Why We Don’t Write & the Cure: Community

On June 11, 2012 people of the Twitterverse joined us in sharing their reasons for what we declared as National Why I Don’t Write Day.  Aaron Zimmerman kicked off the conversation by blogging about his own struggles with writing his second novel.  Zimmerman, the founder and Executive Director of NY Writers Coalition, wrote honestly about his challenges with balancing the demands of running a nonprofit and finding time for his writing life: “My own writing has often had to take a back seat to others’ creativity.”

Elissa Goldstein of Electric Literature offered one reason that might keep hands too busy to get words to the page: “Maybe you just spent half an hour perched on the bathroom sink plucking your eyebrows because you’re afraid of failure.”

The writer and Robert Redford Obsessionist Patricia Berry blogged a list of things that “muffle the keyboard,” which included “throwing not unimportant (but nor are they usually immobile) objects and tasks in the path of pages.”  And the writing and mindfulness teacher Emily Herzlin recorded her reaction to the blinking cursor: “The blank page makes me confront the fact that I am not clairvoyant and I don’t like that.”

We’re grateful to everyone who participated yesterday and we hope this encourages people to talk honestly about both the challenges and joys of writing.  After hearing everyone else’s struggles, I felt more motivated to confront my own. I know that I’m not really alone, but that there’s a community of people who know exactly how terrifying – and liberating – the act of writing can be.  It takes courage to create.  And it takes courage to reveal your vulnerabilities, which is ultimately what we do when we write.

Of course as a community writing organization, that’s exactly our aim – to create the space for people of all experiences and backgrounds to come together and write where every word is an act of courage.

You can learn more about our community workshops here and if you need the support of others to face your writing fears, sign up for the 7th Annual Write-a-Thon, where we’ll collectively stare down the blank page.  Though writing itself may be a “solitary occupation,” you can join a roomful of others writing against reason(s).  Like a marathon or walk-a-thon, Write-a-thon participants find folks to sponsor them for a full day of writing.  The funds raised will help us keep leading writing workshops in communities throughout New York.

To see what keeps other people from the page, check out the top 20 tweets from yesterday’s chat and you can follow (or still join) the conversation by searching #whyidontwrite on Twitter.

Top 20 Tweets from #whyidontwrite

1.  anna smith ‏@writerswriting Great quote from youth in my study re: #whyidontwrite every day: “It’s not always like that day’s ish.”

what little willpower i can muster seems to chase away my creativity #whyidontwrite

3.  Emily Herzlin ‏@emilyherzlin
Because sometimes I find myself under the sweet delusion of permanence #whyidontwrite

4. @MTRomano
Too busy teaching writing. #whyIdontwrite

5. Amy Dixon ‏@amyrnbsn
If I write something that hits me at my core, a truth, I might have to change and change is scary sometimes. #WhyIDontWrite

6. Michael Riser ‏@Quemaqua
For @PENamerican – my big #whyidontwrite is generally fear for all the things I’m neglecting because I keep insisting on writing instead

7. Jenna Miller ‏@read_write_live
@PENamerican I just opened a pack of yogurt. #whyidontwrite

8. David Winter ‏@dvdwntr
Because I am afraid revision will diminish the delicacy of the work I have already done. #whyidontwrite

9. Ellen Goodlett ‏@egoodlett
Sometimes it’s too hard to make the little voices talk slowly enough to transcribe. #whyidontwrite @nywriters

10. Margaret C. Doughney ‏@SavorySweetLive
There isn’t a good enough excuse for #whyidontwrite but somehow I can always find one, maybe the problem is I’m too critical of my writing.

11. Nora G ‏@workingtitleNAG
Because I’m too busy making my writing schedule. #whyidontwrite@NYWriters

12. Jilly Dreadful ‏@jillydreadful
@NYWriters I don’t write because I enjoy not inhaling. It’s a twisted game I play: how long can I hold my breath? #whyidontwrite

13. alex crowley ‏@a_p_crowley
I had to play Civilization V for at least thirteen straight hours#whyidontwrite

14. Neysa King ‏@NeysaKing
Because I start focusing on the goal instead of the process#whyidontwrite

15. Rebecca McCray ‏@lettucealone
Fear of failure! #whyidontwrite But wait, that’s also why I don’t do most things. @NYWriters

16. LeChele ‏@LeChele4905
Writing is very insular and if you don’t have the self-motivation to get stuff done, it’s hard to produce. #whyIdontwrite

17. Janet ‏@THEsisterjanet
#whyidontwrite: Fear of Failure, Fear of Success, Fear of it not working on the page like it does in my own mind.

18. HarlemWriters’Circle ‏@circlewriters
It’s easier to read. There. I said it. #whyidontwrite

19. Elissa Goldstein ‏@Book_Moth
Maybe you just spent half an hour plucking your eyebrows…?@NYWriters @ScottMcClanahan @ElectricLit #whyidontwrite

20. Matt Matros ‏@Matt_Matros
@NYWriters Because I’m too busy gambling. #whyidontwrite