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
Am I the Only One Challenged?
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 challenges and a few solutions.
Challenge #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 again distracting me from writing.
I think Jackson is synonymous 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.
Challenge #2: Feeling Overwhelmed
Even as demanding as it is with the constant notifications on our phones, minimizing the stress from social media is quite simple. You just have to be willing to shut off the notifications and move the phone out of reach, then you’ve removed the temptations to check FB, Linkedin, Twitter, or others.
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 that we sometimes 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 obligations 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, writing or editing a post, and 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, we must fulfill the job requirements and responsibilities. If I look at my work hours, I’m fortunate. I don’t have to be there until 10 AM, which 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, it is deciding if they can squeeze in writing before or after work. That’s the time management part. However, some studies point to the specific process of creativity and editing. When’s the optimum time?
Write in the morning. Edit at night.
This advice may contradict your way of thinking. Write before three cups of coffee? No way. I used to think I was a night owl, and more productive then. However, I discovered that I’d gotten too many ideas during the day, and lacked mental energy to corral them.
At night, I review my writer’s notebook and select the topic that interests me the most, and either edit my snippets or tangential research to broaden the scope of my knowledge about the idea. Then I retire for the 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 seventeen, and I don’t pretend that I can compete for his attention with games and girlfriends vying for his attention. 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. Practicing his driving via my big-screen TV was better than on his phone, so I got time, and he got to practice.
Next time you need a few more minutes on an important task, see what you have to bargain with; let your family or spouse know they are important, but you need the extra time on the task.
Challenge #3: You Wonder Why You’re 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 know that writing is its own reward if we don’t expect accolades and immediate get rich quick income from our efforts.
Two Drops of Ink provides 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 regularly. 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?
Challenge #4: Getting More Feedback from Readers
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.
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? Keep writing. Why?
a. Because you have something to say
b. Seeing a 100,200, or 2,000 words means you’re making progress
c. Writing and improving and hones your skills
d. Because the numbers aren’t the only indicator of good writing
Challenge #4: When You Get Criticized
Rejection, whether 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? I probably 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 Problem Solve for Challenges
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, their answers have merit – had they followed through.
So, while my solutions work, how many will 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.
I know that many of you have faced writing challenges 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
Comments open. Thanks
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