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A number of years ago I attended my first writer’s workshop. I was a sophomore in college, an English Literature major with ambitions of becoming the next great American novelist (honestly who among us hasn’t had that dream?). The presiding professor was a member of the old guard of American Literature—he was a relatively accomplished short story writer with strong convictions about what constitutes great fiction. He was one of those strict disciplinarians that you learn to respect and admire over time.
One of the best lessons that I learned from this professor while I was in college was what to do about writer’s block. As you can imagine, I experienced quite a bit of writer’s block during those first few attempts at crafting my own fiction. He said that the key to breaking a case of writer’s block was to continue writing, even if you’re writing nothing more than “Why can’t I write a full sentence I hate doing this blah blah blah.” All that mattered was that we kept writing.
This professor also encouraged our class to maintain writing journals that we were expected to update every day. The writing journal was meant to be a place where we could write every day, regardless of whether or not we felt like writing fiction. It was a safe place where we could log emotions, ruminations, stray thoughts, and even story ideas without worrying that someone else would see them. The sheer act of writing in that journal helped break the spell of writer’s block more than a few times, just because it forced me to engage my thoughts and put them to paper on a daily basis.
I don’t keep up with my writing journal that much now, though I still experience writer’s block from time to time. Now I combat writer’s block by blogging, which I consider to be the modern form of journaling and chronicling one’s thoughts. Like with journaling, blogging is a writing medium that allows me free reign over my thoughts without that anxiety that someone will read them. I can keep the contents of my blog all to myself, or I can make it accessible to select writing colleagues, or even open it to the public.
But the privacy settings don’t matter. What matters is that I blog every day. Sometimes I write about thoughts in my head that need to be substantiated so I can make sense of them; other times I’ll write some commentary about a news headline that strikes my interest or gets me going on a rant. The point is that I’ve used the blogging medium to condition myself to write every day, whether or not I want to. And believe me, there are many days where I’d rather not look at the blinking cursor on a blank page; I’d rather read a book, take a walk, phone a friend—anything but write.
But if I don’t write every day, how am I supposed to improve my skills?
How does blogging figure into your writing routine?
Samantha Gray is a freelance higher education blogger writing about the influence of web and mobile technologies on today’s college students. She writes for a number of higher education sites including bachelorsdegreeonline.com. Samantha welcomes your comments!
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