Writers’ block terrifying

Published 1:38 pm Sunday, August 3, 2014

When I became a journalist, one of my greatest fears was the ever-dreaded writers’ block.

Actually, I should say that fear was realized on my second day as a journalist.

I suppose I never really gave it much thought until then: Where do the story ideas come from?

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Will some world-weary, overly caffeinated, chain-smoking old editor in a fedora just tell me what to write about everyday?

That would be easy enough.

But, no. You’ve got to get out there and uncover the stories yourself, sort of like an Easter egg hunt.

I remember writing my very first story at The Tribune about an antique car show. It was handed to me and I did what was asked. Soon after, I had somewhat of a mental panic: How am I going to find stories to write about everyday? What if I miss something because I didn’t know it was happening?

Where is the world-weary, overly caffeinated, chain-smoking old editor in a fedora telling me what to do?

Over time, that panic faded when I figured out that there was always something to write about and I could find those stories without waiting to be told what to do.

And that is largely thanks to our readers who send emails or call or stop by our office with news tips. We certainly can’t know everything that goes on all over the county, so we really appreciate those who give us the heads-up.

Now, as the editor myself, I’m faced with a different struggle: Coming up with ideas for these columns every other Sunday.

There is no one to tell me what to write about and no idea tree from which to pick a topic.

It’s all a matter of what comes to mind. And it’s terrifying when nothing comes to mind. You can’t just leave that part of the paper blank. Something must fill the empty space.

Part of the problem is that sometimes, ideas are plentiful, but the creative juices just aren’t flowing. I can decide to write about my cat, but if I can’t think of a way to make it interesting, there isn’t much point in writing about it at all.

But, I’ve managed to come up with a few decent ideas here and there and I’ve written what I’ve considered to be honest and personal columns.

My thought is, I’ve got this space to write in twice a month, so I might as well share something personal to give you a better idea of who I am and where I come from.

And that’s somewhat frightening also.

Writing about oneself is like standing in front of a crowd naked. You’re revealing something that your readers didn’t know before and you have no idea how it will be received. Will they like it? Will they relate to it? Or will they laugh at you and think it’s stupid? Will they care to have an opinion at all?

And as frustrating as it is, sometimes you just have to put something down on paper and erase it all and start again.

Before I started writing this particular column, I made an appeal to my Facebook friends to help me come up with an idea.

In the time it has taken me to write this, some of those ideas shared were a recent Old Crow Medicine Show concert we attended, the 40th anniversary of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game and 3D printing.

Since I know nothing about 3D printing, I’ll skip that topic.

But if you really want to know about the first time I ever played D&D (this weekend), let me know and I can probably turn that into a hilarious account of my recent foray into uber-nerd culture.


Michelle Goodman is the news editor at The Tribune. To reach her, call 740-532-1441 ext. 12 or by email at michelle.goodman@irontontribune.com.