Blogger’s Block

Lately, I’ve had blogger’s block.

I could say that I’ve been busy. (It’s true. The school year just started. There’s stuff to do.) But that’s not really what it’s about.

I’ve been blocked. I recognize it, because I’ve experienced it so very often in the more classic “writer’s block” form. You think about writing stuff, but you are seized by inertia or resistance, both of which are really fear in disguise.

In fiction writing, the fear is usually (for me, anyway) the fear of wasting my time and effort. “I’ve spent years on this manuscript, it’s still a mess, and it will never be fixed. It’s been fundamentally flawed since the beginning, and it’s not salvageable. Nobody will want to read this book. I should throw it out and start again.”

In blogging, I’ve discovered, the fear is about something a little less subjective.

More and more people are reading this blog. That’s great. I love knowing that the little notes and essays I write are going out to the world, and that people are getting something out of them. I love it when someone I know tells me that they’ve been reading the blog and it’s been meaningful to them. I love it when I get a comment or an email, even a negative one, when it’s thoughtful, thought-provoking and respectful.

I’ve discovered, though, that there are people out there who have a lot of time on their hands, and a lot of rage that they want to express. These are the sort of people who go trolling for blog posts they don’t like and then write comments like “Kill yourself.” These are people who get an almost sexual gratification out of provoking and maintaining the equivalent of a screaming match, and become infuriated if you don’t rise to their bait (or sink to their level.)

And many of these people have a real problem, in particular, with teachers. They are angry at teachers. Maybe with one teacher in particular, but that teacher has come to represent all teachers, everywhere. And an anonymous teacher who isn’t grading them and doesn’t even know their real names is a convenient target for all that anger.

Now, I know there’s no need for me to take any of this personally. But there’s also no need for me to take it personally when some guy smashes into me in the grocery store and curses at me. There’s no need for me to take it personally when a student doesn’t show up to class for three weeks and then throws a tantrum when I don’t accommodate him or give him special treatment. These incidents are not personal, but they make me want to never leave my house.

I am, fundamentally, an introvert. Even the nice people I love sometimes exhaust me; mean, angry people who have no sense that other people are real, sentient beings make me want to crawl into a hole.

And so every time my blog stat counter begins spiking upward, I feel a little jolt of panic. A lot of people are reading my blog, and some of them are going to be mean and angry.

Any writer needs a thick skin, and in the online world this is especially true. I’m always amazed and appalled when I read the comments sections of major online newspaper articles. It used to be that the angry crackpots who spent all day, every day, writing “Letters to the Editor” were relatively rare. Now it seems that the world is lousy with them.

So I know that if I want to keep a blog, especially one that attracts more than a few readers, I need to accept that some people will give less than helpful feedback. I need to find a way to get past that and keep on writing, if writing is what I want to do.

So I will, as long as people keep wanting to read what I write (and maybe even beyond that.)

But maybe there are bloggers out there who have special internal tactics for dealing with the flack. Or maybe not just bloggers – maybe you have a job where you need to deal regularly with people who are aggressive, impolite and self-important. Maybe you’re a serious person who doesn’t get a charge out of screaming matches, but you still manage to deal with the nastiness of the world in a graceful way that doesn’t get you down.

If so, maybe you’d like to share your secrets with me.

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11 responses

  1. You take some of it personally because you are human and you care. No shame in that. I think it is up to you to determine what you find valuable. This is your blog. Any comment that wishes someone dead or otherwise is a waste and should never ever be considered to have value. Keep in mind that so many wear the cloak of anonymity provided by the internet as a badge of honor and they hide behind it. You are doing something good. Remember that. I tend to take a deep breath. You may even have to walk away from the computer. Give both a try. And good luck with that manuscript. 🙂

    • Angela:
      I agree with what you say here, and the suggestion to “walk away from the computer,” is a good one, although it often leads me to stew. I think my “block” is in part an extended attempt to “walk away from the computer,” and I’m only now ready to come back to it. Thanks so much for your thoughts.

  2. When confronted with a ball of anger and resentment, I find that being calm and rational usually works.

    As you pointed out, these people are having an emotional reaction – and they’re hoping that you’ll react emotionally as well so that they’ll have an excuse to get even more emotional.

    Being calm and rational *no matter what* usually defuses the situation because you’re not giving them the reaction they need. Sometimes (ie. rarely) it even forces them to become more logical in their arguments.

    NB. Notice how aggressive commentators are almost always ANONYMOUS. Weenies!

    • AD:
      I agree, and fortunately, being calm and rational – at least externally – is usually one of my fortes. It usually helps, although some people take any response – no matter how calm and rational – as an excuse to further the argument and get even more worked up. And yes, anonymity is often an excuse to be a jerk. (To be fair, I’m anonymous, or pseudonymous, too, but I try not to use it as an excuse to be a jerk.)

  3. What synchronicity! Just this mornming I received a rather long and erudite comment on my blog calling me a hypocrite and other such things. It is my first unkind comment and I have been brooding all morning. I am going to take your very good advice.

    • Hi Patra:
      I checked out that comment and your response, and I agree with AD that you were very cool and rational! Whoever wrote that comment had something interesting to say, but who wants to listen when the tone is of an attack? I’m always frustrated when people who have perfectly legitimate opinions resort to name-calling and nastiness and thus undermine whatever real message they could be communicating.

  4. Patra: I was actually *really* impressed by your response. You didn’t sound angsty at all about it. Your response was measured and cool. Nice!

  5. On the days when it’s not worth engaging — delete, delete, delete…and concentrate on the comments that mean something.

    This is perhaps a more facile comment than the others (which are good), but there you go.

    • OKP:
      I think I’m just now beginning to understand that deleting comments is my prerogative. (Some of my troubles with commenters arose while I was guest posting on other blogs, where I don’t necessarily have that power.) As several bloggers keep trying to tell me, one’s blog is like one’s house – there’s no need to let everyone in the world stomp in and pee on the carpets. It’s sometimes tricky to distinguish between the comments that are truly nasty and those that are meaningful but hurt my feelings, so sometimes I hesitate. In the end, though, I’m the one who gets to call the shots. I need to take this responsibility more seriously.

  6. Hear, hear! Siobhan, I’m so pleased to read you saying that you need to take the responsibility to delete unhelpful comments. There’s no reason for you to give any credence to such trash. The trick, of course, is knowing where to draw the line. I suspect the best guideline is to imagine that the comment was written to someone you love (someone other than yourself, since we are often harder on ourselves than on others), imagine how you’d react and follow your gut.

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