I personally excel in reasons why writers avoid writing, so today’s guest post is near and dear to my heart. When you’re done reading, I encourage you to download Justine Tal Goldberg’s free writing diagnostic and to visit Write by Night for tons of great tips and tools on how to write better, right now. We are in the presence of blog post awesomeness today my friends.
Jen is discouraged. She’s been working on her novel for three years (although most days it feels like forever), and the only part of it she likes is the opening paragraph. In fact, that’s all there is to like. That opening paragraph’s five measly sentences is all that’s been written, and if Jen doesn’t change her habits now, that’s all that will ever be written.
It’s scary, but true. The habits we nourish, and thus the writing life we build for ourselves, can mean the difference between finally writing that book, finishing that short story or landing that first publication, and failing to achieve that goal we’ve worked so hard for.
It’s the difference between telling your story and not.
I feel Jen’s pain. Despite being a writer (or perhaps because of it), when it comes to not writing, I am a total pro. I can convince myself of anything if it means shirking a writing session: The phone is ringing. (It’s not.) I left the stove on. (I didn’t.) I’m having a curiously strong psychic feeling about my sister. I have to warn her! (I’m not and I don’t.) After many frustrating years of getting in my own way, I know a little something about self-sabotage.
You know what I’m talking about. When you procrastinate a project for so long that you end up frantic and frazzled, racing against the clock, right up against your deadline: self-sabotage. When you work like crazy for something you desperately want, then suddenly decide you don’t want it anymore: self-sabotage. When you tell yourself you’re not good enough anyway, so why even try: self-sabotage at its worst.
Call it biology or bad luck, we humans—and writers especially—love to get in our own way. Self-sabotage is natural. The question is not how do we do away with it entirely—answer: we don’t. The real question is, how do we deal with it productively so that we’re finally able to write the way we want to?
So without further ado, here are the five most common reasons why writers avoid writing and are not writing as much or as well as they want to, along with a practical solution for each.
Reason #5: “I don’t have good ideas.”
How do you know your ideas aren’t good if you haven’t yet tried to write them down? What “I don’t have good ideas” really means is, “I don’t have enough confidence in my ideas to try them out.”
Writers who make this claim are often perfectionists. They convince themselves that their ideas, and by extension their writing, must be perfect in order to be worthwhile. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Much of writing is play—exploration and experimentation—and even the most practiced writers’ first drafts are sloppy and sprawling. Far from perfect.
Solution: Practice getting playful with short bursts of stream-of-consciousness writing. Use paper and pen for best results. Write for 5 minutes without lifting your pen from the page. When you get comfortable with that, up the ante to 10 minutes, then to 15. Once the words start to easily flow, the ideas will follow.
Reason #4: “I’m terrible with deadlines.”
Being bad with deadlines is a statement about priorities. You can’t seem to write that chapter you promised yourself, but if your house were on fire, you’d put it out pronto. You skipped today’s writing session, but you got your grandmother’s prescription to her right on time.
These are deadlines, too; they’re just higher stakes. For a procrastinator, the lack of urgency inherent in the writing process is the kiss of death.
Solution: Raise the stakes. Set up a reward system for your writing, and enlist a friend’s help to make sure you keep to it. When you reach your goal or meet your deadline, you get a reward; when you don’t, you don’t. The key here is to make the reward something meaningful. Eating a candy bar, for example, is trivial, but telling your family you’ve just completed Chapter One of your memoir is meaningful.
Reason #3: “I don’t know how.”
I’m going to let you in on a little secret . . . neither does anyone else. Ask a professional writer if she feels 100% confident every time she faces the blank page. Her answer will be a resounding no. You can study writing for years, earn an advanced degree, publish countless books, and teach others the craft, and you’ll still have days when you feel like you know nothing.
This is because writing is creative and creativity is unpredictable. Each new piece is like starting your education all over again. Long story short, when it comes to writing, trying is knowing.
Solution: Read a lot. Write a lot. Try and fail again.
Reason #2: “I hate everything I write.”
This is the writer’s plight, to never be fully satisfied with the translation from mind to page. I have good news and bad news. Bad news first? Okay. The bad news is that this never goes away. Never. When you’re 90 years old and dictating prose into a digital recorder because your arthritic hands are too cramped to type, you will still hate every word you write.
The good news is that the loathing of your work is absolutely necessary to your growth as a writer. If you loved every word you ever wrote, how would you ever improve?
Solution: Stop rereading every sentence a hundred times before you move on to the next. Stop dwelling on what you’ve written and look ahead to what you have yet to write. The promise of better quality is always only your next writing session away.
Reason #1: “I don’t have time.”
When I talk to struggling writers, which I do a lot, our initial conversations often go something like this:
“I really want to write, but I work full time and have a family and am super busy all the time.”
“How much T.V. do you watch every night, ballpark?”
[Pregnant pause] “Three hours.”
Solution: Quit looking for free time in your busy days. It doesn’t exist. Instead, look for time you’re not spending as wisely as you could, then repurpose that time for your writing. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can accomplish in a day.
Bottom line: while these reasons feel legit, they’re not actually reasons at all. They’re excuses, comfort blankets, lies we tell ourselves for any number of reasons to avoid the work of writing. Because writing is hard and scary and risky and exhausting and a million other things that make us not want to do it. But it’s also worth it.
How about you, writers? Why do you write and why do you avoid writing? What solutions to your self-sabotaging “reasons” have and haven’t worked for you?
When Justine Tal Goldberg isn’t self-sabotaging, she’s helping writers like you to write more, write better, and accomplish their goals. She owns and operates WriteByNight, a writers’ service providing coaching, critique, editing, and more to writers of all stripes. For even more practical advice on writing the way you want to, check out WBN’s free writer’s diagnostic, “Common Problems and SOLUTIONS for the Struggling Writer.”
The images provided in this post are in the public domain and can be found on morgueFile.
Great post, Justine – thanks for sharing it with us Jeri 🙂
I must say I am guilty of the “don’t have time” reason more often than I would like… sigh.
I think the most common self-sabotage “tactic” for me is being afraid that what I write will not be good enough; will not be useful enough; i will hate it, let alone my readers. I definitely don’t hate everything that I write (i rarely hate anything I write LOL) but I do dread sometimes if I will live up to my readers’ expectations…
Thanks so much for sharing, Diana. You hit the nail on the head when you talk about your own expectations for yourself in the same breath as your readers’ expectations of you: you are your most critical reader. Once you gain confidence in your abilities, readers’ approval will follow. You may not know it yet, but you hold all the power. Now go write something!
Respected Justine Madam, thanks for introducing such practical tips. I am keep writing. I am good at beginning, the Pity factor of any characters. I love to write Cinematic look like novel. I am good at writing heart-breaking love story genre. But soon struggling with Fear factors of characters. Will you kindly provide some helpful tips like, “How to create those Fear Scenes, so that emotionally starts engaging readers got fear too in the middle of the story, and they continue forward towards catharsis factors. Thanking you.
Sure, Diganta. When you’re writing any emotionally charged scene, you’ll want to strike a balance between believability and surprise. Your characters have to feel like real people with real problems and real reactions (i.e. ones readers can identify with), and they also have to do things and say things that seem fresh (i.e. things your readers can’t easily predict) but also inevitable. No easy task! Just like with any writing, start by drafting then revise with these effects in mind. Draft by draft, you’ll get to where you need to be.
While they may be the most common reasons / excuses I wonder where they rank in the top 5. For me it truly is an issue with time. Nope. Not an excuse. However, I am making progress on that front. I am writing more now by adjusting my schedule to get less sleep. It’s tough because it means more coffee to keep me going during the day. But writing is a priority for me so I am making it work.
That’s a great point, Cheryl. Some people are very careful to spend their time wisely and still have trouble carving out regular writing time. It sounds like you’re handling this conundrum perfectly, with cutthroat prioritizing. But do be careful not to exhaust yourself with too little sleep. If you’re not healthy, you won’t be able to write at all.
“you’re not good enough anyway, so why even try”
Great post, Jeri. I have made all these excuses. I have a deadline coming up that I have to scramble for, and this post just told me why!
Knowing why is half the battle. Now that you know, next time around, what will you do differently?
For me it’s more about – do I have the ideas my TRIBE wants to hear? That’s the one I struggle with. I can schedule the time – it’s only by consciously putting it on my schedule that it happens. I let go of “perfection” when I wrote my book for Packt Publishing last year: talk about reality check with a team of editors!
I do love this post because it helped me to identify MY biggest block. Thanks.
Absolutely, audience is a major consideration in any writing project. With blogging, we’re able to hear directly from our readers, which offers invaluable insight into who they are, what problems they face, and how we can help. You can even ask them directly what they want to hear, then you wouldn’t have to wonder.
Thanks for reading!
Good post and thanks for sharing it with us, Jeri. Hope your 2015 is off to a great start and wishing you much laughter and success throughout.
Hehe, I claim #1, but I still get some writing done. I don’t get to watch TV or movies either though. The kids take up way too much of my attention for me to focus on anything but them when they are around. Trying to keep them appeased while still cooking dinner, folding laundry, and picking up the Kix cereal from where it’s scattered on the floor… It’s a tough job. Thank goodness for nap time though. Now if only they’d sleep at the same time…
But I know it ultimately rests with where my priorities lie. Kids first, writing second. 🙂
And your family *should* come first, of course. In your case, Loni, perhaps the issue is not priorities but rather giving yourself permission to steal moments for yourself in between life’s heavy demands. For example, cooking, laundry, showering (any repetitive, relatively mindless activity, in fact) are perfect times for thinking. If you train yourself to think about your writing at these times (and quickly jot down your ideas before moving on to the next task), you’ll be making progress before you know it.
What an excellent post. I could relate to all of these points, and writing is an ongoing battle, which is think why so many people start and never finish projects. Procrastination is my biggest flaw. I think the only way to overcome any of these problems is to write, though reading comes a close second. Glad to have found your work Justine:-)
Yes, writing is the best cure for writing-related woes, which is why when it comes to actually bringing the pen to the page, we can use all the help we can get. Thanks so much for weighing in.
–How did you know all of this about me?!!!
What I need is an editor to sit with me and tell me where the heck to begin!
I’m so glad my post spoke to you. I’ll be happy to chat with you about your writing any time. WriteByNight offers free consultations for precisely that purpose. Check it out here: http://www.writebynight.net/free-writing-consultation/. I look forward to our chat!
Outstanding post…just a little paranoid now that you’ve been window peeping. Although I think I have finally gotten a handle on quite a few of these excuses, the remaining obstacle seems to be my biggest…TIME! I’m trying to tackle it by doing exactly as you suggest. But I think scheduling my time, in the end, might prove the most productive. Enjoyed this so much…thanks for sharing that wisdom!
Try many potential solutions until you find the one that works. When that stops working (and let’s face it, it probably will at some point), find another. And so we write on . . .
Good luck with it, Jacquie!
My worst is #2. I’m deathly afraid of even making a deadline for this novel I’m trying to write. I am now wondering if it may be possible for me to make monthly deadlines/ goals instead. But how do I make the goal risky enough and yet realistic enough? Yes, Justine, I will go to your site and look at what you have that might help with this.
I did have a problem with #1 but I got tough. I made a schedule for writing, taped it to the wall right above my PC, and asked Hubby to respect the schedule. Now I just need to use it for the right writing. I put it up last Thursday and have used the time for writing blog posts. Not a smart move.
Monthly deadlines are good; weekly and/or daily deadlines are much better. Overwhelm is surely part of the fear you’re experiencing, so breaking the project into small, manageable chunks will be a big help.
As for risky versus realistic, go for realistic. The writing is the risk.
It’s wonderful that you got tough, but don’t be tough on yourself. Instead of berating yourself for blogging instead of writing fiction, congratulate yourself for writing anything at all, and tomorrow try for fiction again.
Number Five is my downfall! Lately it’s been, I can’t write; I’ve got to figure out what to blog!
What if you let the blogging figure it out for you? In other words, rather than waiting for lightning to strike, for an idea to come to you, just start writing and see what comes out. I bet you’ll stumble upon more than one idea.
I adore writing and have started a book -5000;words so far. It is about my struggles and how I am leaning to overcome them. I hope to encourage women.
I work full time, have 2 kids, am in church ministry and I have a side line business. Most nights I sleep for 5 hours. I watch one or two TV programmes a week.
Congratulations on your 5000 words, Phoenicia! That’s no small accomplishment. We all have to start somewhere.
It certainly sounds like your time is at a premium. It’ll be a challenge to find writing time, for sure, but not at all impossible. You’ll need to find creative ways to write, in cracks of time you don’t yet realize you have. For example, what do you usually do in the few minutes before you fall asleep? Do you read? Meditate? Can you instead (or in addition to) scribble in a notebook until you’re ready to close your eyes?
What about when you’re driving? Do you listen to music? Do you do nothing at all? What if instead you dictated your writing into a digital recorder?
To identify more hidden opportunities like these, you might want to give WriteByNight’s Time Management Questionnaire a try: https://writebynight.leadpages.net/time-management-questionnaire/
I like this post because it is very easy to read and down to earth. It doesn’t pretend that we’re right on schedule all of the time, which is a big relief for me to hear other writers are in the same boat. Thank you for this post!
You’re very welcome, Christy. You are definitely not alone!
Good advice on all points. But I rely first on adrenaline. There is nothing like attacking some idiotic opinionator to focus the verbal part of the brain and get the words flowing. In other words, a letter to the editor – even if you don’t send it. Second, make it a habit. I subscribe to the local newspaper for just this purpose. But Fox News Channel would probably work for me.
What a creative suggestion, Albert. I think letter-writing is a great idea–cathartic, too.
An old fallback for me is, “I need to empty the hall closet and wipe out all the dog hair that has wormed its way under the door and accumulated in the back corner.” I’d like to share that one with any dog-owning writers out there; it’s effective.
Truthfully, I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping my butt in the seat. I give a lot of credit — a LOT of credit — to alpha-wave music. Stuff like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7Zy6ieJAHQ. It really gets me in the zone.
I’m always telling my coaching clients to do what works. For every writer, what works is different. For you, it’s alpha-wave music and a cleaning ritual; for me, it’s a cup of coffee and anything (anything!) that will keep me out of my email. The writing process is so fickle, we should do whatever we can to make it easier on ourselves. Thanks so much for your thoughts, Laura.
I love this post. So candid and honest, expressing my true sentiments! Excellent choice of that broken bulb pic! All these reasons plague us at one time or the other. I have even written about my dismal progress of a book I want to write but have not published that post so far…thinking ‘should I’!
Thanks for the encouragement Justine.
Thank you for the kind words, Balroop. You should definitely publish that post. Sharing your struggles with others will help you overcome them, no doubt about it.
Great post! Thanks for sharing. Now can you help me with promoting myself? I’m so not into it. LOL!
Good post. I recently had it pointed out to me in a workshop that I may trying to be perfect when I write and that is a stumbling block for me. I need to forget about that and just write. I also am prone to allowing distractions. I am working on getting past both. Thanks for this post.
I know exactly how you feel, Donna. I used to write that way: every … single … word … must … be … perfect. It was a fast road to nowhere because I never allowed myself to make any real progress.
For you, the stream-of-consciousness writing I describe in Reason #5 will be tremendously helpful. It’ll train you to draft without agonizing, to rediscover the fun of the writing process, which is so important. And maybe if you’re having more fun, you won’t seek as many distractions. Two birds with one stone!
Excellent post as always dear JWB…
I wanted to highlight a paragraph which I found eloquent and then add my insights regarding the writing process
Here it is: “When you procrastinate a project for so long that you end up frantic and frazzled, racing against the clock, right up against your deadline: self-sabotage. When you work like crazy for something you desperately want, then suddenly decide you don’t want it anymore: self-sabotage. When you tell yourself you’re not good enough anyway, so why even try: self-sabotage at its worst”.
Self- sabotage reminds me of the well known book by Sigmund Freud “On those wrecked by success: (1925)… The weight of success today may not result in guilt, as Freud found in his era, but instead in the potential to experience anxiety and shame….
Being able to manage challenges and opportunities is probably the first step when it comes to deal with writing…
Isn’t writing a creative process somehow a way to sublimate unconscious desires and so on…
If so, It seems weird that something that would supposedly set oneself free becomes a self sabotage… that clearly entrains repression of “unconscious forces” as they are vainly struggling to come out!~
Last but not least: a final question… Are writers (then) hysterical specimens?… 😉
Thanks for sharing!… Great reading, Jeri. All the best to you. Aquileana 😀
The psychological dynamics of writing are complicated, for sure, full of contradictions and ambivalence. The fear of success you describe is often a contributing factor to writer’s block and also to less serious writing-related struggles, like resistance to one specific project. Armed with tools to identify and work through the issues as they arise, we’re in good shape to push through. Thanks for sharing, Aquileana.
My biggest problem is clearly with problem #2. I have no problem sitting down to write and for the first draft the words just pour out of my head and onto the page. Then when it’s done I decide it was a crappy idea that is poorly executed that will interest no one. Thanks for the encouragement and the tips.
That’s a very common problem among writers, Ken. An overactive internal critic like yours can do serious damage to your writing process . . . if you let it.
The next time you find yourself in that position, about to toss a draft because that little voice in your head is telling you it’s no good, grab a piece of paper and write down all the discouraging things that voice is saying. Then crumple up *that* paper, throw it away, and dive back in to your draft. When your internal critic pops up again, do the same. Eventually, he’ll understand: you call the shots, not him.
I am not writing a book but I do have ideas for two books so that will be something I do this year – this post will certainly help me avoid some of the pitfalls. I am going to bookmark this when I can give the diagnostic “Common Problems and SOLUTIONS for the Struggling Writer.” my full attention. Thanks Justine and Jeri.
Good luck with it, Lenie! I hope the diagnostic helps.
Perfectionism is definitely a downfall when it comes to creativity. Personally, I find deadlines to be very beneficial. I was given a deadline with my first book by the person who wrote the introduction. He told me that if I didn’t have the manuscript sent to him by a specific date, he would not write the introduction It was a tight squeeze for me but it really motivated me to get up extra early every morning and to keep writing everyday until the manuscript was ready. Thank you for your important tips.
Oh yes, accountability is huge. It’s one thing to make excuses to yourself for not meeting a deadline or accomplishing a goal; it’s quite another to have to plead your case to someone else.
I’m so glad you found what works for you, Michele.
Whoa! Those really hit home, especially #2 and #1. Despite the fact that I’ve been earning my living as a writer for some 20-odd years, the self-doubt just won’t go away. And there are never enough hours in the day. Or, I think, I can do it tomorrow. We writers are so good at talking ourselves out of things, aren’t we? If only we could channel that talent for good instead of evil! : ))
You’re so right, Krystyna: those negative feelings never go away. If we work at it, though, we can get better at dealing with them. What tactics do you use when that old self-doubt shows up?
What a great post Justine. You are right Jeri. She is awesome. I think we all sabatoge ourselves in a myriad of ways. One that came to my mind that I use at times is…I have this great idea, I just don’t know where or how to start. So I never do. Sigh… 🙂
I write my short stories about my childhood because they come back to me easily and I enjoy telling them and sharing the lessons I learned along the way.
There’s only one solution for that, Susan . . . JUST START! Easier said than done, I know, but the minute you do start, you’ve overcome that challenge. How’s that for instant gratification?
I joined a bi-monthly writing group a few years back and we support each other through critiquing, editing, and providing a “safe place” to showcase and discuss our work. Our mantra is ‘get your ass in the chair’. If you will now excuse me, the silverware drawer needs to be rearranged.
That’s wonderful, Kire. You can gain so much from a supportive group of writers.
I’m guilty of all 5 I feel I should win an award or something 🙂
I’ll be bookmarking and referencing these suggestions often! Thank you
Good list of reasons. Am currently trying to persuade a woman who can write to start writing e-books instead of focusing on writing articles. Chanses of her getting an article published by a newspaper is next to none since she has not got an established name. An e-book however could become a success. She could write about any subject even something like “a guide to removing stains” and it could work.
However, I have the feeling she is simply afraid of failing because it’s something she has never tried before.
Fear could be a factor, absolutely. To sidestep that fear, she might try tricking herself by collecting her articles into an ebook rather than starting from scratch. Once she has one ebook under her belt, the next one won’t feel as daunting. It’s amazing what a little self-confidence can do.
Oh yes, I can relate to many of your points. I’ve never had a problem with procrastination because I make writing a priority every day and blogging has been a big help in that regard. So I’ve written and I’ve published, but I am forever going back and rewriting and polishing, even after a book has been published. In fact I just finished an update on one of my books that is so extensive I’ve decide to relaunch it.
Even though it feels like this obsession of mine keeps pulling me backward, it’s also a sign that I keep improving my writing skills so I want everything that’s out there in the world with my name on it to reflect that. Of course this does make it a challenge to birth brand new stuff but after reading your article I figure I’m doing okay and getting better every day. Thanks for the inspiration!
You’re doing more than okay, Marquita! With a regular writing habit and a keen awareness of the advantages and disadvantages of your writing process, I’d say you’re on very solid ground. Keep it up and, yes, get better every day. That’s all we can do.
I often wonder why as writers we put these roadblocks you descibe in our own way. There are so many people out there; from the publishers we submit our work to, to critics who review our work, that are doing that job for us.
How right you are, William. Writers would have a much easier time if we were kinder to ourselves.
When I find that I’m being hard on myself, I sometimes ask myself this question: What would my best friend say to me at this moment? My best friend’s imagined response is always 100 times more constructive than whatever negative commentary I was beating myself up with.
I can relate to each one of your points and do my best to avoid falling into the holes they create in my overall writing experience. I think the one that resounded most with me is number 5. I have found many times over that stories I did not feel were worthy of an audience turned out to be quite well liked. It’s a confidence for sure. Thanks for condensing all of this information; I will re-read during my next self-sabotage.
You’re very welcome, Tim. It’s great that you’re already preparing for future self-sabotage. It’ll be that much easier to overcome.
How did you get inside my head? I think I’m guilty of every one of these. In fact I’m reading blogs right now because I don’t know what to write on my own! Guess I better get back to work… 🙂
Reading for inspiration is a really effective tactic, Meredith. Works (almost) every time.
Such a great post, and so, so true! The time thing is the one that always gets to me. I am the worst for not making time and procrastinating! It’s good to know that all writers seem to suffer from this curse! 🙂
We all do . . . now what are you going to do about it?!
The “I don’t have time” excuse is the worst one for just about everything. We so often let our daily lives and the bump and grind keep us from moving ahead to where we want to be.
So true, Jon. The more aware of it we are, the better equipped we are to handle it. Thanks for reading!
I have heard people use all those reasons before. In my opinion they sound more like excuses than anything. If there is will, there is a way.
I read this blog post earlier this week and had to laugh at myself. I have certainly mastered the art of generating excuses for not writing… or more to the point, I’ve mastered the art of making excuses for not writing for myself.
I can only imagine the stress of writing gets amplified when you are a professional writer. I have friends who can write beautiful, inspiring content for clients and yet take ages to post to their own blog. These are great tips, reminders really, for prioritizing your writing in your life.
It’s true, Debra: much of the time, the cobbler’s children go barefoot. But it doesn’t have to be this way. With practice and dedication, novice and professional writers alike can take control of their writing lives. Thanks for weighing in!
I think I’ve used all of those excuses at one time or another. Sometimes you just have to sit down and write. What has worked for me — a little differently than your #5. When I’m facing a blank page writer’s block I simply start hitting the keys randomly, just a lot of jibberish but it helps to loosen me up and pretty soon some real sentences are coming out.
A fantastic suggestion, Jeannette. There’s a lot to be said for muscle memory. Thanks so much for sharing.
Jeri & Justine: thank you both for this post! Justine, you are spot-on with each of those 5 “reasons” why we don’t write. All but number 2 plague me. I’ve successfully completed NaNoWriMo a few times so I know I can write to a deadline if I want to. #1 is my greatest nemesis. I do work full-time and often feel bone-tired at the end of the work day. But that’s no excuse for not writing on weekends, and that’s no excuse to not use a 15-minute break at work to jot down ideas, edit a paragraph, or flesh out a storyline. Thank you for reminding me that I am in control 🙂
Very well said, Marie. We need to get in control and stay in control. When we slip up, we get right back in the saddle.
hi jeri; thanks for sharing this post with us. Justine is not only knowledgeable but obviously someone who struggles with these issues herself. justine i love the frank honesty and humor in your post. as a blogger i a am a writer. and recently i self published a ebook so i’ve been through a lot of these issues too. i really struggled with is my work good enough when it was time to press send to hand my document off to my editor. and i always wonder if my posts and or my website are visually appealing. but this is something that a blind blogger always worries about. or at least i do. but it doesn’t stop me from continuing to give it my best. love how you said no one really knows it all and that we will always be nervous if not outright afraid when writing publishing and sharing our work. thanks for sharing, max
I hear you, Max. Writers will always wonder. The trick is not to let the wondering interfere with getting the writing done. It sounds like you pushed through and overcame your fear, which is wonderful to hear. Keep up the great work and, most importantly, keep writing!
Great post, Justine
Interesting post, Justine.
Having been a professional freelance writer for nearly 22 years, I can honestly tell you that whenever ?I have to FORCE myself to write a thing, it’s never very good. When the muse inspires, the prose flows. It’s as simple as that for me. So when I get the urge to write, I write. And if I don’t feel like writing, I try yo do other things that are part of my writing biz, like research, paperwork, and marketing.
It sounds like you’ve gotten really good at listening to your instincts, which is so vital to a healthy writing process. I’d be interested to know if it was always this way for you or if at the start of your career you pushed through your resistance in order to commit words to the page. I would guess the latter, as it can take a long while to get comfortable with self-permission.
Oh, I can so identify with this list! I’m particularly good with #1, #2 and #5. By alternating them, I can cover all bases.
But I am getting better at just doing it. My children are finally sleeping through the night and have made it to the age where they are able to play independently for short periods, so I can’t really use them as an excuse (as much).
I think the biggest trap for me is to read too much of others’ work. Comparing what I’m doing to what they’re doing is rarely good – I usually end up feeling discouraged because my writing seems to pale in comparison, which doesn’t help at all. Sometimes it is, but mostly it’s just different from mine.
Thanks so much for sharing your struggles, Bec. Rest assured, what you describe is very common. It can be a real challenge to resist the urge to compare our own writing with the creative work of others. Even so, you need to do everything in your power to resist that urge, as it can be quite damaging to your writerly development.
The next time you start to feel discouraged, interrupt that negative train of thought by giving yourself a compliment: “I need to work on x, but I’m really good at y” or “I wrote a beautiful sentence yesterday.” Or if it works better to think of a positive memory related to your writing, like a time you received a compliment from a reader you respect, do that instead. Keep the compliments and/or memories coming until the damaging thoughts retreat. They’ll come back, of course, but when they do, you’ll be ready for them.
My number one reason to avoid writing is getting over that initial moment of dread. That sounds weird. It’s a bit like rock climbing and rappelling. They are great fun when you do them, but it is the first step, looking down the wall (or up the wall) where you just can’t seem to convince yourself that the fun is there and you always enjoy it when you are doing it. That for me is always the hardest step, every single day.
That doesn’t sound weird at all, Jon. Facing the blank page can be terrifying. The good news is, once you get going, those feelings of dread disappear almost immediately and then you can enjoy the ride.