Tag Archives: writing consistently

Breaking down that Brick Wall: Working through Resistance to Writing

8932033483_187b8a780e_zSo you want to write a novel? That’s fantastic! Writing is a great way to express yourself creatively and to explore new, interesting, and often difficult topics. Sometimes, writing is simply a way to relax and enjoy yourself.

However, writing isn’t easy. Maybe you sit down at your computer or notebook and hash out the first five, ten pages quickly, but then you stall. Or perhaps you’re stuck on the first page, opening sentence, etc. No matter how hard you try the words aren’t coming to you. It feels like there’s a wall blocking your creativity, and anytime you try to scale the wall, go around it, smash it, or plead for it to please move, it refuses.

Maybe the wall knows that you secretly don’t want to be sitting down and writing. Whether you’ve got too much on your plate, or your buddies are all going out to get a drink, sometimes you don’t want to write, even though you know you’ll feel great after you do.

Think about all that homework you had to do during your school years, that work project that’s due on Friday, vacuuming your entire house, exercising, scheduling that doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off (writing a blog post)…most likely you’ve experienced some sort of resistance in your life. (There’s a reason trainers will tell you that once you hop on that treadmill, you stay on it for fifteen minutes before deciding whether you’re going to call it a day.)

How do you overcome resistance?

Don’t wait for inspiration to fly in via a muse. Often that only serves to make resistance to writing stronger because the more time you spend away from writing, the greater the distance becomes between you and your story.

Resistance is a natural feeling. Many times resistance occurs when you’re doing something worthwhile. Why? Because that something is challenging.

You may love writing, but it takes work, uses energy, and can be exhausting.

So, what do you do?

  • Make a list. Create a list of all your writing goals for that day. (or goal, such as write 500 words, or write for 15 minutes) Once that goal is down on paper, tackle it. Many times having your goals written down makes them seem more real, and more doable. Plus, it’s always nice to be able to cross something off your list.
  • Make writing a habit. One of the best ways to shoot yourself in the foot is to write inconsistently. If you write for two hours Saturday, but then don’t write again until a week later, you’ll probably have to go back and reintegrate yourself with your story. By writing consistently, whether it’s every day or three times a week, you’ll remain focused and in your characters’ heads.
  • Don’t let resistance become an overwhelming monster. Ever experienced how putting something off only makes it a bigger challenge? If you’re feeling resistance to write, don’t close your laptop and call it quits, work through the resistance. It may take you fifteen minutes to write one double-spaced page, but you’ll most likely discover that after a bit that resistance fades away and your creativity flows.

There’s a reason why you’re writing. Remind yourself of that reason (hopefully it’s because you love writing for such and such reasons, like you have this story inside of you that’s just bursting to be told). When there’s meaning behind what you’re doing, often there’s less resistance.

How do you work through resistance?

(Photo courtesy of Hans Splinter.)

 

 

 

New Year’s Resolutions for Writers

The year is almost over. A new year is about to begin. These next days before we say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015 are a time to declare resolutions for the coming year. Some will resolve to lose weight or save money, but as writers, our New Year’s goal(s) tend toward writing.

341866875_a0e8c69f1e_oHere are some common resolutions for writers:

Make time for writing (consistently).

This is easier said than done. As writers, we know what we have to do to get a novel or short story written. We have to sit down and write. But, since most of us have jobs, families, various chores and errands, pets, other interests, trying to stay fit – not to mention needing sleep – it’s easy for our writing to get pushed to the side.

However, there is time to write. We just have to realize it. Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes on some days. Set goals for yourself. Maybe try to get 250 or 500 words written a day. Or work on outlining. Writing isn’t just about getting words down on paper. It’s also about doing research for your work, outlining your story, etc. There are some days where the time I allot for writing is all research!

If you write everyday, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes, you’ll find yourself accomplishing a lot more than putting off writing for a month and then spending seven hours in a writing fury. Not only will you have to remember what you’ve already written, but you’ll have to get back into your story. Both of which take up valuable time.

Finish or start your work.

Whether it’s a novel or a short story, you are determined to finish what you’ve started or begin putting that great premise down on paper. It can be frustrating to have an unfinished work laying around, but it’s easy to put off continuing working on it. The same applies for beginning a novel or short story. Why not write your goals down on a calendar or tell someone about your goals? Find a way to make yourself accountable to finish or start your work.

If you make the resolution to finish your work, that includes editing and revising. Make the work as close to perfect as you can. Then, reward yourself and work on a new goal: submission to agents.

Edit your work.

A fair amount of people think writing the novel is the hard part. That part is challenging, but what takes longer and is more demanding is revision. As the author, you get to a point in your work where it’s hard to see what needs to be improved. This doesn’t mean to stop revising. It means to get a fresh pair of eyes to look at your work, unless you are one of those lucky few who can step back and look at their own writing from an objective point of view, as if they had never seen or heard of the story before.

(I only know of one person who can successfully take an objective view of his work, which is why I’m in a critique group. I don’t catch all of the little things (and the occasional plot hole) missing from my work, and I very much appreciate those people who take time to review my work. Without them, my writing wouldn’t be as clean as it is.)

Submit your work.

Don’t submit until your work is ready. It can be tempting to submit to magazines or literary agents before you’ve finished editing, or sometimes before you’ve completed the first draft, especially when most agents take at least four weeks to get back to you. Resist this feeling. By waiting until your work is ready, you have a better chance of getting accepted.

Get involved with other writers.

Be supportive. Writing isn’t easy and it tends to be solitary. Not to mention how writers tend to be harsh on themselves. I don’t know about you, but there are times where my negativity gets the better of me. The way I help overcome that? Knowing other writers, talking to them, and supporting them. I know I’m not alone with the emotions and negativity I sometimes feel, and it helps to both encourage other writers (and be genuinely happy for them when they get published) and hear other writers encourage me to continue pursuing my goal of getting published.

Call yourself a writer (and believe it).

This one seems deceptively easy. But saying, “I write,” is different than saying, “I’m a writer.” Writing is more than a hobby. If you want to get published, you have to commit, and one of the most important things you can do to help yourself commit to writing is to admit that you are a writer.

It’s a little scary to admit that, especially if you’ve never been published because you may fail and never get published. That’s something I think about a lot. One thing is certain though. If you don’t call yourself a writer – if you don’t make that commitment to writing – you will have a very difficult time being successful in your endeavors.

I’ve talked in terms of getting published. Not everyone has that goal. Regardless of whether or not you want to get published, writing takes commitment, and in order to do your best, you have to call yourself a writer. More than that, you have to believe it.

One of the best little bits of writing on writers I’ve read is from “Story Engineering” by Larry Brooks. I first saw this piece on a Writer’s Digest blog (http://bit.ly/1c3L8ca) and liked it so much I thought I’d share it here:

We are lucky. Very lucky. We are writers.

Sometimes that may seem more curse than blessing, and others may not regard what we do with any more esteem or respect than mowing a lawn. To an outsider this can appear to be a hobby, or maybe a dream that eludes most.

But if that’s how they view you, they aren’t paying enough attention. If you are a writer–and you are if you actually write–you are already living the dream. Because the primary reward of writing comes from within, and you don’t need to get published or sell your screenplay to access it. …

Whatever we write, we are reaching out. We are declaring that we are not alone on this planet, and that we have something to share, something to say. Our writing survives us, even if nobody ever reads a word of it. Because we have given back, we have reflected our truth. We have mattered.

Enjoy the New Year. Embrace your resolutions. Write.

What resolutions are you making this New Year’s Eve?

(Photo courtesy of Naeema Campbell and Tim Hamilton)