More audience. More writer’s block.

I have been very busy and I cannot write.  I’ve spent several nights staring at a blank screen wanting to connect with you but feeling unable to do so.

When I cannot write I feel imprisoned by my own skin.  By my own brain.  By the helplessness of humanity.  I feel inadequate and empty.  Mediocre.  Unbecoming.  Banal.

When I cannot write I am nothing.

Or, so it seems.

This is not as dreary as it might appear.  I am being a little dramatic.  But, when I am busy I am something: mother, friend, partner, wife.  It is only when I sit down to create something—some  reflection, some story, some poem, some post– and cannot, that I feel empty and alone.  A shell of a woman.  A shell of an artist.

Writing is a solo act.  Until, of course, you have your audience.

Here comes that promised answer to my question!   (If you have not been reading my blog, the question has something to do with why people feel the need to seek out an audience.)

I feel, in some ways, that I stalk my audience.  I will admit it here and now.  When I share my work, my thoughts, my self, I obsessively hunt down comments and references, emails and messages.  I obsessively seek out connections and conversations.

These comments and connections don’t appear as frequently as I would like.  I am not at peace.

I am wondering what element in my development taught me to turn to others for approval and to rarely turn to myself.  I am wondering if I am teaching Silas to do the same.  I fear that I am.  I am hoping that I am not.

So, I have an answer.

My need, and perhaps the need of others, to seek out an audience is as much about human connection as it is about affirmation.  Perhaps it is not as self-important as I had previously assumed.

And, It is also about exposing the truth.

I am looking around at the books on my shelf, randomly selecting titles, and sensing the truth that they reveal:

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen exposes the truth about family dysfunction, disconnection, and old age.  (At least from what I remember.)

Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife by Peggy Vincent exposes the truth about nature and pain, about life and womanhood.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant: the sacred feminine, sticking together, falling apart

Holes by Louis Sachar: friendship, perseverance, and connectedness

Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson: isolation, communication, secret desires

The Five Gospels by Hoover Funk and the Jesus Seminar: history, Jesus, the Bible

Operating Instructions:  A Journal of my Son’s First Year by Anne Lamott: fucking up, turning around, motherhood, spirituality, life

Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner:  Just about everything

I cannot, and will not, say that all of these authors feel some ego-lifting need to bare their soul.  Perhaps they only want to expose what they believe is truth and to connect with other Homo sapiens in one of the voices that they know how to establish.

And, perhaps, they have something credible to say.  Something enlightening.  Something true.

I am not sure where to go from here.  I am looking at the blank space before me and am unable to write.  I hope, however, that I have answered my question however simply and briefly in the only voice I can muster up.  I hope I have exposed some truth.




  1. wil329 said,

    August 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I disagree that when you are writing, when you get to escape the other identities to which you cling, and instead inhabit your identity as writer, leaves you as a shell. I think the reverse is true. I think the other identities (guises, disguises, masks, etc) we (meaning writers) wear are the shells, with the writer hidden beneath, taking notes and getting ready to unfurl and let loose your observations and your words and your screams. You are not empty. Words are not easily born. Someone said (and I should Google, but I’m feeling lazy right now) that the easiest prose to read is often the hardest prose to write.

    • ecoolbeth said,

      August 2, 2011 at 12:05 am

      Maybe I made myself misunderstood. I agree with you. I only feel like a shell of a person when I want to write but cannot. I feel very alive when I am writing. I feel very incompetent when I can’t.

  2. melisa said,

    August 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    I think I understood (all too well) what you meant by the empty shell explanation. I, too, get busy with my other identities, so busy that I don’t even have the ,mental space to think about writing, so I forget that there is something I want to be doing. So it’s not like I’m walking around feeling awful all the time because I have writer’s block; I’m too engaged in daily life. But when I sit down and am at a loss for words, I wonder where my voice has gone. Has it been extinguished? No! It’s just buried.

    I’m wondering if I need to start carrying around a tiny notebook like I used to do in high school to capture snippets of ideas or feelings. Since starting the blog this summer (at your urging!), I have found myself more often with the writer voice poking out during the day. It’s like I all the sudden go in to a trance, a feeling washes over me, I suddenly feel the need to describe what I’m seeing or noticing in words, which then sometimes to connects to other things I have to say. The blog has been helpful for exercise, but I’m losing the snippets I stumble over throughout the day.

    Writing takes a lot of time. Not just the fingers over the keyboard, but the thinking, the ruminating, the reflecting, the reading, the marinating before it can even come out. If we could all walk the streets of Paris and then have our own office or apartment to go sit and spill it all out…

    Keep on truckin’! You, too, have truths inside you that need to get out. You have an energetic and beautiful voice and I want to hear it. I want to see new posts when I compulsively check your blog, because I even stalk comments of comments 🙂

    • ecoolbeth said,

      August 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      You get me completely! Maybe I should try and carry a notebook. (Although sometimes that also leaves me frustrated, That is, if I don’t even have time for the snippet!) Thanks for your support!

  3. Kim said,

    August 2, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Perhaps your particular case of writer’s block stems from your said motivation for writing: outside approval and affirmation. Following your logic, if you don’t get the response or “affirmation” you are looking for (which writers rarely get, btw), you don’t know what to write. If I may be frank, this seems backwards to me. Have confidence in your writing. Hell, have confidence in yourself! I’m willing to bet all those writers you listed whole-heartedly believed in their work. It probably took years and years for their beloved works to finally become noticed and I’m sure they faced tons of criticism and rejection along the way, but they persevered. That’s the way it goes! Just WRITE, Emily, write for you! If you wait the approval you so desire, you will never be at peace (not because of your writing, but because that’s part of writing). On the one hand, I respect your honesty and frankness about not only this audience bit, but everything else, too. You really allow yourself to be vulnerable. But on the other hand, I find it frustrating to be your audience, when I want so badly for you to lose your inhibitions and stop this desperate need for approval.


  4. ecoolbeth said,

    August 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Wow, Kim! You just opened my eyes! I don’t think I was always this way: writing for connection and, yes, perhaps, approval. That would be a major stumbling block, wouldn’t it?!? I think what might have happened is that I had other (probably unhealthy) avenues for seeking approval and had my writing for pleasure. Now, many of those avenues have been stripped away and I still have my writing. Does that make sense? And, of course, there is this blog thing which just reinforces that instant gratification part and the wondering, wondering, wondering. I am just starting to understand a Rilke quote about solitude that I thought I understood before. I feel some work ruminating. Thanks so much! (Sorry about the frustration bit…)

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