An Article About Writing An Article



Image Credit: Tan Ai Mei


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Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write.

Paul Rudnick

I have been trying to write an article about my obsession with houseplants for the past few weeks. I browsed and read everything related to plants online, in hopes of being inspired to write a coherent piece about this topic. However, the looming thought of assignments, upcoming tests, and other life tasks extinguishes any possibility of a creative spark. 

I checked my phone again. Two hours have passed. Still, nothing close to the final article is done except for a few loosely-stringed points scattered on my word document. I then find myself having no choice but to put the barely-written article aside and continue with other activities on the calendar, promising to block out a time to finish it up.

Sure enough, this cycle continues, and nothing substantial has been achieved. The publishing deadline is nearing. I am getting more anxious to finish this, but that anxiety is making this harder than it’s supposed to be. What do I do now? The article is about something that I am rather interested in (houseplants) but has now turned into another one of those obligations that I dread to complete. Do I simply write an uninspired piece and call it quits or continue dragging it along with no end in sight? 

It’s Saturday, the article is long due, and I still do not have the first draft to submit to the editors. Out of desperation and a little bit of rebellion, I came across this article on Medium, “If You Can’t Think of Anything to Write, Maybe You Should Write About It” by ​​Itxy Lopez. After reading it, I felt a sense of relief. I took comfort in knowing that another writer somewhere out there felt the same way as I did. 

I took some time to reflect. What are my reasons for not being able to write? 

Self-defined rationality

I often find myself in the situation of choosing between school obligations and writing. The so-called rational side of my brain would convince me to prioritise the more pragmatic option and postpone the writing task to some other day. 

How can I possibly justify allowing myself to spend more than the allocated hours working on something that does not ultimately contribute to whatever it is? 

What do I actually want out of writing? 

Should I even be wanting something out of writing? 

I thought about those questions for a moment. I don’t think I have concrete or straightforward answers to them. I simply want to write. There’s something nice about being about to transform my intangible thoughts into something tangible on the screen. It helps me conduct a little audit and evaluation of my pre-existing ideas. Reading and researching a little deeper into the topic also helps me understand it from other perspectives. Oftentimes, I find myself learning about coined terms or established theories that explain the personal thoughts which I find difficult to put into words. 

Insecurities and self-criticism

Writing is really difficult. It seems like it shouldn’t be this difficult. 

How should I structure the article? What words should I use? Is this sentence redundant? 

All these questions seem like they have an answer to them, and yet I can’t figure them out. I thought writing was supposed to get easier the more I write, but why does it seem like something I struggle with constantly? I thought to myself, Maybe I am just not cut out to be a writer

Perhaps, these are the necessary struggles of writing. Sometimes it just requires a little extra effort to clear the brain fog before the writing can flow. 

Overcoming the struggle (?)

While accepting the necessary struggles of writing is an important first step, there must surely be some ways to ease the process. A pair of psychologists from Yale University, Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios, dived into the empirical grounds of the phenomenon of writer’s block. Unsurprisingly, they found that blocked writers were unhappy. However, these writers were unhappy for various reasons, and can generally be grouped into four categories of unhappy blocked writers:

  1. Anxious and stressed
  2. Socially irritated
  3. Apathetic and disengaged
  4. Angry and hostile 

Singer and Barrios thought that each group would require personalised therapy to tackle their different emotional issues. However, they later discovered that simply learning to do creative work of any kind might just be the antidote to writer’s block. This was further backed by another psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania, Scott Barry Kufman, who agrees that creativity is a nonlinear process that can only be achieved through rounds of trial and error. It seems that the golden pill to overcome this block is to simply trust the process and allow ourselves to find our flow through action. 

Creative people do a lot of trial and error and rarely know where they are going exactly until they get there.

Scott Barry Kaufman

Conclusion

I am now one and a half pages into this article. I have given up on writing about houseplants and decided to write about my struggle to write. A very exciting turn of events for a slow Saturday afternoon.

Hopefully, this has been an interesting documentation of a mini struggle in my mind that I am having in the quiet library. Next time if you also find yourself stuck in the process of writing, maybe you should write about it!