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!

Procrastination

Procrastination

We are all guilty of procrastinating at one time or another. Most of us struggle with it every single day. So what leads us to procrastinate? Lack of motivation? Fear? Poor habits? Let’s explore what can lead to procrastination.

When you are reading through this, be honest with yourself. Question yourself constantly to find what drives you to procrastinate. Once you identify what it is, then you can address it and overcome the battle every procrastinator faces!

If you are looking to procrastinate some more, then read on for tips on overcoming procrastination or click the links to the articles I found useful and memorable.

Overcoming Procrastination – MindTools.

Tim Urban “Why Procastinators Procrastinate” has created a great article on procrastination, complete with cartoon drawings to demonstrate!

Barriers to overcoming procrastination:

Motivation:

If you aren’t excited or inspired by your project, then you will find any excuse not to write. Motivation and procrastination seem to go hand in hand most of the time.

Fear of success:

It sounds silly and counterintuitive, but this is one of the most common fears people suffer from. Why? Isn’t the whole reason we write and create and put our work out there to become a success? But then the pressure is on to maintain that success and keep producing the goods. If you find yourself constantly trying to get your life in order rather then focusing on the important tasks and projects you need to complete then perhaps you are suffering from a fear of success. Do you put roadblocks, problems and challenges in your own way because of an internal fear? Are you afraid of change in your life that will be bought about by success? Then perhaps this is why you find yourself stuck in the rut of procrastination!

Fear of Failure:

No one likes to fail; it is never a nice feeling no matter the circumstances. When you fear failure it can lead to procrastination by indulging in un-resourceful and unnecessary perfectionism. You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and negativity, which lead to reluctance to work or submit your work.

Fear of Judgment:

Do you constantly worry about what other people may think of your work? Sometimes we worry about this so much it can stop us from undertaking the task at hand.

Perfectionism:

I believe that we need to have some level of perfectionism to create a great solid piece of writing, however we have to rein it in before it rules our lives! Otherwise you may find yourself redoing the same piece of work over and over again in an attempt to create the perfect piece of writing but never submitting it.

Over Planning:

I am so very guilty of this! I write lists, plans, timelines and plans for plans. I break every little project down into even smaller projects and before I realize it I have wasted days just planning without actually writing or progressing on my novel. Planning is of course incredibly important when writing, however there comes a time when you have to take action, stop planning on how to do things and just do them!

Overwhelmed:

It is easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by a big project, or by lots of little projects. This is where planning comes in handy (remembering not to over plan). If you feel you are facing an impossible task then you will put off starting or continuing the project.

Frustration:

Stricken down by writers block? Story not turning out how you wanted or thought it would? Your characters are not behaving? These are all very frustrating and annoying, which makes it even harder to relax and write. If you are frustrated every time you sit down to write, then you will dither around and put off working on your writing project.

Social Media:

In this day and age we are connected to the Internet and outside world wherever we go. It is important when selling your work to have an online presence, but it can be distracting and time consuming.

Strategies to conquer procrastination

To become motivated you must understand what is stopping you from feeling inspired and creative. See  Creating Motivation and Motivation for further advice and information.

Fear of success, failure and judgment are hard to overcome. You will have to find your inner strength to battle these fears. A good support network made up of family, friends and other writers can be a great resource. Many people suffer these same fears. Reach out on forums, social networks, writers’ conferences and many other places. I guarantee you will find at least one other person who feels the same as you. I know I do. The only advice I can give is to focus on why you write, what you would like to gain from it, and the pride you will have when you finish your writing piece. Try to focus on the positives of your work, and what you achieve. Keep shoving that fear aside until it disappears. It’s like the old adage “fake it till you make it”.

Perfectionism is a very subjective and personal concept. How many times is too many to proofread and edit? 10? 20? 100? How long can you spend developing the perfect story line? There comes a time where you just have to bite the bullet and write or submit your work. I always have someone else read over my rough draft, and then later when I have proofread and edited about as much as I could stand I get him or her to read what I hope is the final copy. I always pick someone who I know will be honest and brutal. If they deem my work ok then off it goes! It is hard to identify if you are being overzealous in your work. It is a matter of tapping into your intuition and knowledge to recognize when you have finished.

To stop over planning in its tracks I set a time limit for how long I can spend writing lists and timelines. I allow myself a day to “plan” my writing project if it’s relatively big! If I find myself re-writing to-do lists, lists for lists or plans for plans, then I stop and ask myself “why am I procrastinating”? I give myself a stern talking to, take a quick 15-minute break, and then start writing.

Feeling overwhelmed is a relatively easy block to overcome. This is where you put those valuable planning skills to use. Look at your whole project, break it down into smaller tasks and get cracking! If this doesn’t work, then allow yourself to step away for a break. Go for a walk, or out for a coffee. Remove yourself from your writing space and clear your head. Hopefully when you return to your work you are relaxed and ready to tackle your project again.

The frustration of writers block, or stories and character’s not behaving as you wish them too makes for a great reason to procrastinate. This is where writing exercises, or warm-ups come in handy, putting you in the right frame of mind to create and write. Sometimes it is a matter of taking a break from that particular writing project for a few days, start something new, and then come back to it.

There are different schools of thought about social media, Internet and email usage during your writing time. Personally, I believe allocating a short space of time each day before you start on your own project is useful. It maintains your online presence, and gets it out of the way so you are not distracted when settling down to write. I usually set a time limit of how long I will browse the social media sites, answer emails and update my own sites before going on to do a few warm ups and then finally working on my own project. I am strict on not connecting to the Internet at all, unless for research, when working on my current project.

Procrastination breeds inactivity and sets you up for failing. If you learn to identify how, why and when you procrastinate you can overcome it. You just need to be honest with yourself, and nip it in the bud!