How Categories (almost) Stifled a Writer’s Creativity and Dreams

Writers are a resilient bunch of screwballs. We don’t give up. Eva.

* * * * *

The advent of blogs . . .

. . . was an incredible asset to the world of writing and writers themselves. Whether it was a place to highlight your hobby of voicing your opinion of movies, sharing stories that have been begging to be told, or create a professional online magazine like HuffPost, blogging made the writing, publishing, reading and sharing world so much easier and enjoyable.

But there were a few “categories” — pun intended — of this new art form that stifled creativity. Here’s an inspirational story of a writer (me) whose resilience kept categories from crushing her writing dreams. I hope it helps you to never give up on yours because . . .

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” 

 George Eliot.

Back in the Old Days

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil and a thought™. Back “then” there were no blogs. Unless you were a “paid professional” writer you kept your thoughts and opinions between yourself and your diary — journals in today’s world.

Any writer over 30 knows that finding publication for your piece or prose was a near impossible and exhausting (de)feat. There were writer’s guidelines, submission guidelines, self-addressed stamped envelopes, anxiety-induced waiting periods wondering if your work even arrived at its destination. There were editorial calendars, slush piles, rejection letters (if you were lucky enough to hear from someone and not to have to suffer in silence). Everything was done by snail mail and even your mail carrier began to realize whether he was delivering good news or bad. It was a vicious cycle and every wanna-be writer participated — with joy!

Seems a bit sadistic but if you wanted to enter the world of (under) paid professional published writers, you lined up and signed up to endure the process.


Writer, Blogger, Confused — Oh My!

Not everyone made it. Some went on to enjoy a professional writer’s life. Some kept filling personal journals.

Then someone (probably a jilted wanna-be writer) invented the BLOG. Hail to whoever you are.

I remember sometime back around 2005 I came upon a book about blogging. It became a coffee table book, unread and dust covered. I’d snark at it in passing. Pfff, blogging, I’m striving to be a real writer.

Boy, that book laughed so hard at me it fell off the coffee table and drifted into the abyss. It was a missed opportunity to do everything I ever wanted to do — write!

But I didn’t realize that. I was blogging ignorant.

I was “studying real writing” at the time — copywriting, column writing, and shortly thereafter web(site) content writing. I was hell bent on becoming a professional paid writer. However, work was scarce, hell froze over and starving artist was not my idea of a professional entree.


Writer’s Resilience Paid Off — Literally

Years later I landed a position with a country music — um — blog! I (still) had no idea what a blog really was, the inner workings of one and why they had taken over the writing world. This was 2011. My 2005 intro to blogging boat had sailed. I had been docked in the wrong writing harbor.

Six years post my coffee table book on blogging there I was frantically trying to learn how to blog on WordPress. Everything I knew about writing was stellar. Everything I knew about publication was obsolete. But we writers are a resilient bunch of screwballs. We don’t give up. Eva.

* * * * *

I still had a few working brain cells. We teamed up together and pulled off how to blog on WordPress — by creating — oh you can feel it coming, right — a BLOG! Who knew, right. Talk about slow to the party. There I was six years later creating my own blog and writing for others. However, my writing studies were not in vain. I put my marketing and copywriting skills to use and in no time I was pulling in big advertising dollars for that country music blog.

I was a paid professional writer! — woo-hoo — for a BLOG. Amazing.


I Crushed “Categorically” Stifled Creativity by . . . Writing

But here’s the thing that stifled my creativity. Categories. Blogging didn’t just consist of writing — you know, that thing every writer loves to do. Blogging is like having a little writing business. Of course, every writer strives to have a writing business. But for us pen-to-paper, fingers-to-typewriter types our vision of a writing business was — to write, not suffer from categorically stifled creativity.

That’s not to say that any print publication we aspired to write for didn’t have a theme (probably now called a category, niche or genre). But the pieces we wrote fell under that theme, nary we wouldn’t be writing for it.

If you wrote for Newsweek (lucky you), you wrote pieces about important weekly news topics. If you wrote for Ladies Home Journal (great publication it was), you wrote pieces that were of interest to women. If you wrote for Seventeen, you wrote pieces that appealed to teen girls. Highlights for Children, you wrote pieces educating children in an entertaining way. You get the picture, right. You wrote articles for a clearly defined publication. And yes, many obviously had “sections” in the publication. But if you were hired to write, you wrote for that section of that publication. Your role and your writing was pretty clear.

Blogging became a host of confusing categories.

For me.

I found myself spending more time trying to figure out what “category” my post fell under than actually writing it.

Without my realizing it, what happened was my natural ability to write became stifled by trying to write “for” a category, a genre, a niche, rather than “for” the point I was trying to present.

* * * * *

It’s a fine line. Any piece a writer pens is always done so with a specific (themed) publication and section of that publication in mind. But I find categories to be a choke hold on creativity.

Understandably, no reader wants to scroll through an entire blog searching for posts about a specific topic. “Categories” is like going to the table of contents in a print magazine or the index of your local newspaper. I get it. It’s helpful. Print publication “sections” have become online publication “categories”. And my favorites were always the “Lifestyle” sections. That was my writing aspiration.

* * * * *

Shortly after my country music blogging success I jumped ship. I left “print publication” aspirations in my wake and bought my ticket to board the blogging boat. But I no sooner left port that I became categorically sea sick. Navigating the waters of blogging categories became a dizzying exercise no dose of Dramamine could settle.

The true Rx was writing.

So I wrote. And I write.

* * * * *


Sailing New Writing Waters

I’m on a new ship, sailing the lifestyle writing waters. I’m sipping Sangrias, soaking up the sun, and sharing the wit, wisdom and wisecracks about — Life! (also spirituality, self-improvement and writing)

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to hold a pencil and a thought™. My personal writing aspiration was to write a lifestyle column inspiring and entertaining readers. And now I have my own platform (blog) to publish in. It’s everything I ever wanted to write about. It’s like me, uncategorized. Oh — but actually, that’s a category. See how confusing it gets!!

Here’s the important thing. I love writing it. I hope you love reading it. But mostly, I hope you never give up on your writing aspirations.

I don’t know why but way back when, the writing business was difficult to break ground in. But if you break ground in the blogging world, you will find writing pleasurable, readers aplenty and paid opportunities. 

Keep writing — keep blogging!

* * * * *

Oh, and if you pass a sailboat named “Lifestyle Writer” — that’s ME. I’ll get that one day, too. Remember, writers are resilient. We don’t give up. Eva!

Or maybe I should name the sailboat “Uncategorized” — ugh!!!!!

I’m going sailing.

Remember, neva give up. Writers don’t do that.

* * * * *

To strengthen my writing guidance, I turn to my inner voice of guidance. I also teach therapeutic journal writing. If you’re at all interested in learning about your inner voice, your intuition, and how it can help you navigate life better, I’ve written a Free, fun “Guide to Awaken & Strengthen Your Intuition”. Grab it HERE if it’s something you think would be of interest to you!

4 thoughts on “How Categories (almost) Stifled a Writer’s Creativity and Dreams

  1. AmethystAP says:

    I can totally relate to the category dilemna. A lot of my time is spent trying to figure what category to create and fit my post into. It can definitely stifle creativity if you’re not careful. Great post.

    • Christine McDonald says:

      Thank you for reading the post and taking time to comment. Yes, if you’re not careful then you can definitely end up trying to figure out what category to create your piece for. Once I began writing consistently I realized my posts all fell within a few categories. That helped me to stop trying to figure out the category and trust that if I wrote with the intent of sharing information or entertainment then I was probably speaking from my place of intention and the “category” would be there when I finished. Trust the writing process, complete the post and then you’ll see that the finished piece fits into a category that you have. Enjoy your writing.

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