Early in Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within, Dennis Palumbo says, “All good writing starts from where you are now.” What if “where I am now” is filled with loneliness, doubt, fear of rejection, and writer’s block? Palumbo says that we can use those feelings to serve our writing:
Invariably, once a writer fully experiences and integrates the lessons a block has to teach, his or her work deepens in richness, emotional truth, and, often, personal relevancy. … You can get there from here, not despite your writer’s block, but because of it. It means you’re ready — or, probably, more than ready — to make that important next step in your writing. [Emphasis mine]
How can we benefit from writer’s block? By writing about it!
If you’re frustrated at being stuck, or angry at yourself for your artistic limitations, write about that, as a journal entry, pure stream of consciousness.
I was feeling stuck as I was writing “Untangling Communication” for STQE Magazine (now called Better Software Magazine). I wanted to write about the “acceptance” step of the Ingredients of an Interaction, but I was also fearful. The acceptance step is not only about feelings, but about how we feel about our feelings! I’m going to write about a touchy-feelie subject like that? In a technical magazine!?
I had been reading Writing from the Inside Out around that time, and decided to write about my fears. In the process I discovered what, for me, was the most important point in that article: “The most powerful thing I can do to keep my communications straight, and to untangle them when they get tangled, is to accept what I feel.”
Palumbo also writes about the power of personal details:
[I]t’s one of the paradoxes of writing that the more particular and personal a detail in character or story, the more powerfully its impact generalizes out to the audience.
For an example of how personal details connect with other people, see Alan Francis’s reply to my recent, personal article about defensiveness.
This quote summarizes the book nicely:
If, as I’ve argued throughout this book, you are enough, then wherever you’re at, moment to moment, becomes the crucible out of which your writing flows. Accessing this subjective space, and wedding its range of colors with craft and perseverance, is the writer’s daily job.