Blocking Writer’s Block – Post-Partum Embarrassment


Circle of hell for one's own work


Embarrassment is not so much of a problem when one is writing as when one has written. Shortly after the piece is more or less “done”, the excitement, the satisfaction, the engagement, of doing the work peters out.

Okay, sure, there’s a moment of “whew”.  Maybe even “wow.”  And then, like carefully-cut fruit turning brown around the edges, the whole thing seems  tawdry, sour, over-ripe.

This feeling often sets in around the time you start showing your work to others. When you glance at the piece through their imagined eyes, you wonder how you were ever satisfied.  You feel exposed, ridiculous.

It’s worse than seeing one’s self in a bad photo, in a brightly-lit mirror, at one’s worst angle.  When looking at a depiction of one’s physical self, feelings of inadequacy are often tempered by surprise, even disbelief—( Is that really what I look like?)  Even as one cringes, one’s image is so different from the self one imagines it hardly feels possible.  Besides that surprise, we are most of us well trained enough in the idea of people not being able to help their looks to have some grudging acceptance of our physical aspect.  (Other than of our fat, I suppose.)

A special circle of hell is saved for the sound of one’s own voice, either heard or read.

This hell, this embarrassment, can make it almost impossible for a writer to get his or her work out in the world.

Despite the daily appearance of blog, I really do have some problems with this.  Nonetheless (with typical “do as I say, not as I do” bravura), I’ll posit some suggestions:

1.  Collaborate.   Share the work process before your work is finished so that it’s less of a struggle to share it afterwards.  There are many different levels of collaboration, which may or may not include co-authorship.   The simplest may just be doing writing exercises with someone—writing at the same time as they are, then reading your writing aloud to each other.    (This is like taking your clothes off absolutely simultaneously with someone else.  Easier if you both pull down the pants at one time. )

The frigid sea (of exposure) also feels better if you hold hands with someone and run into the surf together.  Meaning, if you want to try to read in public fora—poetry readings or slams—go with a writing buddy first;  make yourselves both sign the sign-up sheet.  No turning back.  Clap loudly for your friend.

2.  Shut your eyes.  Get your piece as good as you can, send it into the world,  and then, if you can’t bear to face it again, don’t.  Don’t re-read it endlessly once you start circulating it (at least not for a while.)   If it’s published, and you can’t bear others to know, just don’t tell them.

3.  Understand that you are not your work.  It is, at most, a glimpse of your brain’s inner workings for one relatively short period of time;  a simulacrum of a synaptical dance.  If someone doesn’t like it, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you.  If someone reads it, it doesn’t mean that they actually know you.  Distance yourself from the content of the work;  distance yourself from the feelings of exposure.   This takes discipline.  Don’t wallow.

4.  Don’t worry that everything you do may not be your best work.  People’s taste run wide gamuts.  Sometimes you/they are in the mood for brown rice; sometimes you/they are in the mood for whipped cream;  sometimes for oranges.   (i.e. you can’t please all the people all the time;  actually,  you can’t even please some of the people all the time.   And maybe, well, you should worry a little less about pleasing. )

5.  Be happy that you have completed some work at all.  Always keep in mind how wonderful that feeling was when you first finished, how wonderful to have just slogged through.

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3 Comments on “Blocking Writer’s Block – Post-Partum Embarrassment”

  1. Somewhat similar to your 4.: Most people with high ambitions of quality are their own worst critics—your readers are likely to be far more forgiving than you, yourself, are. (In addition, due to their lower exposure and familiarity with the work in question, they are likely to entirely overlook many issues.)

    • manicddaily Says:


  2. Your tips are very interesting. Thank you

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