Do you suffer from writer’s block? I used to think I did too. One day, when I had wasted my time producing nothing of value yet again, I had a brutally honest conversation with myself. I asked myself, do you want to be a writer? Yes. Then what is stopping you from simply writing? Writers block? The answer was no, not writer’s block. When given a deadline for my freelance writing by clients I had no problem starting and finishing those projects. So why couldn’t I do the same with my own writing?
The truth is, I no longer believe in the phenomenon of the so-called writers block. I used it as a convenient excuse to procrastinate and waste time, and perhaps even to avoid failure. However all it took was an honest pep talk, and a few simple tricks, and now any time I write I use my time much more effectively. So long “writers block”.
To overcome “writers block” I asked myself a number of questions, and answered honestly.
What was holding me back?
To be honest, it was fear of failure and criticism. It is a scary thing to put your writing out there to be rejected and judged. All those hours of research, planning and writing, you pour your heart and soul into your project. So, even though it isn’t, when you are rejected it feels very personal. An attack on you, not simply your writing. It is much easier to never write anything, then to risk being ridiculed and rejected.
Why do I feel stuck? Why do I feel like I have hit the mythical writers block?
I felt that there were several reasons that I was stuck. First, and foremost was that I simply did not know where to start. I knew what I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. How much planning should I do? Should I start at the beginning, middle or end? How do I develop characters? Settings? Conflict? Dialogue? I put so much pressure on myself to write an amazing story from the get go, that it paralysed me and I ended up writing nothing.
Another reason I felt stuck was lack of confidence, which ties in with the whole fear of failure that most of us suffer from at one time or another. I kept asking myself, “am I really up for this? Will anyone want to read my writing? Can I earn enough to justify all the time and effort?” I was continually second guessing myself, which made me reluctant to write anything.
Finally, I believe I felt blocked as I didn’t know enough about the main theme and topics I wanted my novel based around. If you don’t know enough, or don’t feel confident about your subject then how can you write about it?
Why do I feel I am so stressed and pushed for time?
I am a work-at-home mum, as well as part-time nurse so the time I have to dedicate to writing is limited. I believe these constraints and pressure led to me throwing up my hands and saying it is all too hard. So I didn’t write.
Overcoming those barriers
So, how did I overcome all these barriers?
Fear of failure and rejection:
To overcome fear of rejection and criticism is probably the most difficult. I don’t know if that fear ever leaves you, but if writing and being published is something you really want to do then you need to grow a thick skin. Look at every rejection, each piece of criticism, as a lesson. Take these lessons on board, and use them to improve your writing or admission process. The point is to keep putting your writing out there; eventually it will be accepted somewhere, and with every acceptance your confidence will grow. In the mean time….a glass of wine and some chocolate whilst reading rejection letters really helps!
Not knowing where to start:
The issue of not knowing where to start is quite common. The easiest way I found to overcome this is to write a rough outline or sketch of my novel and characters, and then simply begin writing. If I draw a blank on a certain scene or chapter then I move on and find one where the writing flows. Once again, it is just about writing. I use writing warm-up activities to loosen me up and get those creative thoughts flowing before I start writing my novels, and also during if I find I am staring at a blank page for a few minutes. They really do help. By releasing myself from the pressure of having the perfect plan, character sketches and settings from the get go, I wrote a lot freer and they developed naturally as my novel grew.
Lack of confidence:
The lack of confidence in your writing is really only something you will overcome with time and effort. As more and more of your writing is accepted and published, your confidence will grow, as will your skills and expertise at writing and applications.
Lack of knowledge:
Not knowing enough about your theme or topics is very easily overcome. Do your research. With the Internet at your fingertips there is no excuse for not researching and knowing your topic. If you don’t have Internet access, then use your local library. The more you know about your topic the easier it will be to write. If you want to write about a particular event, setting or activity in your novel then go out and experience it!
Most importantly, I came to the realization that my writing does not have to be perfect the first time round. There is a reason it is called a first draft, or a rough draft. This first draft is to get all your ideas onto paper before you forget them, and then you review, re-write and re-create from there. It sounds so logical, right? But we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect from the get go, we forget that writing is a process of reviewing, re-writing and re-creating over and over again until you are happy with it.
Time is a valuable commodity. As a work-from-home mum and registered nurse I found it hard to juggle everything. I find a solid writing routine, not wasting time with procrastination and always ensure I put aside time to spend with my precious family helps. I write a to-do list each week, and highlight those things that are an absolute priority for that week. It helps me keep things in order, and achieve those tasks that have to be done. The most important thing is to not waste the time you have. Do not procrastinate when writing, sit down and get the job done!
I hope these ideas help you to overcome any fears or difficulties you have with writing. I would love to hear of any more tips you have of overcoming your own hurdles. Feel free to comment below with them!