So I’ve been suffering from writer’s block for a few months now. Draft 3 of my WIP was heading towards a brick wall and then came to a complete standstill, when really what I need to do is just write. Once you lose momentum, it’s hard to get going again. But if you stop altogether, it feels almost impossible. Ever tried pushing a stalled car up a hill? That’s what writer’s block feels like. But really, what’s stopping you is fear.
Fear is the squirmy thing that stops writers from writing. Professional writers are just people who manage to fight the fear on a daily basis, allowing them to keep going. Most professional writers have agents and editors who are there to give them a shake, when the fear takes hold and tell them to get back to it. However, at some point, those professionals were wannabe writers and had to wrangle the fear all alone and that’s what you’ve got to do now.
The first step to fighting the fear, is recognising it. The next step is a fear take down, by fair means or foul. Lock and load people, we’re going in.
Fear of Failure: Any creative person is afraid of failure at some point. What if that thing you spend hours and months and years of your life on is just a bit shit? You open your heart and it’s a bit like a creative fart. People just walk away, shaking their heads. You can see the sadness and disappointment on their faces before you’ve even put pen to paper. So the scared writer in us all thinks, best just give up now. Why start? Better to just do nothing, than risk failure. Wrongo.
The cure: Fear hates it when you actually start writing. Talk about your fear to others. What’s the worst that can happen if you fail? Will you die? No. Next move on to; what’s the best that can happen if you keep writing? Songwriter Nile Rodgers says he’s a crap writer (meaning his first draft of a song always needs work), but he’s a great re-writer. So embrace your crappy writer and become a great rewriter.
Fear of Finishing: Around the midway point of a novel or other WIP, there’s a tendency to slowdown. This is the part of a story when you’re laying down key narrative threads and character developments and there’s less action, so it can feel slow, boring and just like hard work. It’s also the point at which the end is in sight. You’re over the hump. Uh oh. If you finish, then what? Then you have to write a synopsis and submit it to agents or just actually publish it yourself. Fear takes over and stops you.
The cure: The WIP honeymoon period is over. It’s time to set deadlines and word counts to just get this thing done. Writing is work. If it wasn’t, everyone would do it. Imagine how good it will feel to write ‘The End’. There’s no going back, you can only go forward. Keep writing soldier.
The Fear of Success: What if you finish your book and this is the only story you have to tell? What if you get an agent and have a bestseller and never write anything ever again? Really? You want to worry about this now? Take a look around. You don’t have an agent. You’re eating chocolate and sponge cleaning the leaves on your house plants, instead of writing. Plus, how many things do you know that get worse with practice?
The cure: Stop worrying about shit that may never happen. Not writing is the best way to fail at writing. Fear knows that and now, so do you. When you do get success, enjoy it. Be in the moment. And at this moment, you need to write.
Let’s face it, I could do a whole series on fear. Writers invent new fears every day – anything to give them a reason to stop the blood, sweat and tears of actually writing. Even your favourite author who seems so perfect and gifted and effortless fights fear. They’ve learnt to deal with it, but you can be sure they battle the demon on every project. The one thing that fear doesn’t want you to know is that fear makes you a better writer. A little bit of fear is a good thing – it makes you strive and try harder. Just don’t let it rule you.
This year, I’ve grappled with all these fears. Last weekend, I set myself a deadline. I’m going on a course at the end of September and want draft 3 finished by then. I’ve given myself a word count and a daily word target. And I’ve put that target into the calendar on my phone. So, for the next 12 weeks I’m getting daily reminders to write. If there’s one thing fear hates, it’s writers who write.