Behind the Scenes at Small Answers

Behind the scenes

Writing is one of those funny things, like breathing, that everyone can do in the most literal way. We all wrote in school– stories, essays, reports. We are all able to string words into sentences and commit them to a page. Yet, as adults, few people claim to be a writer. We get hung up on the meaning of the word, and we fear not measuring up to our expectations around what a writer is. We get stuck.

Because the stories we share on Small Answers are born in self-reflection, when we feel stuck, it’s generally because our thinking hasn’t crystallized. We haven’t done the hard work of figuring out what we are really trying to say.

Author Susan Orlean said in an interview that she doesn’t believe in writer’s block; it’s “reporter’s block” instead. She explained, “You only are having trouble writing because you don’t actually yet know what you’re trying to say, and that usually means you don’t have enough information. That’s the signal to walk away from the keyboard, think about what it is that you don’t really know yet, and go do that reporting.” When writing about your own experiences, reporting means living your life, reflecting on your choices, and seeing the universal in the personal.

The process isn’t glamorous. It involves jotted notes, really bad first drafts, and many bathroom breaks. This is the day-to-day toil of writing. And that’s only one piece of running a blog.

In the end, the two of us keep doing this for the pleasure of it. Providing a platform for others to share their stories has been one of the most rewarding parts of Small Answers. We really love finding, shaping, and sharing stories, and are even more touched when our guest authors tell us that friends, family, and sometimes strangers have reached out to them with sympathy, love, and encouragement.

Stephen King writes in On Writing, “Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.”

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