award-winning, national bestselling author

Brenda Harlen

Blogger’s Block

Posted on: September 1st, 2013 by Brenda Harlen 4 Comments

fingers on keyboard blog photoAs a writer, one of the questions I hear most frequently is “where do you get your ideas?” Other writers I know have come up with clever responses to this standard question (my favorite response: well, actually, there’s this warehouse in Tulsa . . .) The truth is, I’ve never struggled to find story ideas. My problem has always been that I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them all. Until now.

When I sat down to write my first blog, I was excited. It was a blank page and I could fill it with whatever I wanted. I could write about my recent trip to Washington, D.C. with my husband and two kids this summer. I could write about—and lament—the fact that summer is almost over. I could write about—and celebrate—the fact that the end of summer means the kids will be going back to school and I can get back to my usual writing schedule.

But when I sat down and looked at the blank page (okay—I actually sat down in front of the computer so it was a blank screen rather than a blank page, but the gist is the same), my mind remained equally blank. I didn’t know what to say or where to start.

One of the reasons I love being an author is that I have control (or at least the illusion of control) over the lives of my fictional characters. I can make them do all kinds of things that I would never do myself, because they are strong and bold, adventurous and brave. They are willing to tackle almost any obstacle I put in their paths. (Of course there is the occasional character who isn’t always happy to comply with my wishes and who will refuse to do anything I want him to do—and yes, my choice of the male pronoun was deliberate—but that might be a good topic for another day . . . ) I’m not like that. I tend to be wary of the unknown, much more comfortable with the familiar. And for me, writing a blog falls directly into the “unknown” category.

One thing that I do know is research. (Apparently having to write all of those history papers in university taught me something more than that the catalyst for the First World War was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914.)  So I decided to start at the beginning and determine what exactly a blog is supposed to be and, thereby, establish my purpose in writing one.

According to A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts.

Some of those definitions were a little off-putting to me. A daily pulpit? I’m planning to blog at least once a month, maybe once a week if I start to get the hang of it, but the prospect of making this a daily commitment isn’t just intimidating but unrealistic for me. A political soapbox? I’m not usually one to get up on a soapbox (although exceptions may be made if I’m extremely passionate about a topic or have had more than two glasses of wine), so I don’t foresee this becoming a venue for my political views. I decided that the definition that best suited what I wanted was share my private thoughts and opinions on various topics or issues.

Of course, that still didn’t help me narrow down a subject for this blog . . .

For the first time in my life, I had to write something and I didn’t know what to write.

Was it possible . . . could this be . . . writer’s block?

I’ll be honest—I’ve never really believed in writer’s block. (Of course, I say that with my fingers crossed so as not to upset the creative muses who have always been so good to me.) In fact, I’ve often suspected that writer’s block is simply an excuse given by writers who, for whatever reason, have not been writing. Don’t get me wrong, I can come up with as many excuses as the next person for not writing, and I often do. It’s an undeniable fact that our lives are busy and other things can and do get in the way. But I believe that what makes someone a writer isn’t the ability to find time to write, it’s her determination to make time to write.

And when I’m writing under a deadline, you can bet I make plenty of time to write.

I don’t always like what I write, and it sometimes seems as if I spend as much time editing as I do writing, but I make sure I sit down every day and put some words on the page. They aren’t always the right words, but as long as they get me started, they affirm that I’m a writer.

So that was the approach I decided to take with this blog. Just sit down and put some words on the page and see where they might lead.

I didn’t have a strict deadline for my first blog, but I had decided that I would start blogging in September. Since today is September 1st, I made myself sit down and write. Maybe this wasn’t the most interesting blog topic. In fact, I’m sure it wasn’t, but now I can say that my first blog post is done.

Maybe next week I’ll edit it 🙂

4 Responses

  1. Sheryl says:

    Well, the first one is done and out of the way. Yay!
    Now you can write about the things that excite you. Start with good grammar and proper spelling 😀

  2. Susan says:

    Great job! I will be, after much procrastination, posting my first blog this week as well. Thanks for leading the way 🙂

  3. Leanne says:

    Great first post. I have had a blog since April, but you wouldn’t know it because I had no idea what to write or where to start. So I didn’t!
    I think you overcame that perfectly. A great man once said ‘just start writing and see where it goes’
    Thanks for inspiring me to start blogging (or at least start writing again)

  4. Congratulations, Brenda! Taking that first step is so important, and you are so right when you said “what makes someone a writer isn’t the ability to find time to write, it’s her determination to make time to write”. Now, if you’ll excuse me I should do just that!

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