I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where writers (hopefully) feel comfortable telling me what they are struggling with.
Usually, the problems we end up addressing (usually here in comments or on Twitter) don’t actually have anything to do with writing. At least, not directly.
Most of the time, what writers wrestle with most isn’t how to tell a story, but how to overcome all the mental and creative barriers preventing them from telling the story they want to tell.
Of all the issues I’ve seen aspiring writers struggle with over the years, the most common seem to be issues all of us have dealt with at some point in our lives, or still do today.
- They don’t feel confident.
- They don’t feel they have the support they need.
- They’re afraid of failure.
- They’re avoiding rejection.
- They don’t want to embarrass themselves.
This list could go on and on. Which really says a lot about writing both as a hobby and a profession. We don’t struggle to achieve our dreams because doing so is impossible. We so often fall short of our own ambitions as writers because we allow ourselves to THINK it’s impossible.
Writers can create as many schedules as they want to, attend as many writing workshops and conferences as they want, take as many classes and earn as many certificates or even degrees as they want. You can revamp your routine as many times as you desire. You can read all the books, absorb all the advice, become the armchair expert you always said you would never be.
But if you don’t start with the roadblocks that exist within your own head, you’re never going to be able to get any worthwhile writing done. And if you don’t write, well, you’re “technically” not a writer.
Before you can fix your writing schedules and routines and roadblocks, you have to first “fix” yourself.
Now, don’t think this means you are somehow broken or that there is something “wrong” with you. You’re fine. Honestly, we’re all flawed in some way, and the sooner we accept that everyone has their own issues to deal with, the sooner we come to understand that self-improvement is lifelong, everyone has bad days, and it’s almost never worth taking things personally.
The same way every human has to deal with their own personal conflict(s), every writer has something that tries to stand in the way of their productivity and creative expression. For some, it’s a common distraction like Netflix or Fortnite. For others, it’s something that can’t simply be put into a box or canceled, like Anxiety or ADD.
Some people have dealt with low self-esteem for so long that they have forgotten it’s possible to receive negative criticism without completely falling apart.
Others have faced failure and/or rejection in the past, and they are so scared of reliving the negative feelings associated with it in a similar situation that every time they sit down to write something, they talk themselves out of it so they don’t have to look the source of their fear in the eye.
Whether it’s a streaming service or a legitimate mental health issue, the restraints holding many writers in place are real and frustrating. They can cause discouragement and despair and can make even the most positive, hopeful writers lose their spark.
Too many writers ignore these problems, and not always intentionally. Sometimes even I still find myself getting frustrated when I’m struggling to get my work done before taking a step back, checking in with myself, and realizing I’m anxious and need to rethink the way I approach my work for the rest of the day.
Plenty of the barriers writers face can be resolved by taking advice from a random (but hopefully somewhat credible) blogger on the internet. But not all of them. Some people need more help. A writing coach or mentor, maybe. In some cases, a therapist.
And there is NOTHING wrong with that. There is NOTHING wrong with asking for help. NOTHING wrong with putting in the work to improve yourself. Maybe “improve” is a better word than “fix.” Maybe we’re all just rolling along on our own separate tracks, all trying our best to get better, to reach our own goals, to achieve the things we just can’t get out of our imaginations.
At the end of the day, writing isn’t just about the stories you create. It’s about the person who creates the stories, as well as the people who read those stories.
Writing is a human-centered activity. Its problems are human-centered problems.
If you’re struggling, you have to deal with what’s really holding you back. A new laptop won’t erase your inability to focus. A degree in creative writing won’t extinguish your fear of submitting your work to the people who could be responsible for publishing it.
Work on yourself first. That’s the only way you’ll be able to confront and deal with the other distractions and roadblocks in your life.
In the coming months, I’m going to be doing all I can to put together as many resources and opportunities for aspiring writers to succeed in 2020. What’s coming is going to be bigger and better than anything you have seen coming from this blog in the past 10 years.
Lately, I haven’t felt like I have been doing enough to help people embrace and conquer the “human” side of writing. This blog has never really been about how to get published or how to make money or how to write a good story. It’s always been about the life of the writer, and the things writers deal with both internally and externally in their daily lives. It has always been about personal struggle, and growth, and triumph.
It’s time we all get more serious about addressing our shortcomings, our strengths, our fears, and our goals.
Nothing around here is changing. Yet. I’m still focusing on hitting my word count goals for the year, tackling the unreads on my bookshelf, and making plans for the year ahead.
But I just wanted to take a quick minute to say thank you.
I know this whole writing thing isn’t easy. I know there are days you feel discouraged and burnt out and like the easiest thing to do would be to quit and vow to never write another word again.
At some point you found this blog. Maybe you were looking for an answer or a source of encouragement or maybe you just made your way here by accident, or by chance.
I’m glad you did. Because I wouldn’t be able to bring you content every day if people stopped showing up to read it. Right now, you’re what’s driving the future of all this forward. It’s because of you that more writers are going to have access to the help and support and encouragement they need in the months and years to come.
I only ask that you do one thing for me in return.
No matter what, always keep writing.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.