On writing, and on being blocked…

There is a WordPress forum thread entitled “Do you write because you have to or because you want to?” It also mentioned writers’ block, as it applies to bloggers.

Most responses were interesting, one or two pretentious – this was mine. Since, ultimately, I write for you – whoever you might be – I thought I’d share it with you.

I write because I want to, and also because I can. Would I write if I had no readers? Yes, but I’d certainly write something entirely different!

And I write because I have a regular readership who, if I want their loyalty and interest, equally deserve mine.

I have had spells when I haven’t written for a while (I’m seriously ill, it’s not always possible), but being blocked is never a problem. Nor, really, should it be for a blogger.

For a professional writer it’s different – novelists can all too easily write themselves into a corner and find themselves blocked for a while, it kinda goes with the territory for pretty much every author at some point. And that’s understandable. A blocked blogger, though – nope, I just don’t get that.

For me there’s a whole world out there to rummage around in, and on any given day there will always be something that will spark my interest and creativity. But then, I spend a lot of time reading online too – if inspiration won’t come to me, I’ll go looking for it. I’ve been writing blogs now for six years, and I can honestly say that I’ve never been stuck for something to write about.

It helps, of course, not to give your blog a name that ties you to a specific subject – that’ll seriously cramp anybody’s style (especially if there are many thousands of bloggers writing about it). But, if you can’t write about whatever your chosen subject is, write about something else – some of my most successful posts have been written just on a whim – you simply cannot predict what will take off on any given day. So try something new, it might surprise you.

I started out saying that one of the reasons I write is because I can – I’m one of those people who, if they can’t do something well, would rather not do it at all. For some people, the end result of that attitude would be not doing anything at all, so I suppose you might say I’m pretty lucky.

You’d be wrong. It takes work, and a lot of it, over many years. (Note that this is not the same thing, at all, as being a perfectionist!)

NB: This is a slightly changed and expanded version, if you click through to the original.

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6 thoughts on “On writing, and on being blocked…

  1. You caught my attention when you were the first person who seemed to be aware of the blatant treatment by the Router manufactures to the users of Kindle and Nook. It is shameful that they can get away from not providing a password that will work for Kindle and NOOk, They give the address and say it will work on your internet with no excepts .Amazon is no help with this problem. Keep writing Ron.
    Old Tom

    • Thing is Tom, you can’t have a one-size-fits-all solution. It has to be a secure link, the same way a PC is securely linked to the router. I told Amazon what they referred to as a password (dumb, as most people have lots of passwords if they spend much time online), was the Network Key within hours of getting it. And even if I was the only person to do so – which I doubt – they could have changed it on later models, and posted a message on the Kindle site. As that post is still getting loads of hits, clearly they’ve done neither.

      Ron.

  2. Hi Ron, I’ve been ambling around your blog and enjoying reading it as usual. Re. the Red Ed/David election, I’m sure that at least some of the voters weren’t sure who was who and got them confused.

    Btw – congratulations on your Platinum status on Wellsphere, and on the forthcoming publication of one of your posts in an academic publication. Not many bloggers achieve anything like that kind of recognition! As you say, pity there’s no dosh in it – but you never know what might come of it..

    • Hi Deborah,

      That was my thought – no money, but it does put me in front of a new audience.

      And this morning I’ve had a request to republish my Lightning Process post.

      Update: The guy making that enquiry presented it as a one-off publication. Looking at the website, distribution would be pretty much unlimited and beyond my control http://groups.google.co.uk/group/meshare?hl=en That’s really not on.

      Earlier this year, too, I had a comment from a European group of pneumonia specialists, acknowledging my posts about the pneumonia vaccine, and a few UK GP practices regularly appear on my stats, so even if my hit rate isn’t vast – generally around 400 a day – I do seem to be having a modest impact.

      As for the vote, you may well be right – 10% of the union voters couldn’t even fill in the ballot form correctly.

  3. “I write because I want to, and also because I can. Would I write if I had no readers? Yes, but I’d certainly write something entirely different!”

    So, this begs the question, Ron: whatever would you write if no one read it but you?

    Interestingly enough, I guess, I would write no differently. Or I would write *worse* – more on what bothers me, more rants, more complaints…depressing stuff, I suppose *shivers*…I’m actually glad I don’t tempt myself to go that route. It’d be a messy waste of time, at best, methinks.

    “And I write because I have a regular readership who, if I want their loyalty and interest, equally deserve mine.”

    This is a nice place to come from. I have little loyalty to anyone, and no readerships to speak of (and when I do accidentally get a really big readership, I tend to chase it off, since I’m not fond of crowds, so…), so for me, none of that really applies.

    “I have had spells when I haven’t written for a while (I’m seriously ill, it’s not always possible), but being blocked is never a problem. Nor, really, should it be for a blogger.”

    Well, it was a big problem for me when I used to update Anti-AOL, since it was niche blogging, and there wasn’t always a lot going on to write about.

    I think all the how-tos I put together (they took forever, both from a writing and an *assembling* standpoint) filled the gap that was me saying to myself, “I want to write a news post every night about AOL”, but it being AOL, I couldn’t, since that company could go months on end with nothing newsworthy going on.

    Now that there is regular news about AOL, I don’t want to write it anymore. When Tim Armstrong took over, I got bored, and I still am.

    “For a professional writer it’s different – novelists can all too easily write themselves into a corner and find themselves blocked for a while,”…

    So true. that’s why I gave up trying to write novels about 20 years ago..

    “…it kinda goes with the territory for pretty much every author at some point. And that’s understandable. A blocked blogger, though – nope, I just don’t get that.”

    Now that I don’t try to update Anti-AOL and just concentrate on my personal blog, I’m never blocked, either. But there are still days, nights, or entire weeks where I have nothing to say. It’s not a feeling of being “blocked’, it’s just…”disinterested”, I guess…where I feel like I have nothing to offer. So I don’t update until I do.

    “…I spend a lot of time reading online too – if inspiration won’t come to me, I’ll go looking for it.”

    This is me, too, exactly. I did the same thing with my last blog and I do it now with my personal blog. Sometimes I feel I do indeed have something to offer before I even know what it is, but I can always find it.

    “It helps, of course, not to give your blog a name that ties you to a specific subject – that’ll seriously cramp anybody’s style (especially if there are many thousands of bloggers writing about it).”

    Exactly, as said above. Niche writing is wonderful because you can really drill down deep into your topic – you literally have nothing else to write that your readership cares about – but it can be awful for the same reason- it’s limiting.

    “But, if you can’t write about whatever your chosen subject is, write about something else – some of my most successful posts have been written just on a whim – you simply cannot predict what will take off on any given day.”

    This is absolutely true, too. Every popular post I’ve written was on a whim, and none of those covered subject matter I normally deal with.

    Good post, Ron. :)

    • Hi,

      Thanks for that.

      Regarding niche blogging, I’ve found that my particular niche – COPD, disability and benefits – was rapidly filling up with little scope for saying anything new. Despite certain “expert bloggers” claiming that stepping outside one’s niche is the kiss of death, I’ve not found it so. Not least because there appears to be no shortage of new people who want to read what I’ve already written, and there seems to be a ready audience for the new, rather more general, stuff, too.

      Write well enough, and there are enough people out there that you almost can’t fail to interest somebody. The trick is keeping them interested!

      Ron.

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