I’ve read that a blogger should have a list of 30 or so blogs already written before she begins a blog. This is so that she won’t be faced with what I find myself troubled with today: what to blog about. The homework assignment in my “Blog Triage” self-study class tells me to:

1. choose a topic you’re ready to blog about.

2. from the list provided, choose three different people.

3. write the post three times, each with a different reader in mind.

4. post the entry the most closely expresses your voice on your blog before continuing to the next lesson.

There follows a list of six people for me to choose among.

Photo by Paul Harrop

Problem is, I’m still stuck at #1: Choose a topic you’re ready to blog about.

I don’t have a topic at hand that I am ready to blog about.

This makes me think of how as writers we sometimes get stuck because we don’t know what we want to write about. Or rather, we have so many things we want to write about we get paralyzed by infinite choice. That’s where I find myself today: Stuck.

So, that part of my brain that wants to help out when I’m stuck, that soothing, we can make this better, part suggests I go to the kitchen for another handful of M&Ms. Or maybe, it offers, go ahead and take a shower now instead of after you’ve finished your blog assignment. Won’t it be easier to come back to then? “You know you always get some of your best ideas in the shower.” Plus, my mind goes reminds me,  I haven’t had lunch yet. And  there’s the yoga class I wanted to get to later this afternoon. “You can write the blog after you come back from yoga,” that voice tells me, the tone so convincing.

This is my mind on “spin.” This is how time set aside for writing can go by without any actual writing happening. This can go on for hours and sometimes does.

But wait, look. I’ve written a blog post about what happens when writers get stuck before the blank page or the blank screen. Once again, it proves to me that if I start with a simple word prompt, in this case “stuck,”and  do a focused, timed writing to the prompt, I’ll find myself writing. It reminds me, once again, that if I get the ink flowing or the fingers flying on the keyboard, the blank page will soon be filled with words. Not all of them good words, mind you, and not all of them keepers, but words on the page. This is the measure of a writer writing .

Now, I think I’ll brainstorm a list of 20 topics I want to blog about. I’ll do it at the kitchen table while I eat lunch.

How do you get your words on the page?

PS. Here’s a list of 33 ways to get unstuck from A Writer’s Book of Days. How to Get Unstuck

20 Ways to Make it Better (#2)

#2. Write in your own voice

Remember Eddie Haskell on the old television program, “Leave it to Beaver”?

“How are you today, Mrs. Cleaver? You certainly look lovely.” “Isn’t it a lovely day today, Mrs. Cleaver?” He had this way of speaking to June Cleaver that was so fake, so phony. Not at all the way he spoke with Wally and The Beav. June didn’t believe him and neither did we.

Do you ever talk that way in your public voice? “Unaccustomed as I am…” “May I inquire…” Does it ever seep over into your writing?

Sometimes if we go for what we think of as proper or educated or smart, instead of sounding smart, we wind up sounding stilted. The natural rhythms and cadences of our real voices are absent and we don’t sound like ourselves or even anyone we know.

Here’s the thing: your own voice is the place and people you come from, the language you learned at the kitchen table and in the back yard. Your own voice comes naturally. Grace Paley said, “If you say what’s on your mind in the language that comes to you from your parents and your street and friends, you’ll probably say something beautiful.”

If you’re having difficulty getting words down on the page, if you feel like you’re arm-wrestling with your pen, if you scratch out and rewrite, if you think instead of writing, especially first-draft writing, then you can bet you’re not writing in your own natural, authentic voice.

Brenda Euland advises, ” Try to discover your true, honest, untheoretical self.”

How to do it? Just get a prompt, set the timer and let ‘er rip. You’ll clean it up later, but what you might discover in that messy draft on the page is your own beautiful, authentic, original voice.