On the one hand, I agree with them, as the research and examples they cite show that statement to be true: what many of us perceive or project as "writer's block" is merely something in our own heads. On the other hand, there's the reality of my recent life, as I have not written much at all over the past two years, during which I have been experiencing something like writer's block, myth though it may be.
So, to appease the writing teachers and my own conscience as a writer and as a teacher, let's avoid using the term "writer's block"; instead, let's call it "writers' blog". This post, then, will serve as an investigation as to why I might be experiencing this "writer's blog" and what I might do to solve it. And with that in mind, it makes sense to start by determining just what has actually happened over the past two years.
The unwritten posts
Other than a very prolific publishing year in 2016 (thanks largely to writing while I was substitute teaching), I had settled into a fairly good rhythm of posting around 50 times per year, or an average of once a week. Posts were often released in bunches (usually depending on when I was working), but my annual rate had mostly settled. But then I mostly stopped publishing early in 2018, and aside from a few topical posts about the Oscars and the Toronto Maple Leafs, I have not blogged consistently for almost two years (although I did publish a reflection on the recent Canadian election earlier this week).
It's not that I have not wanted to write - in fact, I have either conceived of or have begun drafting dozens of posts - including at least one previous post about posts I wanted to write - since I was last posting consistently in the fall of 2017, but I have not written anything publishable outside of those subjects in that time.
Many of these unwritten posts were about external media or current events, but I also had a number of ideas for posts about things that were going on in my life, like buying a house or having a baby or starting a new job or being a teacher-librarian or any of the other various changes in my life that have happened in a short span.
I miss having these posts to serve as a time capsule of the things I was thinking or experiencing, but yet I still found it very difficult to find or make the time to write, despite having many ideas. I certainly had enough to write about; even if I had not posted about my personal life, I could easily have posted two or three times per month just based on what I was watching, reading, hearing, or experiencing.
For example, I have wanted to write posts about movies (Avengers: Infinity War; Blade Runner 2049; Spider-Man: Far From Home; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Thor: Ragnarok), albums (U2's Songs of Experience, Muse's Simulation Theory), TV shows (Disenchantment, Arrested Development), or even more about the Academy Awards (a further exploration of the "Popular Film" Oscar in August 2018, or an examination of Best Pictures after the recent Green Book win).
It was not until May 2019, however, that I really started to feel the pull to start writing again and that I distinctly regretted not writing and publishing a variety of topical posts: the impact of Rachel Held Evans on my life after her unexpected death in May; a review of Avengers: Endgame; thoughts after (finally) watching through The Wire; or a celebratory post commemorating the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship.
In the summer of 2019, the inspiration continued, even if the posts did not actually make it past draft (or often even idea) form: ranking all of the movies of the MCU after the conclusion of Phase 3; a review of Season 3 of Stranger Things; a review of the limited series Good Omens with a particular focus on the intersection of religion, media, free will, and faith; and a film-by-film commentary on the work on Quentin Tarantino.
Some of those ideas may end up being published in some form at some point - perhaps upon rewatching Endgame, or upon the publishing of Evans' posthumously released book, or in the midst of the seemingly inevitable campaign for Tarantino's Once Upon A Time in Hollywood to win Best Picture in February - but I think the window has passed for most of them, so I mention them here mostly for posterity.
Of course, that still does not explain why did not finish these posts in a publishable form, and since part of the reason for this post is solving that mystery, I have spent some time trying to figure out what's going on in my own head and why I have been experiencing this "writer's blog".
Trying to explain my "writer's blog"
There are, as I indicated earlier, some practical reasons for my absence from the blogosphere - the aforementioned list of life changes is a good start. But that's not a sufficient enough explanation to satisfy me; after all, I have still found time for other hobbies like board games, so why couldn't (or didn't) I find time to write for two years?
On some level, I felt pressure to "do it right" when I started writing again. It didn't feel like I could just start making posts about random topics again, even though that has been my modus operandi since I started publishing my work two decades ago (!); I think that I felt like I needed to have a vision and consistency and branding and a relaunch and a purpose and space to keep it up. I have wanted for almost a decade to launch my own site and to do it really well, and so I think I wanted to do that and not just to "keep blogging" as I had been, and I didn't want to start again just to stop and then try to start again and... well, the point has been made.
Then, the longer it got between posts, the more I felt like I had to justify my absence; even this post, in a sense, is a form of appeasing that unease with just launching back in (even though that's what I did with my recent political post). I have actually tried to start writing a form of this very post at least twice in the past few months in an attempt to kickstart myself back into blogging on a semi-regular basis, and I have been able to incorporate pieces of those past misfires into this post.
I realized, then, that I also often put pressure on myself in each post I write for it to be a "definitive" publishable work. I tend not to just put out a couple of half-baked paragraphs on an idea, as some bloggers do; I like to put in the time and go through the writing process and research and publish a post that is ultimately a presentable work that ostensibly could be published on a website (often with some editing, of course).
As my style had developed, I often ended up crafting these large opuses of several thousand words in which I attempted to create an authoritative response to an issue, even if that was an issue that only came up in my life, and so I felt like every post needed to be at that level, rather than just getting some ideas out.
Perhaps in the midst of those reasons is the source of my "writer's blog" - the actual writing was lost somewhere in a fog of my own ambition and my own expectations, even though no one else was agreeing with those or indeed even aware of them. But I was letting those things get to me and to prevent me from writing, even though I have consistently been encouraged by others to start writing again.
So, as it turns out, my "writer's blog" was almost entirely in my own head, and the solution seems to be just starting to take the time to write again - or, in other words, exactly what the writing theorists and teachers say happens with writer's block; go figure. I am thankful that I have learned a few things through the process of writing this post.
First, I really did need the catharsis of publishing a post like this to get going again on my blog, as I have experienced a not-insignificant amount of relief upon its completion and publishing; as silly as it is, I now feel like I can blog again, even though there was nothing stopping me at any point over the past two years, and this post has alleviated much of the emotional angst I experienced in not writing.
Second, I need to be aware of the constraints of my own expectations and pressures, and I need to allow myself to write what I can when I can. I would far rather publish shorter timely responses than to have to spend hours and hours that I usually do not have to write longer indepth definitive posts, so I will try to do that. The problem for me is that I start small and end up writing much longer (as this post even ended up around two thousand words), so I probably need to make some adaptations to my writing and/or publishing habits in order to accommodate the grace I need to give myself in order to write and publish regularly.
Third, although I really enjoy the act of publishing ideas and putting them out into the world for consideration, writing is really valuable for me as an exercise and as a hobby, and it's worth it to write even if no one else ends up reading it. Whether it's a reflection on my life or thoughts on a current event or a review of a piece of media, it's worth it to write just for my own well-being.
I just need to make time to write, period. I feel so much better when I do write (and publish); it's kind of like how I feel when I actually go to the gym and exercise. It's not easy to find the time to write, as my recent stretch has indicated, but it's very valuable to do so. I am lucky to have some extra time now to write, since my job situation has changed yet again and I often find myself with unexpected pockets of time in which I can do some writing.
With all of those conclusions in mind, I will need to remember to be gentle with myself - to write when I can and not to get too stressed out if I can't. I am hopeful that I can (and will) start writing more regularly again, regardless of whether I end up being able to publish weekly or biweekly or whatever interval works.
I think it's best for me to try to incorporate writing back into my routine and to publish what I can when I can and to let this blog be what it will be for now. There may be a point at which I can be more directed and intentional and meaningful in my blogging, but for now, the solution for me is just to write, period.