Writers, What are your biggest challenges marilyn l davis two drops of ink

Writers, What Are Your Biggest Challenges?

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

1. Distractions

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.

Writers, What Are Your Biggest Challenges? marilyn l davis two drops of ink 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.

 

2. Feeling Overwhelmed

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.

Writers, What Are Your Biggest Challenges? marilyn l davis two drops of ink 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?

A. Jobs/Career

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.  

B. Family/Relationships

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.

Solution? Write:

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.

  1. What challenges do you face as a writer?
  2. What solutions work for you.

Comments open. Thanks

 

Two Drops of Ink: The Literary Home for Collaborative Writing

28 comments

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  3. Hi Marilyn,

    I relate, relate, relate, relate! Especially with the “quiet” part. Thanks so much for the encouragement. I write because I want to inspire or encourage, or educate, or entertain, but often I feel my words have fallen on deaf ears! I realise I’m not helping myself because I can’t keep up with all I’m meant to do with social media etc. Still trying to learn how to strike the right balance and still trying to find my audience.
    Excellent article as always. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards,

    Carol (aka Ladycee)

  4. I’m late to the party — thank you Marylin! That’s one of my challenges actually: keeping up with everything and everyone that I want to — all my interests and whatnot. Add it to the list of my many challenges. I get so overwhelmed with all the many things I have to do. I have too many projects I work on at once! I’m spread way too thin. Meanwhile, I let time lapse returning all my correspondence, posting regularly on social media, seeing a friend once every couple months, and letting the dishes and laundry pile up. I work best in the morning because my health makes it that I wear out as the day goes on. I’m up by 6:00 without fail, no matter when I go to bed, then I nod off trying to write and edit. I need to make sure I go to bed earlier and be more disciplined, but I think I need a longer list of solutions to address all my issues. I tend to feel helpless (I also have bipolar), and being this overwhelmed often throws me into dark places. Usually my only solution for all of this is to keep working, keep creating, keep going — like a shark that has to keep moving.

    • Hi, Carol. I’m thrilled that with all you do, you commented. I get that idea of the shark; I feel the same some days, too. How is your book doing? Any other art exhibits? Oh, and to add to your ever growing list of things to do, ready to write another one for Two Drops of Ink? No pressure, just would like one. Thanks.

      • Sure, no pressure! LOL. 😉 I’ve been thinking about cleaning some things up and submitting them to Two Drops. Probably pretty soon. I’ve been busy with closing in on getting my book published sometime before/by the spring. That’s the plan anyway. It’s being proofread now, and I’m also waiting on an atty to look it over for various reasons (it’s a nonfiction story and there are a lot of people in it). You can follow the latest goings on about it on the book’s site at ShrapnelInTheSanFernandoValley.com. Thanks for asking!

  5. Thank you for this Marilyn. No, you are not alone! I can definitely relate to the challenges you named – particularly numbers one and two. My two biggest challenges are writing in midst of ongoing health challenges and also giving myself “permission” to write. Because I love writing so much, I have difficulty allowing myself the pleasure when so much work is waiting to be done, I grew up in a household where you didn’t play until your work was done, But I am overcoming that mindset by realizing that my writing is just as important work as anything else, maybe more.

    • Hi, Terry. I’m with you on “my writing is just as important as….”. Some days, I have to put on the metaphorical blinders and just write away. If in need of blinders, I found an image of a writer with them on and it’s a sticky on my desktop. So, now there’s a constant reminder that the writing is important. I’m just real visual, though.

  6. I am very lucky because right now, I am building a new life for myself so technically fitting in writing time should not be too difficult… and yet. Time flies! We split chores and to-dos with my husband and still there are often days when I don’t get to write a single word – though I try to always carve out at least a few minutes to journal, share or comment on social media, or brainstorm ideas. That way, every day feels somewhat productive, and when I DO sit down and write, I have a pile of ideas to pick from which makes the blank page a stepping stone rather than a blockage.

    Marilyn, what does your writer’s notebook look like – is it just a mix of ideas and notes? Or is there some structure to it? I’m always looking to learn from others and improve my methods, so any tips are welcome.

    • Hi, Shahnaz. Thank you for commenting.

      What I read in your comment was that you do write daily – perhaps not a finished post, but the journal, commenting (much appreciated), social media, or your ideas. That’s more than some, so give yourself credit.

      Specific to my writer’s notebook. I carry a simple 3 x 5 bound book in the purse for the random insights. For my ‘darling file’, it’s divided by topics. Sometimes those are paragraphs that didn’t make a final cut when I revised a piece, or it’s snippets of information that I know I’ll include elsewhere. I try to take the paper insights and transfer them to the darling file, but I have to confess it doesn’t always happen…you know how life has a way of intruding on our writing, or organizing our writing time.

  7. Finding time to dig deep is the hardest part for me. I run to and fro…and my kids are grown, so that shouldn’t still be happening! It is putting writing as a priority. There are so many distractions at home that I think I need to go somewhere else, but that strategy doesn’t always work and who wants to go somewhere all the time? I need my quiet morning time to get my best work done. Getting up earlier is one way to get some time in…but now that I don’t teach anymore I am relishing in the fact that I no longer have to get up at 5:00 am. I know there will come a time to find my new writing routine and hopefully it will be soon.

    • Hi, Michelle. Thank you for making such an important distinction, writing to write, or writing to dig within.

      I’m sure you’ll find an early morning routine, but I can’t say that I blame you for taking advantage of some extra sleep after so many years of getting up early for school.

  8. Thank you, dear Marilyn, for reminding me I’m not alone in my struggle to write. My biggest struggle is in making sure I get enough sleep. I’m trying to balance family life and writing life without losing much needed sleep. I like to write early in the morning. Getting to bed on time is a struggle in a busy household.
    Blessings ~ Wendy Mac

  9. Thank you for this excellent, thought-provoking post! Distractions are not my problem anymore, but being “polite” is. Maybe it’s my age, but I find myself saying “no thanks” an awful lot. Perhaps I resemble J.D.Salinger at times, but I’m not trying to be anti-social (or even famous) like he was. I am, however, trying to be who I am, and not who I’m not. One thing I am is a writer, and I find it helps to have a “flight plan.” Mine starts with Quiet Time, which morphs into blogging whatever emerges from it. Even as free as a bird with an empty-nest (which I am), I am astonished how hard it is to stick to my own plan. Surprising vigilance is required for me to honor it: just that little tiny bit. But I do, and gladly, because I am writer, and writers write. For me, it is worth appearing as rude as J.D. Salinger to be released into my particular kind of flight.

  10. Sometimes when I just don’t feel like writing, I journal. I love journaling and have many old ones hidden on shelves behind regular books gathering dust. Recently, as I was sequestered in a rehab center from hip surgery, I wrote in a journal every day. As it turned out those pages turned into another book! A writer never knows when there’s an opportunity to write a book–I sure didn’t imagine my journal notes would be in a book form eight months later! Visit my website to learn more about “Inspirational Musings: Insights through Healing” just released. http://www.drsinor.com

    • Hi, Barbara. Turning the recoup time into a book is, in my opinion, a excellent way of using whatever time is available to us.

      I sprained my back years ago and was bedridden for three days. I wrote with pen and paper and when I could sit at the computer again, turned it into a post.

  11. Thank you for sharing and yes all of this is true. I find writing everyday even on my fb recovery groups is helpful in my growth. As a new publisher/author I find that creating my own business to stand on this platform has been difficult to obtain the exposure I would like from a vast audience. Rejected or Liked either way I am learning as you have stated. I hope to continue to grow in my writing, though they say write what you know, right now that is truly the recovery world and how to inspire them to want recovery. Rose

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