By: Marilyn L. Davis
“All writing challenges are psychological problems. Blocks usually stem from the fear of being judged. If you imagine the world listening, you’ll never write a line. That’s why privacy is so important. You should write first drafts as if they will never be shown to anyone.” ― Erica Jong, The New Writer’s Handbook 2007: A Practical Anthology of Best Advice for Your Craft and Career
Please Tell Me I’m Not Alone
If we’re honest, writing is hard work, and the image of sitting at the computer, staring at the blank screen, inviting the muse to inspire us, and creating masterful craft is something that happens only in the retelling. The truth is far less glamorous. It takes work to write.
When I think about the problems that I face, I’m wondering if you have the same ones, or are your issues different? Here’s my list of writing problems, and a few solutions.
I know that many of you have faced writing challenges, too, and probably have some useful suggestions for overcoming them. I’d welcome some new problem-solving techniques for the next time I can’t fill the blank screen. Click To Tweet
Five Challenges Every Writer Faces
Most likely, each of us has distractions that prevent us from typing 90 words a minute and creating a stellar post in one hour. My distractions are a demanding cat. Jackson insists on sitting on my desk nudging my left hand, demanding that I stop whatever I’m doing and pet him. Granted, I can plunk him down on the floor and get three words typed before he’s once again distracting me from my writing.
I think Jackson can be replaced with children, husbands, wives, and social media. All of these distractions require attention, and if I’m focused on them, I can’t write.
This solution works for Jackson. I rely on a treat. Giving him one before I sit down to write buys me some time.
If’ I’m purposefully thinking about a way to distract him, I’ll put the treat in his sleeping basket, which, I confess, has catnip in it. Then, he can see me, but seems content to only watch me instead of interacting with me – problem solved.
Now I’m not suggesting that you relegate your family to an imposed time out, even with treats, but discussing how important your writing time is essential. Bargain if you must. Barter your time to write with time afterward for them seems like a fair exchange.
Social media, even as demanding as it is with the constant notifications on our phones is really quite simple. You just have to be willing to shut off the notifications and move the phone out of reach, so you aren’t tempted to check FB, Linkedin, Twitter, or others.
2. Feeling Overwhelmed
Has your to-do list grown while your ‘done’ is getting smaller each day? Let me assure you that you are not alone. I like lists, whether it’s groceries, or tasks.
I remember when the Franklin Day Planner first came out. The college had a day-long seminar on how to use them effectively. Prioritize with A – B – C’s and do the ‘A’ items first.
The only problem with that logic is when we decide that all of our to-do items are ‘A’s.’ No one can determine what is most important on Sunday for responsibilities on Wednesday, but we can all look at our responsibilities and prioritize them. A simple way to do this is with MIT – Most Important Tasks.
Somehow, qualifying my ‘A’ priorities with this helps me stay organized, whether it’s a deadline, responding to emails, or communicating with family members about a resident.
So what are the duties that intrude on our writing?
Many of us work full-time, and since it often pays the bills, it is essential that we fulfill the job requirements and responsibilities. If I look at my work hours, I’m fortunate. I don’t have to be there until 11 AM. This means that I’m at the desk, writing or editing for my blogs at 5:30 AM.
I have a solid three-hour block of time to devote to the blogs, provided Jackson is satisfied. Are you willing to work around your job hours to find time to write?
For some people, determining if they can squeeze in the writing before or after work is the deciding factor. That’s the time management part. However, there are studies that point to the specific process of creativity and editing. When’s the optimum time? Write in the morning. Edit at night.
This may contradict your way of thinking. Write before five cups of coffee? No way. I used to think I was a night owl, and more productive then. What I found was that I’d gotten too many ideas during the day and was flooded with them. Now, at night, I review my writer’s notebook and select the topic I’m most drawn to that night. Whether it’s now in my subconscious mind, or my last waking thought, I’m not sure, but in the morning, I’ve got enough ideas to write.
My grandson unexpectedly came to visit me the other week, and it’s important to me that we spend time together.
He’s fifteen, and I don’t pretend that I can compete for his attention with games and girlfriends vying for his attention, also. But I was in the middle of a hard edit and knew I’d lose the momentum if I stopped what I was doing.
Again, sometimes, we have to negotiate to get time for writing, or in this case, editing. I asked for and got 30 minutes. Apparently, practicing his driving via my big-screen TV was better than on his phone.
Next time you need a few more minutes on an important task, see what you have to barter with; let your family or spouse know they are important, but you need the extra time on the task.
3. Wonder Why You’re Even Writing
Some days, I think I’m only writing for a pat on the back from Grammarly. Seriously, at least it tells me I’ve done a great job when I do spell/grammar checks. Or the coveted thumbs up and like on Facebook.
How often do you question why you’re writing? Let me know I’m not alone, please! When I’m serious about this, I also know that writing is its own reward if we don’t expect accolades and get rich quick income from our efforts. Two Drops of Ink was created to provide a platform for new and seasoned writers, and every day that we publish a post fulfills that mission.
Are your expectations in line with what you’re producing? See, we’re back to writing on a regular basis. There is so much written every day, that if we’re not visible, our readers will find something to read elsewhere, and who can blame them?
4. When the Readers Get Quiet
Quiet is useful for writing; it’s awful in the comment section. Quiet can mean that no one read it, liked it, or all the viewers on the site read someone else.
Accepting that we may have liked the post factors here. We may have created unrealistic expectations of a particular piece. Scott and I would sometimes laugh when we wrote something and told the other that we liked it. We referred to these as the ‘careful, don’t doom it before it’s published posts.’ Only slightly in jest, as there were times, that while we liked what we’d written, the post got crickets.
a. Because you have something to say
b. Even if it’s a first draft
c. Keep improving and honing your skills
d. Stop worrying about the numbers
5. When You Get Criticized
Rejection, whether it’s in a relationship, guest post, or by the readers feels terrible. Sometimes, it’s too much, and people stop writing. That’s a shame to me.
When the criticism is valid, we need to learn from it. I refrain from using a semicolon unless I am entirely sure it is grammatically correct. Why did I continue to misuse the semicolon? Probably because I thought they made the writing look more scholarly, when in fact, the misuse of the semicolon only made the writing amateurish and pretentious.
Other rejections might just mean that you’re using the wrong platform for your writing. I’m a member of about twenty-five Facebook pages on addiction and recovery. My posts on those topics get thumbs-ups, hearts, a few crying emojis, and comments when I share a post that I wrote for From Addict 2 Advocate.
However, if I post something from Two Drops of Ink, I know that the post would just languish there in obscurity. Why? Because the topics aren’t of interest to that population any more than strictly recovery or addiction posts would interest the readers here.
We have to understand what our readers want, so write to that selected audience. However, because they are our loyal readers, we can’t get lazy and just produce the same things. We’ve got to improve to keep our readers.
Your Turn to Shine and Problem Solve
In many of my recovery groups, I’ll ask the men what solutions they tried in the past to get and remain in recovery. Often times, their answers have merit – had they followed through.
So, while my solutions work, how many will actually put them into action? I have no way of knowing that unless you tell me that something worked.
But more important than my solutions, are what you can teach me. So, help me out.
- What challenges do you face as a writer?
- What solutions work for you.
Comments open. Thanks
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