Blair vs. the Abyss – Challenge Journal 1

I’ll be walking home from class, the icy wind scratching at my face when BOOM – I come up with the most brilliant idea for a book. The next Great American Novel. Perhaps even a Nobel Peace Prize. As I sprint home, characters and plots spinning around my head, I’m really confident that this time, this is it. I’ll fling open the door, grab my computer and notebook, open a blank page and then it all disappears. It’s happened more times than I would like to admit. The ideas evaporate, off into the abyss of Stories I’ll Never Tell.

Why do all my thoughts escape me when it becomes time to write them down? Am I too shy, of even myself? Is it the fear that these ideas, once typed out, become real? Maybe I’ll realize that my idea was silly, or already over done, or just plain old bad. Maybe losing my thoughts to the abyss is better than realizing that they weren’t worth writing out.

It could also be my fear of commitment. Sure, I can come up with some outlandish plots, but sticking to one concept for a whole paper, nevermind a whole course or BOOK is just too much. As the impending commitment to a capstone topic looms ahead, my assurance on selecting just one subject to marry dissipates. What if I run out of things to say? What if I’m ten pages in, and realize I hate it all?

I absolutely loathe to use this quote, but I’m realizing it might be the only proper way to sum up my feelings. “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game”. Yick. But, credit where credit is due. It’s true – I am afraid of failure, of judgement, of having my ideas be bad. I’m afraid to play the damn game. This semester, and essentially the rest of my life will be a struggle to find confidence in my writing. It will be the conflict of marrying an idea, but letting it flourish. It will be the battle of Blair versus the abyss.

Establishing rituals is one way to combat my fears. Open to hear any other suggestions on how to get over my fears 🙂

6 thoughts to “Blair vs. the Abyss – Challenge Journal 1”

  1. Hi Blair,

    I think this is a problem a lot of people can relate to! I don’t know if this is your problem at all, but there is some research done that discusses the “doorway/threshold” effect. I don’t remember it in full detail now, but as I recall, this theory describes how walking under a threshold has a “resetting” effect. This is because our brains prefer chronological narrative; when we walk under a threshold, our brain creates a mental block to make room for another “episode.”

    Not sure the validity of this anymore, but it might be interesting to at least entertain (even for the purposes of ruling it out). I wonder if it would help if you wrote down the thought immediately in your phone before it disappeared? If your writing challenge does originate in some of the other preoccupations you identified, it might still help to make the idea low stakes in this manner.

  2. AMEN! I totally relate to this sentiment; the fear of putting pen to paper is certainly one that has prevented me from developing certain writing ideas (and others as well). I think one of the things I have begun to embrace in other areas of my life (not yet writing, but I will get there!) is that you cannot succeed if you don’t put yourself out there in the first place. Replace “succeed” with “finish a pitch”, “write an outline to that Great American Novel”, or even “write a shitty first draft”!

    I also LOL at this post because I, too, often experience an aversion to the seemingly cliche (i.e. inspirational quotes that strike a chord but are plastered on too many mugs and journals). But there definitely is truth to it. To extend the metaphor here, I think we have to swing at the plate a good number of times before we can start creating positive habits (like committing to writing down an idea, or following a ritual that helps us indulge our creative ponderings). I’m sure there is some statistic study about how many times you have to learn something to memorize it, or perform an act before it becomes familiar, etc. etc., but I’m not a huge math person so I won’t bother with specifics. (Here is a website though that has a couple ideas…

    If you find anything that works for you, please let me know! I’d love to hear.



  3. Hey Blair! Similar to you, I have trouble with confidence when it comes to my writing, ideas, etc., often struggling with failure, judgement, and bad ideas. One of the ways that I’ve gotten over these fears (which I am still working through myself) is by sharing my ideas with people I trust, right as they come to me. I have 2 friends, one who also considers herself a writer and one who does not, who constantly receive texts from me regarding my writing or just random thoughts that pop into my head. As I mentioned in class the other day, I have a password-protected blog that I spend a decent chunk of my free time on. Whenever I get a new idea for a post, I text one of my friends. This serves one of two purposes for me – a) once you share your ideas with someone, you write them down, and you’re less likely to forget them b) I get instant feedback from people I trust, people I know will support me whether my idea is good or “bad,” people to tell me that I’ve already written about this topic or that I’m hiding from my other thoughts. Hopefully this gives you a bit of insight 🙂 good luck!

  4. Hey Blair, I think your post resonates well with a lot of writers. I’ve definitely had similar experiences where it feels like there’s this flawless idea in my head that I have for a book or an article, but then I can’t seem to ever write anything from it. With that in-mind, I think you might benefit from keeping a running list of all your different ideas/possible topics for the capstone project as part of your ritual. You’d then have a ton of distinct ideas and ways of approaching the capstone, which could help you self-select which one(s) to use. Have you thought about doing this? It could help you avoid the abyss!!

  5. Hi Blair, first off, thanks for sharing your writing fears. I think this is a problem a lot of people can relate to.

    One thing that I found would always help me get over that, do I have enough to say thing, is writing a shitty first draft. I’ve read about them in a lot of writing classes here at Michigan, so I’m not sure if you have or not, but if not, it’s worth looking into. The basic concept is that you get to write a “first draft” that will be for your eyes only. I mean, literally, you can make characters that make absolutely no sense and make them embark on advantures that are literally impossible and you can swear and write the end and then the beginning and then the middle. Literally you can write whatever you want. And it’s just about getting it all on paper, a “throw up of words” if you will, that helps to get rid of that initial block.

    And then at the end, take as much or as little as you want from it, and throw it out. I found that it gives me a clear head to start with as I think about how terrible the first draft was. Plus, it’s funny sometimes to write down exactly what I’m thinking, even if it doesn’t make sense.

    Try it, or don’t, just know that no one in this class will think your writing is “bad” by any means.

    Happy writing 🙂

  6. Hi Blair! My advice to you is to not care about stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to whip out a sticky note and get those thoughts down. I thought of a line for a poem during an exam, wrote it on the exam, and then asked my professor if I could tear off the corner of the page so he wouldn’t think I was cheating. Inspiration knows no bounds! Elizabeth Gilbert has this amazing TED Talk about creativity. She mentioned how ancient Greek people thought creativity was a spirit or wind that came through and, if you didn’t get the idea down in time, you would lose it. My question for you is do you think you are prevented from writing because you have an expectation of sharing your work or a worry of producing something you are not proud of. ANOTHER excellent piece of advice I got was from my English 125 instructor who quoted someone else I can’t remember: “Write your shitty, shitty first drafts.”

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