So you want to be a writer: The Writer’s Wall

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At this point, it’s pretty obvious that there won’t be a snippet for this week. Life conspired in numerous little ways last week to keep me from my computer, and even when I was able to open up my file, all I could do was stare blankly at the half-finished manuscript, completely frozen in terror.

Those days (or weeks, in this case) seriously suck.

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is overcoming distraction. Now, I could go into a long spiel on how you go about doing so except…I’m bad about it. Frankly, I’m the worst person to ask about avoiding distraction. In fact, sometimes I go actively looking for it in order to procrastinate – not consciously, it isn’t something I choose to do and yet, there it is.

That’s not to say I hate writing. Holy crap, this job is the perfect career for me, always something I wanted but never thought I’d have!! But to say it’s easy is, well, waaaaaaaaaaay the heck off base.

To me, what differentiates a writer from an author is simple: a writer writes, but an author FINISHES what they’re writing. Sounds simple, right? I mean, how many times have you thought about a great idea for a story, sat down, and started writing. All stories have similar components: a beginning, a middle, and an end. You have a great hook, the story is flowing…

And then, suddenly, it’s not.

In those moments comes the self-doubt, the second guessing, the absolute certainty that what you’re writing is drivel. Worse yet, a shiny new idea for another story might come to you, and you abandon your current project because it’s nowhere near as awesome as this new idea.

Sound familiar?

This point is where most people get thrown off track on a project, push it aside for “later”, whenever that might be. Now, if you’re a hobbyist who’s doing this because you love it and don’t see writing as a career choice, that’s fine. WRITING IS FUN. Making up new characters, imagining new worlds is such an incredible experience!

When it becomes your job however, things get tricky.

Take someone like me, who gets anxious about things long before they ever come to fruition. For example, a story could be barely out of the first scene and I’m already trying to figure out how I want to publish it, marketing, what the cover’s going to look like, and whether it will even sell, all while trying to create the best story I can.

No pressure, right?

Every writer is different, but the challenges are the same. You want to write the very best thing you can, but it seems as if everything is conspiring against you to keep it from being finished. The WORST part though is overcoming your own anxieties, the lingering self-doubt and uncertainties. Sometimes, the only thing that can keep you on track is remembering that, back when you first had the idea for this story, you thought it was awesome.

Because it sure doesn’t seem awesome when you’re in the middle of battling out what happens next.

If it sounds like I’m saying I’m a crappy writer, I’m not. If it sounds like I’m also trying to dissuade you from a career as an author, far from it. I’m just trying to convey what it feels like to be in that middle section of a story and second-guessing everything that you do, from a POV change to character introduction. It’s TOUGH being here, and quitting isn’t an option. Well, it is, but it’s not a good one. That’s the hardest part about being an author: finishing, even when you don’t want to.

Runners talk about the infamous “wall” they face during marathons, where your body just wants to give out and stop. There are a number of different things they can do to get past it, methods such as varying speeds or drinking the right fluids. There are a number of things we as writers can do too in order to get past this wall (also known as writers block):

– Go for a walk. Sounds easy right? But sometimes, it’s an easy solution to get away from the blank screen and see something else. Try not to stay away too long – it’s easy to get distracted and forget you were just doing a short walk – but the mild exercise can help you free your frozen brain on a problem.

– Try writing someplace else. One of the things I find most helpful is load up my current file onto my laptop and taking it to a local cafe during lunch. Writing in a booth vs my office chair can liven things up a bit.

– This one hearkens a bit to my last recommendation: ambient noise. Two of my favorite programs/websites for ambient noise are Coffitivity and Rainymood. Much like when I go to a cafe and have all the different sounds surrounding me, putting on a set of headphones and playing these two websites at a level just below a dull roar somehow calms me. These are better than music (for me at least) because, while music has lyrics that I often want to sing along with or get distracted by, both of these sites feature background white noise (a cafe with Coffitivity, rain and thunder with Rainymood). This is by far my favorite one to use, and I often get high word count days with both of these playing in my headphones.

– Brainstorm with yourself. If you’re a pantser like me (don’t write from an outline), sometimes you have no idea what happens next in your story. You’ll be moving along swimmingly with a story, and then…what next? The best thing to do at these times is to take a deep breath, open up a new file (or new page in your current one) and just start typing whatever comes to your mind. I call it stream-of-consciousness writing, where you’re basically spilling your guts to the keyboard. Maybe you’re not sure about the direction a scene is moving; perhaps it’s something that happened (or didn’t happen) two chapters back that you think might make things better. Don’t be afraid to second-guess yourself, but also don’t let it hold you back from figuring things out; type out what you feel is wrong, then start throwing out ideas on how to fix it. What I love about doing this is that, even after you’ve got it figured out, you have a written account of your thought process and, while it might be the weirdest thing you’ve ever read, there could be a lot of little gems that are now permanently written down.

– Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to other writer friends. This doesn’t mean you have to find a critique group, but maybe join an online writing website where you can connect with other writers. Sites like Romance Divas (romance) and Dirty Discourse (erotica and romance) are great for romance writers, but every genre has their own hangouts. On there, you can connect with other people, make friends who understand your battles, and realize that you are not alone.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I’d originally intended (and a bit more convoluted), but I hope it helps someone. There is no right or wrong way to write; what works for one person may not work for another. The key is to find what helps you, what gives you the peace of mind and allows you to put words to the page. If you want to have fun with words and not worry about publication or anyone else reading your stuff, there’s most definitely no shame in that. If you want to finish something though, learn how to buckle down and make something for publication, well then, I wish you all the very best! 😀