Let’s be honest: writing is hard. But sometimes we take things a little too far, and make it 100 times harder.
If you’re struggling, it might be because you’re making this whole writing thing harder for yourself than it needs to be, and you might not even realize it.
You’re too worried about small details
Something that’s really difficult about writing in general is learning how to look at your piece as a whole and focus on small details at the same time. You know you want to write a feature article, for example. But you’re so focused on describing your subject’s outfit that you become overwhelmed with trimming and organizing your quotes and secondary source material. Or, you’re trying to write a novel, but you get too caught up in an extended metaphor, and your dialogue suffers.
Let the small things go, for now. There’s a time and a place for refining details, but sometimes you need to lay out the big picture before tying everything together. This goes along with the general rule that self-editing while you write is more like self-sabotage. You don’t have to get everything right the first time. You’re going to spell things wrong, and forget a character’s name, you might even get a fact wrong. Fix it later. Build up your foundation first.
You’re trying too hard to write a “good” story
For some reason, writing has the power to turn type Bs into obsessive perfectionists. You might start obsessing over doing things exactly right, or rewriting passages to make them “better.” The problem is, you can become so focused on writing something good that you never end up writing what you sat down to write in the first place.
Don’t worry quite so much about writing something “good.” While there may be plenty of elements that go into crafting a really great story, what’s most important is that you write something. Something you enjoy writing; something you are proud of. Sit down, write it and finish it. You can always go back and improve something that’s already written, but you can’t spend all your time trying to write something better when you don’t have a finished story to improve upon.
You’re too concerned about what’s “trending”
So you really want to finish writing your zombie apocalypse novel. It’s the best thing, in your opinion, you’ve ever written. Getting to work on it is the highlight of your day. But when you tell someone about what you’re working on, they matter-of-factly inform you that zombie apocalypse novels aren’t “the thing” anymore. What’s the point of writing something a publisher is never going to buy, just because the prime time for zombie apocalypse literature has long since come and gone?
The point of writing that thing is that it’s something you want to write – and something you ENJOY writing. Yes, if and when you break into writing as a business, what’s “in” and what’s not will become more important. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop yourself from writing something you want to write, or that you should write something just because you think it will be popular. Sometimes, writing what comes naturally to you is how you produce some of your best writing. It doesn’t always matter if it never gets published. Writing can, and should, still be genuinely enjoyable sometimes.
Don’t make things harder for yourself when they don’t need to be. Relax. Of course there are times to take your writing seriously and to push yourself a little, but don’t trip yourself up just because you’re too focused on things out of your control, or things you don’t need to worry about right now.
Some days, it’s okay to just write what comes to you – good or “bad;” well-written or messy – let that story out. Make room for plenty more ideas and stories to come. Don’t hold yourself back. You can do this.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.