I’ve been in the writing game for many years: fiction, non-fiction, business, and poetry. I’ve also offered dozens of writing workshops over the past couple of years, and I can tell you with full confidence that the hardest thing about writing is not lack of creative talent, knowledge of genres or wordsmithing, no.
The hardest thing about writing is actually sitting down and writing!
It’s not my intention to come across as obtuse or sarcastic or simplistic here. For me, Newton’s First Law of Motion is in full swing here: an object at rest tends to stay at rest. It’s very difficult to overcome our resistance and get our butts into our writing spaces and open up the laptop or pull out some paper and get writing.
What’s interesting about this, for me, is the reason why it is so hard to stop procrastinating and to start writing. It’s not writer’s block or some other excuse like that, no. It’s got everything to do with fear.
The fear of being exposed
Look, I see this all the time with my writing groups. We are terrified of what writing might do to us, we fear being judged by others, and so rather than take the risk, we simply avoid it altogether by not writing at all. That, by the way, is the real reason behind “writer’s block”... fear!
I’m no different than anyone else. I fall into the fear-trap frequently, and the only way out that works for me is to have a daily writing schedule that I force myself to stick to no matter what. I know, for example, that by 8:00 every morning, I’m going to be in one of two writing spaces, laptop open, notes beside me, ready to work. And I treat it like a job too. It’s the only thing that keeps me productive. If left to my own devices, I wouldn’t get anything written, ever.
Writing is hard work
A funny thing that many of my new writers notice too is that writing is actually hard work. I think we have this idea that writing is easy. All you have to do is learn words and a couple of formulas, and voila, you’re a writer. It doesn’t help either when Jessica Fletcher and other TV writers never actually write much on their shows! They’re always off doing other fun things. Miraculously, their books get written anyway.
But that’s not the way it really works. Writing is hard work. It’s challenging coming up with interesting and fresh story ideas, characters that don’t look like idiots, stories without zombies or vampires(!!), and then actually sitting down for a writing session.
Writing Advice #1
One of the best pieces of advice I read was “Don’t Think” from Ray Bradbury. This sounds paradoxical, but one of the issues we have with fear is overthinking things. The moment we do that, we fall into the trap of “not being good enough” and “my story is utter rubbish”. The truth is, as Hemingway once said, “The first draft of anything is s***”. So give yourself permission to write a load of rubbish. You can fix it up when you start editing, but you have to get that story out first.
So don’t think about it, just do it.
Writing advice #2
The other thing that helps me overcome fear and procrastination is scheduling a time in my day where I will write. Sometimes that’s first thing in the morning. Other times, I write in the afternoon. But when I schedule the time—even if it’s half an hour—then it gives me that psychological feeling that this is important, and it’s time to get it done.
So if you’re looking to be a more productive writer, the first thing to overcome is the fear of writing. Fight the inner resistance. Turn the TV off, log out of your social media, and make a habit of writing on a regular basis.