Writing is one of the most rewarding things in my life. I absolutely love it. It has fulfilled me in ways I can’t even express. So, honestly, you’d think that I’d spend less time actively avoiding it.
Writers’ Block: Everyone Has it. Everyone Hates it.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all told ourselves we need to write and then just… couldn’t. Most writers list “writers’ block” as one of their worst nemesis. And while there’s plenty of people on Facebook and Twitter willing to commiserate and sympathize with your lack of progress on your WIP (work in progress), I’ve come to realize that very few people actually have any solutions to offer. And I think it’s because so many of us are in the same boat and don’t want to admit it.
It’s a bit uncanny, isn’t it? The majority of our extensive community seems to fill its days and minds with talking about writing, thinking about writing, and posting about writing… but not actually writing at all.
I’m not shaming anyone. I didn’t write anything “substantial” for nearly two years after finishing my debut novel. A few short stories. Some articles for this site. But the actual novel and world that constantly digs at the back of my eyes, demanding to be put down? Begging to become real? Nothing. For two years.
Oh. Wait. Hold on…
That’s going to make sense in a minute. For now, let’s look at some of the reasons WHY so many of us don’t write even when we know we should. Because, chances are, most of us are avoiding the thing we love for the same reason without even knowing it.
Everyone Has Excuses for Writers’ Block. Most of Them Are Valid. One of Them is Surprisingly Universal.
The excuses are so easy to come up with. Between the two jobs, family obligations, health issues, the poor publication experience I had with my first book and the doubt associated with that, (and, if we’re being honest, probably a thousand other excuses that come to me in the moment that I finally sit down to write), the monumental task of actually creating something substantial seems like too much of an effort. And thus, for two years, I didn’t even try. And the immense guilt that came with knowing that only cemented the ever-growing writers’ block weighing on my soul. I didn’t think I’d ever break through it, and the constant worrying only caused me to spiral more. My brain constantly told me that I was a failure as a writer, resting on the laurels of my first book’s mediocre success.
And that — the comparison of where I was to where I thought others were or where I thought I should be — was really what was holding me back.
My Solution: Don’t Aim So High.
It sounds like exactly the wrong solution, doesn’t it? But hear me out.
It’s not that we don’t have enough energy or time to write. It’s that we don’t have the energy or time to write what we’ve convinced ourselves should be the goal. Stop basing your nightly goal on the staggeringly high numbers that others say they’re able to reach every day. Because that fear of failure is probably what’s holding you back. It’s not your life that’s getting in your way. It’s the impossibly high number you, for whatever reason, feel obligated to meet. You’re right. It sucks not reaching a goal. Failures don’t make goals.
Bigger failures don’t write at all.
I tell myself to write 200 words a day. Yep. You read that right. I didn’t miss a 0. 200 words. Basically nothing. Barely five minutes of work. Remember that GIF up above? This one?
Well, that was just past the 200-word mark for this article. So fast I bet you didn’t even realize how many words had flown by.
I can hear you from here. How can something that small and insignificant even be worth turning my computer on for? Why even open up the manuscript for that?
Because 200 words is still better than the 0 words I was writing before. And 200 words never seems overwhelming when I sit down to start. It never sets me up for failure before I even begin. Writing 200 words is doable. And I do it every single night without fail.
Comparison Drives Us. But it Also Cripples Us.
One of the most important things I’ve learned as a writer is to stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be people who write more each night. Who sell more copies every week. Get more rewards or have more reviews or post more fan mail. Comparing yourself to them will only make the entire thing seem too big. Impossible. And who wants to start something impossible? So you end up not even starting at all.
So make possible goals. If you need to, make easy goals. 200 words. You can always write more if your muse takes hold, but you don’t have to. And that freedom to create without unwieldy expectations can make all the difference in the world.
I know there are probably writers out there who are thinking right now that this is terrible advice. That this is just another form of laziness that won’t get me anywhere. And you might be right. I’ll probably never be successful as a writer. But I never became a writer to be successful. I started writing because I loved it. Because I saw it as an art before I saw it as a business. For two years, I let the business side of publication take my soul. It seemed like an impossible pit to ever crawl my way out of again. I never wanted to write another story.
I broke through that writers’ block 200 words at a time.
Now it’s your turn.