Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Writing tip: Don't get writer's block!

It's easy to become discouraged when it comes to writing. The more a writer doesn't write, the more discouraging it gets. It grinds you down until you can't get a single word out. And then the worst. You realize you've contracted that deadliest of diseases: Writer's block.
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Seriously - there is an almost magical thing that can cure you. That thing isn't abracadabra, it's deadline.

As it happens I've spent most of the last 17 years as a non-fiction writer, working for people with deadlines. Deadlines are tough. If I screwed up on my deadline I'd screw my client's deadline. Out in the real world, that can make or break a writer. Miss just one deadline and a client might go looking for someone else. Reputations take a long time to build but it takes just one flubbed deadline to ruin. Tough as the demands of deadlines are, I nevertheless grew to appreciate the value of having time constraints imposed on me. It meant I didn't have time to become discouraged because I had to write.

But then I decided I wanted to write fiction.

Things are different when you're home alone writing a story or a novel for yourself instead of for a client. Suddenly there are no deadlines. What a luxury to be able to write without the pressure! Unfortunately, believing there's a lot of time to write can end up as an excuse to put off doing any actual writing. When the day is done and there are no new words on the page it can be discouraging. When that happens the next day, and the next, well, you know what happens. Nothing.

Writer's block: it's real, but it's self-inflicted. It's kind of like push-starting a car. Getting those wheels rolling is hard, but once the vehicle's moving it's not so tough to keep it moving. There's even a natural law about it and that kinda sorta applies to writing, too.

When it comes to writing, you have to write to keep writing. Once you've started, do not stop!

Even writing on social media has value for a writer if it's more than emoticons and one-word comments. For me, writing about writing (as I am here), promoting myself as a writer, launching a Patreon account (it's coming soon!), and getting a professional editor to review my work gives me that deadline feeling. So does belonging to writing groups and having first readers I've promised a next chapter by such and such a date.

So when I find myself doubting, when I sense that discouraged feeling, I've found the very best thing I can do is sit down and just write something. Anything. A blog post, even. I drum up that deadline feeling and I push myself to get it done. Pressure. It's the magic cure.

♪ Under Pressure (Queen, with David Bowie)