If You Can’t Write Anything Useful, Don’t Write Anything at All

It’s popular, in some circles, to deny the existence of writer’s block.

Butt in chair! Don’t wait for the muse! Treat writing like a job! they say.

They’re mostly right. Writers can usually conquer the blank screen by typing words in succession, asking ourselves what if? and then what happened? We can work ourselves out of a jam. That is, if we’re writing fiction.

activity adventure blur business
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You know when this “just do it” stuff doesn’t work–at least for me? When it comes to blogging.

I think the reason for this is that the blogging world has become so crowded that, if you do have a blog  and you want people to read what you write, you feel an enormous pressure to say something useful. Give readers a takeaway, an actionable step.

Right now.

I see a lot of bloggers copying other bloggers’ “useful ideas,” almost verbatim, because they’ve bought into this idea that the appearance of added value is more important than any sort of originality or creativity. The way to get readers, they’ve been told, is to do how-to posts.

  • Short ‘n’ sweet
  • Bullet points.
  • Two picture minimum.
black and white clear cool dew
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I, for one, cannot force myself to say something useful. Sometimes I do, but it’s often by accident. So I stare at the blank screen. I can’t think of a single thing to say that someone hasn’t already said.

This is not useful. There is nothing to take away.

But it’s true.

On Nothing

It’s been a long time since I’ve stared down a blank page and been unable to type a single word. Usually I out-write (outwit?) my brain and clickety-clack the keys until something bubbles to the surface. Then I erase 57% of what I wrote. Until today.

Today, I balance my laptop on my legs and watch college students in see-through leggings try to wiggle into class after the professor has locked the door. It’s awkward, so I look back at my white screen, and then I look down at the rose gold phone I hate to love to see if I have any notifications.

Notifications for an app I downloaded against my will (I hate apps). My sister begged me to get it because it lets us video chat each other, and we can change our voices, which makes saying things like, “I’ve been sitting so long I can’t feel my hips” super fun because we sound like men in drag. So I had to get it.

I wait for the college students to saunter off, and then I send my sister a video and say, “Give me something to write about. I’m starting to get desperate” in a helium voice. I wait for her to send something back, but it seems she’s busy watching her kids go down the slide at some park.

I look back at the screen and shift a little. I really can’t feel my hips.

So I do a couple of squats and write about nothing.