Writers Block: Myth or Real?

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.

Question One

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.

Question Two

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?

Third Question

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!

Perfectionism: 

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 constraints:

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!

The birth of “Write Freelancer For You”.


Until now, Rachel Maree, has been my primary website where I published blogs and where you could reach me for any of your freelance writing needs. However, due to the growth and development of the freelance side of my writing business I have now created a secondary website to meet these specific needs. You can find my “Write Freelancer For You” website here. You will find a list of freelance writing services I offer, as well as useful links and blogs on freelance writing and business.

I hope you continue to follow my Rachel Maree website as my journey as a writer and freelancer continue.

 

30 tips to spring clean your writing.

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SPRING TIP #1: Keep a journal.

Journaling everyday helps to improve your writing, is great for reflection and is a fantastic tool for ideas and inspiration.

SPRING TIP #2: Add a writing warm-up exercise to your writing routine.

I challenge you to add a writing warm-up to your writing routine for 2 weeks and see if it makes a difference to your productivity and creativity. Let me know how you go!

SPRING TIP #3: Write everyday.

It doesn’t matter if it is only 10 minutes here and there around all your other responsibilities; the point is that the only way to be a better writer is to write. Writing everyday improves your practice, inspires ideas, and sparks creativity. Learn to take advantage of any down time to capture some of those words floating around in your head.

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SPRING TIP #4: Organization.

To run a successful writing business organization is keen. And what better time to get organized then the season of spring-cleaning! Make sure all your files are up to date (and backed up), clean up your computer, buy some lovely stationary and diaries to keep dates and projects organized, and keep your work area as clutter free and neat as possible.

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I love spreadsheets. Spreadsheets for timelines, projects, income, invoice trackers, publications….pretty much everything! I find them an easy way to keep track of what I am doing, and where I am up to. I am also a huge fan of to-do lists. The main key is to be organized, in whatever fashion that is for you.

SPRING TIP #5: Develop a writing routine.

Forming the habit of writing everyday helps to improve your writing and productivity. However a writing routine is not just about writing, it is about how you write, and how you organize your time to ensure you make the most of each moment.

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SPRING TIP #6: Take regular writing breaks.

The recommendation when sitting at a computer is to stand up, walk around and stretch hourly. You should do this when writing too. And not just a brief 5 minute break, a walk outside in the fresh air can help clear your head and improve your concentration and productivity when you return to your writing.

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Make sure you eat at regular times. It can be easy to forget, so I set an alarm on my phone to remind me to eat and drink if I am having a long writing day.

Taking regular breaks away from your writing helps clear your mind, refresh you and ensures you don’t become stiff and sore sitting hunched over your computer!

SPRING TIP #7: Motivation.

How do you find your motivation? What motivates you? How do you maintain motivation? If you can find the answers to these questions it is half the battle!

SPRING TIP #8: Inspiration.

The search for inspiration can sometimes feel endless. I find spring is a great time for sparking new ideas. Have a walk outside and see the buds of new growth, the sun breaking through the clouds and your ideas and creativity will sparkle!

SPRING TIP #9: Read, read and read!

Reading exposes us to other styles of writing, other forms, genres and voices. The more you read the more your writing will improve, and you will be exposed to more ideas and inspiration.

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SPRING TIP #10: Make time for your family and friends.

Whilst writing may not be a regular job with normal hours, it is still important to make time for your family and friends. You don’t want to miss making precious memories with your loved ones because you always have your head buried in your computer…and you know what they say, all work and no play turns you dull!

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SPRING TIP #11: Stick to time frames!

If you tell a client you will have a writing project to them in 2 weeks, make sure you stick to that. I tend to over-quote on how much time I will need in order to avoid the stress of not having work done on time.

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SPRING TIP #12: Social Media.

Social Media is an important tool to promote your writing business, network with other writers, build your reputation and to research other writers. However, it is a black hole that can suck us in. You may find that instead of spending valuable time writing you are surfing through various social media mediums for hours on end. The trick is to limit the time you spend on social media, and to ensure you use that time efficiently and effectively.

SPRING TIP #13: Develop a work/life balance.

One of the best things about being your own boss is you can choose how much work you take on. However one of the hardest is also saying no. Keep in mind that you need to maintain a healthy balance between work and living your life. One of my favourite sayings is you need to work to live, not live to work.

SPRING TIP #14: Do not rely on spell checkers to catch all mistakes.

Never trust a machine to do all the spelling and grammar checks! Nothing beats good old human interaction and checking of your work. It is a great idea to check your work on paper and on your computer, things may look different and show mistakes you missed before!

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SPRING TIP #15: “Rest” your writing.

When you have completed your first draft, “rest it”. Put it away for a few days before you take it out again to start the lengthy editing and revising process.

Once you feel you have a finished project, “rest it” again. After a few days, weeks or a month (whatever time frame you choose), take it out again and read it one last time before sending it to a friend, family member, editor or if you feel 100% confident you are completely done then send it to a publisher.

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The point of these “rest periods” is to take a break from your project and come back to it with a fresh perspective and clearer mind. This way you will catch mistakes you may not have noticed otherwise, and will recognise changes that need to be made easier.

SPRING TIP #16: Read other writers websites/blogs/articles.

Think of it as research! To find out what other writers are writing or reading about, then the easiest way is to research by looking at their websites, Facebook, google+, blogs, twitter etcetera. Not only will reading about what and how they write help you with your own writing, it can inspire your own blogs, posts and writing projects. One of the best ways to learn is from those who are more experienced and knowledgeable.

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SPRING TIP #17: Write yourself a schedule.

You are running your own writing business, and you must treat it as such. If you are writing for others, such as freelance projects, then obviously it is important to ensure you stick to the time frame you negotiated with your clients.

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If you are writing for yourself, however, then it is still important to develop your own schedule and stick to it. Such as, by this date I will have the outline completed; by this date I will have a first draft finished, etcetera. This way you will ensure you will actually get your writing projects finished, and it is a great feeling when you tick off a to-do list!

You can use a spreadsheet, calendar or good old-fashioned diary. Whatever works for you, but make sure you create an achievable schedule and STICK TO IT!

SPRING TIP #18: Avoid “overwriting”.

“Overwriting” is a wordy style of writing, wrought with repetitions, figures of speech and convoluted sentences. Try to avoid using too many words to describe something, if one word will do. Go for simplicity to convey your writing and I guarantee it will get your point across just as effectively without hitting your reader in the face with all those words.

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SPRING TIP #19: When undertaking large writing projects, turn off your internal editor for the first draft.

When you are writing a long first draft the best way to get all your ideas and thoughts out is to simply write, and keep on writing. Do not stop and correct or edit as you go. Turn off that little editor and judgmental voice in your head so you can get all those words out initially before you forget that great idea.

This can be difficult. I know I find it quite hard due to my innate need for perfectionism. However, the more time I spend writing long projects the better I am at simply sitting in front of my computer and letting the words and thoughts flow out of me. You will spend more time editing and revising, so this first draft is all about capturing your ideas on paper no matter how poorly they are written!

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SPRING TIP #20: Plot!

When writing a novel, developing an interesting plot is essential. It helps to ensure your story unfolds in a logical manner, whilst building tension and suspense to draw your reader in and keep them interested.

SPRING TIP #21: Read your old work.

If you are feeling lost, unmotivated or have lost confidence in your work then have a read through your old projects. It is a great way to see how far your writing has come. I know I have read back through some of my very first blog posts and cringed.

Reading back through your old work can also help inspire you and spark new ideas, or thoughts on how you can improve upon it and re-release it.

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SPRING TIP #22: Keep a list of all your publications.

I find it easiest to do this on an excel spreadsheet, with columns for dates, genre, format and publication type. It helps so that you can see how many of your projects have been published and also if you ever need to refer back to a project you can quickly find where it was published and those other details you choose to input into your spreadsheet.

And lets be honest here, the longer that list gets the better you feel! Think of it as a brag sheet if you want. It is a great way to see where you have been, where you have published and the footsteps you have left behind with your writing.

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SPRING TIP #23: Ask friends and family to read your writing.

If you have friends or family members who you know will be able to provide constructive criticism you should ask them to read your work before sending it to a publisher, or self-publishing. Their eyes will help to pick up on any mistakes or plot flaws that you may have missed in your editing and revising process. They can also provide feedback and encouragement before the intimidating process of sending your work out in the big wide world.

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SPRING TIP #24: Time management.

A concept I feel most people struggle with! Juggling your own writing business, especially if you are still working another job whilst attempting to get your business up and running, with family, home life and chores is a difficult thing to master. You need to work efficiently in the limited time you have, whilst ensuring that you leave time in your busy schedule for family and friends. I have found the best way to manage your time is to stick to your schedule and timeframes for work, whilst penciling in time for family, friends and most importantly, yourself!

SPRING TIP #25: Join an online or in person writers group.

Writing groups are a fantastic place to meet like-minded people, find sources for ideas and inspiration, and as a free source for constructive criticism and feedback. Whether you join a group online or in person, or several groups, doesn’t matter, the point is to find a group of writers in your niche and to actively participate in discussions with them. I challenge you to find a group of writers and to join them. Most importantly…..ENJOY!

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SPRING TIP #26: Don’t forget why you write.

Why do you write? What do you get out of writing?

I write for the love, passion and enjoyment I get from creating a great written project, no matter how big or small. I always get a small thrill upon completing a written piece. Never forget the positive reasons behind why you write. Always write for impact, and not income.

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SPRING TIP #27: Draw inspiration from your surroundings.

Look around you. What is happening nearby? What conversations? What characters? What scenery? Use your surroundings to form pictures and characters in your mind that you can translate to paper.

Where do you find your inspiration?

SPRING TIP #28: Do not procrastinate.

Your time is at a premium, do not waste it procrastinating! Learn to recognise when and how you procrastinate, and identify strategies to overcome it.

SPRING TIP #29: Keep your end goal in mind.

When your energy wanes, you lack motivation, and you feel as though you have lost your creativity and inspiration focus on your end goal. The sense of pride and achievement from seeing your name in print, being a published author, a successful freelance writer. What ever your end goal is, allow it to guide you through the tough times and keep your focused and writing!

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SPRING TIP #30: Never stop writing!

The final tip for this lovely spring month is to never stop writing. Writing promotes writing, and the more you do it the better you will become. Just like practicing at a sport or cooking, the more you practice the more adept you will become.

So never stop writing.