Recently I’ve been thinking about what stops us writing, and why. It’s a very odd phenomenon, but one that seems almost universal amongst writers, that we continually procrastinate when we should be writing. And yet we love it! We love that feeling of creating something from nothing, the buzz of flying through a world of our own creation. We feel miserable when we don’t write. But we still find it hard to start.
Why should that be? If you like singing, sing. If you like writing, write. Unfortunately it’s not that simple. Here are some reasons why I think we put up these barriers to creativity, and some suggested solutions. If you have any more solutions, let me know!
Writing is probably the most demanding of the arts, because you are literally creating something from nothing. The whole world of Harry Potter is simply lines on some pages. The rest is JK Rowling’s imagination. You may say art is similar, but at least an artist has materials, a palette, brushes. A writer has twenty-six letters and nothing more. The act of looking at a blank notebook or screen can be so overwhelming that it can stop you writing a single word.
Try writing a train of thought, anything that comes into your head, just to get you going. Write a daily diary, just a few sentences or impressions. Jot down snippets of conversation. Write down a ‘found poem’.
Having enough confidence in your writing is a daily battle for any writer, published or unpublished. Who doesn’t hear their inner critic carping on and telling them everything they write is rubbish? My productivity increased hugely when I learned to ignore this destructive inner editor. I just tell him/her that I’ll change it later if I don’t like it, but for now it’ll do thank you very much.
Ignore the critical voice. That’s for the editing phase later on. Try entering some small competitions to increase confidence in your writing. Read writer’s success stories – they succeeded because they persevered. Be happy to make mistakes. No one has to see them if you don’t want them to so who cares?
- Too much to do
It’s easy to put writing at the end of a long list of tasks. Or not to be able to relax until your workspace is sorted. Or simply not have enough physical hours in the day to write. If you are truly a writer you need to learn to put writing at the top (or near the top) of your list. You’ll feel better for it, and if you write before you do household tasks you’ll find you’re thinking of your plot as you do other things.
It’s tough to write if your work hours don’t allow you much spare time. The solution is learning to write in short bursts. You do get used to it, and even a few sentences each day builds up quickly. I write for fifteen minutes a day while I have breakfast. I often do more, but that is my regular slot. My book is progressing slowly but surely during that time. When my children were young I wrote a complete book during their weekly swimming lesson, half an hour at a time. Sitting in that changing room surrounded by screaming children and stressed parents was completely chaotic, but funnily enough, writing took me out of it.
- Feeling disheartened
When you’ve been trying to get published for a long time, it’s only natural to feel disheartened and wonder if it’s worth slogging on. If you feel like that I recommend finding an outlet so you are producing something that the world sees. This could be a blog, a self published book, articles for local publications, competitions, twitter poetry – any opportunity that will allow you to express yourself and feel validated in your output. When I wasn’t getting published in fiction, I started writing sketches for my local am dram society. This led me on to entering play competitions, and I won Best Script at Pintsized Plays. Now I have short plays being performed all over the country. It wasn’t an avenue I had imagined myself pursuing, but now I love it, and it kept my spirits up while I was submitting to children’s publishers.
Explore other avenues. Try self publishing, for example through Amazon Kindle. Enter competitions. See if you can write for local magazines. Start a blog reviewing books. Enter poetry competitions. Make a scrapbook or family history book. See yourself as a writer of anything, not just your genre or field. You may find more opportunities that you thought.
- Writer’s block
My view on writer’s block is that it doesn’t exist. But sometimes you may find yourself going through emotional situations that are too draining to allow you to concentrate on writing. If that happens, be kind to yourself. Don’t worry about the writing, it will be there for you when you’re ready.
Take your time and do things that you can manage. Read a writing magazine or visit a library. Watch a TV adaptation of a favourite book. Write what you feel like writing, not what you feel you should be writing.
I hope some of my suggestions are helpful. How do you break down your barriers to writing? I forgot to mention, a cup of tea and a snack also help the flow!