Saturday, January 16, 2010

Writer's Block: Perfectionism Rearing it's Ugly Head?

It's ironic to me that as soon as I begin a blog with "365" a goal to write each day, I am frozen. Although millions of ideas flow through my busy mind each day, I cannot settle and get myself to write!

My reflections on the top 10 reasons for this block:
  1. My mind is too cluttered. I get up early every morning with the intention of writing as an entry to my day. I have fallen into the habit of checking my Twitter stream to read the latest and greatest from those I follow. Bottom line:  I need to write "before" I read.
  2. Comparing myself to others.  I feel like a little fish in a big sea. The more blogs and articles I read, the more I wonder if my writing contributes anything new or measures up. The irony is, I should write more to develop my voice and style.   
  3. Does anyone really care about what I have to say?  I don't write about anything unless I care deeply about it. The risk in sharing is that my deepest, most passionate convictions could be ignored. Which leads me to a deeper reflection: Who cares if they care?
  4. I need to use drafts more. Begin writing and edit later. There is no pressure to post immediately, yet I feel urgent as others seem to blog so often and I have chosen this "365" format.
  5. My potential audience has grown.  I have over 500 followers on Twitter and I am finally brave enough to tweet when I blog. Granted, I only usually tweet once as to not annoy anyone.  Translation: FEAR of FAILURE! Or maybe it's fear of a bad first impression. Once again, does everyone have to like me? 
  6. I am in a "learning" mode lately.* I have discovered so many resources for integrating new practices in my teaching that I am "brain tired." ( *Yes, this is just an excuse, humor me, please!)
  7. Not every post has to be perfect. I am shocked that it took this long to use "that" dreaded word, perfect. Every post should be carefully edited, as I have little tolerance for poor grammar, spelling and passive voice. Does every post need to be perfect? What is perfect anyway?
  8. I am afraid to get into trouble.  Sometimes I want to write about something school-related that I feel passionate about, but I am afraid that I might get myself fired for expressing my convictions. I  need to critically examine this obstacle. Other teachers seem to be able to express convictions without this fear. I do have tenure, but am I prepared to be the sacrificial lamb if I speak up too strongly?
  9. I feel the need to finish what I start. Somewhat related to the earlier item about drafts, I need to be okay with writing something that doesn't lead to publishing.  Sometimes brainstorming and pre-writing lead to other ideas that will be completed later. Some drafts are  more like diary entries that are key for my understanding but not for all eyes to see. 
  10. I have many varied interests.  Now why would this be a barrier to writing? I suppose it's more about deciding "which" blog to post something on that holds me back at times.  I am very interested in the cross-section between brain research, strengths, positive psychology and education. I teach kindergarten full-time but also coach/tutor students between the ages of 8 and 18. My experiences as a former therapist and foster care social worker have colored my view of working on strengths in kids, not deficits.  Many people I talk to are interested in one of those areas but not all of them.
I would love to hear what some of the barriers are for you. What holds you back in your writing? How do you conquer these obstacles? 


  1. Everything that you said I agree with, but number eight really resonnates with me. There really is no precedent of a blogger being fired for writing what he/she feels passionate about...but I am cognizant of the fact that I blog on an EDUblog sponsored by my district. Does one put a disclaimer on it? I have only written a few things that are not book review related, and yet I feel myself become more and more bold. My one remaining thought, though, before I push SEND, is: who will read this and will it get me into trouble?

    1. I couldn't agree more. I feel boxed in by what I can and can't say. I even had to delete much of this response...

  2. Thanks so much for sharing! My blogs are all independent from my school and district but I still feel like it doesn't take much to find me. I like the step of thinking: Who will read this and will it get me into trouble? Maybe this discussion will fuel my courage. Thank you.

  3. Joan,

    In answer to number 3: I care about what you have to say and I always enjoy your reflections. You are a very deep thinker.

    As to your question, "What is holding me back in my writing?" Well, let's just say I haven't even started my blog yet. Why not? I'm still trying to make sure it will be "perfect" and am also in a learning mode. I am sure that part of it is also because I, too, am afraid of failure. Thanks for making me reflect. Hopefully you have fueled MY courage.

  4. Thanks so much Julie! Sometimes I am still that "shy kid" who thinks no one would want to hear my thoughts. Because of your great FB page I hadn't even realized that you don't have your own blog. I think of you as such a great resource and connector of people who talk meaningfully about literacy. I appreciate you reading and commenting on my posts. I look forward to your blog, when you are ready!

  5. Thanks for the compliment and words of encouragement. I am glad you look forward to my blog, but I must warn you that my grammar needs work and grammar check often pops up with "passive voice." (#7) When this occurs, I do one of the following things: 1) I fix it, 2) I reword it, but it still comes up "passive," or 3) I am able to fix it, but I think the passive voice sounds fine so I just click "ignore." When this warning bothers me enough, I will do some research to figure out how to correct this. Until then, I hope you will have patience with passiveness.

    I come from a family of struggling readers and spellers who have limited vocabularies and poor grammar skills. Thus, I have not been surrounded by great role models. (My husband grew up in Denmark, so I continue to be surrounded by those who struggle with the English language). You say you are the "shy kid" who thinks no one would want to hear your thoughts. Well, I am the intimidated kid, who worries that people will judge me by my grammar and limited vocabulary size. Perhaps this holds me back, but I don't think it holds me back by much. Once I start talking about teaching reading, I usually forget about my weaknesses and I can't be stopped.

    Why did I share all of this? I really don't know. Although I haven't "known" you for that long, I feel that you are a very compassionate person who works hard to create peace in the world. I love your reflectiveness and feel blessed to have met you on-line. The world needs more people like you Joan.

    P.S. Can you add a "notify me of replies to this comment" button so I can see future posts? I almost missed your reply because I was not notified.

    P.P.S. "Passive" voice came up three times in this comment. Sorry, Joan. ;)

  6. Julie,
    I always appreciate the depth of your replies. I am constantly working on my "voice"; it's funny ( ironic) that as I helped my husband edit his Master's thesis last fall I kept on him for his passive voice and that has grown my own awareness! He is British and there is a style he learned that leads the reader in a journey to conclusions but doesn't state them so clearly. It's interesting!
    I relate to what you said about how you "forget the weaknesses" when you write about what you care about. When I write about kids and education my voice becomes stronger and I don't really ruminate over its "lack of perfection."
    Thank you also for the kind words. I will work on figuring out how to add the feature where you are notified of replies. I am still a novice in this blogging world. Thanks for making my day :-)

  7. Hi Julie,

    I'll reply to #10 about varied interests because I had the same question. A friend replied to my question with a question, "Have you thought about using different tags to label the topic?"

    I hadn't realized there were tags, and displaying them in a tag cloud made it really easy for others to see what I wrote about, and for me to be as diverse as I needed.

    I really like the transparency and depth of your post. Thanks for sharing with others because I believe many of us have similar road blocks.

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe


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