If writing a best-selling memoir is your goal or if just finishing a memoir is your goal, you are going to fail. Let that sink in a minute. Like little boys who want to grow up to become professional baseball players or little girls who want to become princesses, the fact remains that very few do. Finishing a novel or memoir is really no different. There are so many hurdles to climb that most never start, or if they do, they quickly quit. Sounds daunting, doesn't it? If this has you reconsidering starting your memoir, do not start. It will just be a waste of time. For those of you that are undaunted by these warnings, congratulations, you may just have what it takes to be a writer.
Writing is about passion. No matter what, you need to get your story on the page. If your motivation is money or fame, there are much easier ways to accomplish those things than writing. Actor Matt Damon has a similar philosophy. When novice actors ask him for advice, he always tells them to quit because it is too difficult to succeed. Although harsh, he figures it is the best advice he could ever give. If the actor quits, he or she just did not have what it takes to deal with the hardships of the business. On the other hand, if the actor ignores the advice, he or she may just have what it takes to deal with the rejection. If you are still reading, maybe you do as well. While your drive and passion will not ensure that you will not hit a speed bump or two, it will certainly keep you in the game when the going gets tough.
There are many difficulties that can stall or even derail your project. The most prevalent issues that tend to weigh down a writer's project include a lack of time, writer's block, and rejection. So let us take a look at each problem and learn how to better deal with each one when it inevitably pops up from time to time.
How To Find Time To Write
Even the most efficient writers have difficulty finding the time to write. With so many other aspects of life vying for our attention, first and foremost our jobs and family, it takes quite a bit of maneuvering and determination in order to carve out the necessary time to write on a consistent basis. While there is no tried and true solution to this problem, there are plenty of things that you can do find the time to write.
The first thing you need to do is determine the things that keep you away from writing. Are they internal or external? Many writers cannot find the time to write because of internal struggles, such as a fear of failure or chronic procrastination. Other writers cannot find time to write because of external struggles, such as a poor writing space or an unorganized and chaotic day. In order to find solutions to these problems, you must first identify them so that you can then address them.
Most writers will have trouble with writer's block at some point in their lives. While there are a myriad reasons why a writer may feel as though he or she can no longer write, not writing does not necessarily mean one has writer's block. Writers are always writing, even if they are not physically typing at the typewriter. It is important that you do not confuse brainstorming with writer's block. If ideas are percolating in your head, you are writing. Very few writers are as prolific as Stephen King.
However, if it turns out that you do indeed have writer's block, there are fortunately ways in which to deal with it. Before we consider the solutions, let us look at why one may feel he or she is blocked.
1. You are too hard on yourself.
Perfectionism is a common reason many writers become blocked. If you approach your writing and ideas with the belief that it can always get better, it is all too easy to fall into the fallacy that nothing you have done is really good enough. That sort of self-doubt and fear will often keep you from starting anything, let alone finishing it.
2. You are not writing what you are passionate about.
If you have a hard time reading anything that does not grab you, why would you even attempt to write something you are equally not passionate about? Yet, many writers will try to write something just because they think it is what readers or publishers want. Guess what? The tastes of readers and publishers are constantly changing, so trying to predict it is futile.
3. You are focusing too much on one aspect of the story.
Like perfectionism, focusing too much on the details will prevent you from seeing the big picture. Constant revisions and tinkering prevent you from finishing the first draft. As most of us already know, just finding the time to write is hard enough, but spending all of the time you have going over the same portion of your work will derail any project.
4. You have unreal expectations.
Unreal expectations by both novice and professional writers alike are a major cause of writer's block. For the novice writer, the expectation that writing will get progressively easier is often shattered when he or she realizes that writing is work. Professional writers, especially relatively new ones, have unreal expectations of how their writing life will progress. As with many careers in the arts, there are often wild trajectories, with many peaks and valleys that tend to derail those who are not prepared for the inevitable lull after their initial success.
5. You succumb to panic.
Writer's block tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Writers will often panic because they feel they are not writing or writing enough. The more you feel as though you cannot write, the less you actually write.
Tips on How to Overcome Writer's Block
1. Implement a writing schedule.
As we have already covered, if you want to be a writer, you have to write. Set aside a time, or at least an amount of time, every day to write. Whether it is three hours or 30 minutes, the daily routine is what is most important in the beginning. Perhaps the writing will not come easy at first, but if you continue to show up every day, you will eventually find your muse. Author Graham Greene wrote just 500 words, about one page, every morning. That is not a lot, but those 500 words per day would eventually become 30 published books.
2. Do not be too hard on yourself.
Perfectionism has no place in writing. That is not to say you cannot be critical of your work, but the idea that there is a perfect word, sentence, page, or book is not possible. Writing is subjective. Stop being so hard on yourself and just tell the story.
3. Set deadlines.
Establish and keep deadlines. All of us have stories we want to tell but then get hung up while trying to write them down. Stop obsessing and just get it out there. Do not worry if you are telling the story in the best possible way; just do it. Once you get it out, then you can go back and rewrite what is not working without the fear of finishing.
4. Do not get hung up on one idea or project.
Sometimes walking away and taking a break re-energizes your ideas. If you are stuck, switch projects. Write a letter, an e-mail, or another project: anything to keep you writing and minimize the chances of getting blocked, bored, or both. If you have no idea what to write, just work on a writing exercise.
5. Address your writing space.
Where you write has a very profound effect on your ability to stay focused and write. A desk with a comfortable chair, good lighting, minimal distractions, and a door that closes is ideal for many writers. What if your situation is not ideal? Here are a few suggestions to consider:
When at Home
If you do not have an office in your home, settle for a space in the quietest available corner. If you have other people living with you, try to write in off-hours when they are asleep or not at home.
When Outside the Home
Consider renting a small office. The idea of leaving the home and going to work somewhere can really focus you. If you cannot afford a small office or studio, consider a coffee shop or the library for the same reason. Because there may be more distractions, try to create a boundary of space to keep them at bay.
Dealing with Rejection
Writing is an expression and interpretation of your thoughts, but it is not what defines you as a human being, regardless of what we writers often believe. Do not take rejection so personally. Build yourself a life with friends, family, hobbies, and interests that remain entirely personal and not dependent on the kind of criticism your writing gets.
Join or create a trusted writers' group. Because all writers deal with the same issues that you do, you will have a place to vent, laugh, bounce ideas around, and receive constructive criticism.
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