the craft of writing. Maybe I should start teaching. Or write a book about writing. So maybe we can frame our blog “flows and blocks” as a compass that can help us steer us toward new directions. Or away from old directions that are no longer working for us.

    Reply

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