Does it ever feel to you like your writing is flatlining? Are you bored by the sound of your own voice coming off the page? Tired of trying to find new ways to discuss your obsessions?
Me too — and I’m a professional writer.
When I feel like no one is paying attention to what I’m saying, I often take the non-strategic step of shutting up. Or shutting down. If nobody is going to play my way, run over to join in my conversation and connection games, I feel like just taking my ball of words and going home.
Yet this can be a very fruitful time to set ideas on the page. After all, as an entrepreneur, I am a problem-solver. Though I mostly think of solving problems for my clients, the fact is that I’m an experts on the problems inside my own head. Why not share those with others whose struggles mirror mine, people who could benefit from knowing “It’s not just me”?
It isn’t just you. People use all sorts of tools to get in touch with the notion that there are patterns. From personality diagnostics to astrology, from mapping our genome (“So that’s why I have freckles”) to tracking your biorhythms (“Here comes my period!”). Finding and naming patterns is something humans are as capable of as any animal who can be habituated — and with our massive brains, we find ways to talk ourselves into self-blame for what might in fact be a kind of destiny.
We often hear this framed as an opposition of nature and nurture, yet I think that’s mostly because of the poetic chiming of these words in English. There are so many other factors that influence us and our stuckness and problems all the time: weather, food, conflict, conversations, the smell that reminds us of a moment we’d forgotten (for better or worse).
The point I’m making (and I am making one, I assure you) is that sharing our common human miseries, foibles, distractions, weaknesses, setbacks, breakdowns, and wild-ass wrong guesses help get us through the night. And the day.
The times you are most stuck may be the time your reader most needs you to write.
Write, please, about the problems you’re having. Presenting yourself as perfect or even competent when you feel utterly the opposite pushes away the very people who might be able to help you move forward, out of the thicket and into the clearing. Knowing how someone else navigated the dark woods makes exploring it safer, and regardless of the power of positive thinking, life has dark, difficult times. So does business. By sharing your own story, you give others the strength and hope to move themselves forward — or to turn for help to someone who understands their struggles intimately.
Composition note: This is all entirely true. I keep writing things I hate reading. My mantra is that if it bores me it bores my reader. My less-true mantra is that naming negative experiences is the same as whining, and that whining is not allowed. I hate whining and tend to identify things as whines that are often the drone of self-hatred. That’s another problem.
What stories can you tell to help others get through their own shit? Please comment.