By: Marilyn L. Davis
Is It a Writing Challenge or Psychological Problem: Or Are They the Same?
“All writing problems 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
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 five writing problems and a few solutions.
Most likely, each of us has distractions that prevent us from creating 5000 words for a first draft. My distractions are a truant 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. These distractions require attention, and if I’m focused on them, I can’t write.
For Jackson, 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 is laced with catnip. 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 sequester your family, but discussing your writing time is essential. Bargain if you must. “If you give me 30 minutes of uninterrupted time, I’ll play ball with you” seems like a fair exchange.
Even as demanding as it is with the constant notifications on our phones, social media is really quite simple. You just have to be willing to shut off the alarms and move the phone out of reach, so you aren’t tempted to check FB, Linkedin, Twitter, or others.
2. Feeling Overwhelmed By…
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. Still, we can all look at our obligations and prioritize them.
So what are the duties that intrude on your writing? When you identify the priorities for any day, make sure that writing is an A priority. We’re hard-wired to remember what we write down, and writing by hand reinforces the importance of the task. We each have a preferred way that we organize our ideas, thoughts, and prompts. Here’s 23 journal specifically designed for writers – there is sure to be one that you’ll actually use.
Many of us work full-time, and since it 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 11 AM. This means that I’m at the desk, writing 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? I choose to get up early. I like the mornings, listening to the birds waking up or see the sun rising. Other people find the solitude of night when the kids are in bed a better time 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 eighteen, 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.
Sometimes, we have to negotiate to get time for writing, or in this case, editing. I asked for and got 30 minutes. Apparently, playing via my big-screen TV was better than his phone. So see what you have to barter with and let your family, husband, wife, or significant know that they are important, but you need some time.
3. 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. But how often do you question why you’re writing?
Let me know I’m not alone, please! I think that writing can be its own reward if we aren’t expecting accolades and getting rich quick income from our efforts.
- Are your expectations in line with what you’re producing?
- Remember why you started writing and build on that.
- Study books about writing – whether it’s about one of your stumbling blocks – grammar, or for inspiration, many authors share their wisdom on why and how to write.
- Write more – write better.
See, we’re back to writing regularly. There is so much written every day that if we’re not improving, our readers will find something to read elsewhere, and who can blame them?
4. Readers Quit Liking and Commenting
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. 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. Then we’d spend an inordinate amount of time repeating the negatives:
a. No one read it.
b. No one liked it.
c. The numbers weren’t great.
Review the posts that got comments. What about them seemed to appeal enough to your readers for them to comment? Did you ask questions prompting the readers to respond? Did you include a Call to Action or CTA? Were there specific topics that elicited more comments? Build on those styles, tones, or issues to get your readers reengaged.
5. Your Writing is Criticized
Rejection, whether in a relationship, guest post, or 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 semicolon’s misuse 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 posted something from Two Drops of Ink, I know that the post would just languish there in obscurity. Why? Because those readers are interested in recovery, not writing, per se.
Understand your readers, what platforms work best for your topics, tones, or style, and continue to improve your writing, so criticism is minimized. If you do get criticized, don’t get defensive, but take it as an opportunity to learn; after all, Grammarly isn’t the only benchmark for a good post. She smiles.
Understand your readers, what platforms work best for your topics, tones, or style, and continue to improve your writing so criticism is minimized.
CTA – Your Turn
I know that just as the quote helped me, I also know that many of you have faced all of these writing problems, too. You 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.
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 did work for you.
But more important than my solutions are what you can teach me.
So, help me out. What problems do you face as a writer? What solutions work for you.
Comments open. Thanks