“I want to write but…”
“…I can’t find the time.”
“…I don’t know what to write about.”
“…I won’t be able to handle people criticising my work.”
“…I don’t have the patience.”
“…I’ll feel terrible if no one reads what I write.”
All these are common reasons for people stopping themselves from writing when they long to. At their heart they share a deeper truth:
Right now pause and think about writing; how much you want to do it but don’t. Now repeat to yourself your usual fall back reason for not writing. What do you you feel in your body? What emotions come up? Somewhere in there is fear, hiding under other emotions, tangled thoughts, reasons and – let’s be honest – excuses.
Most writers find themselves in that place of fear sometimes, where the What If’s dwell. Whether you want to write blog posts or books or anything in between, the truth is that sharing your words with an audience isn’t risk free. How do you live with that risk and still write anyway?
In this article I’ll show you what’s going on when you avoid writing and how to begin getting over it.
Why you put off writing
Reduced right down to basics procrastination happens when there appears to be more reward in putting something off than in doing it. The discomfort of doing something seems too big to deal with so you find a way to not do it and avoid the discomfort.
With writing there are many things that you may think are so uncomfortable you have to avoid them. This isn’t an exhaustive list but some pain points you might associate with writing are:
- Not knowing where to start
- Believing you’ll get bored or distracted and won’t finish
- Not having writing or planning skills
- Lots of other people are writing – you think your voice will be lost
- Fearing that if you write it will turn out you have nothing to say
- Not knowing how to continue once you start
- Doubting your own value
- Not wanting to be judged
So what’s the reward in not writing even though it upsets you not to? You avoid all this pain!
Or at least that’s what a part of you thinks.
There’s a part of each of us that tries to keep us small. It’s cause is noble: It wants to protect you from harm. To do this it is constantly on the look out for danger, weighing up risks then telling you if you should run away or not.
The problem is it is extremely risk averse and sees any discomfort as a danger, and it’s great at convincing you of it’s own out of proportion point of view. How do you listen less to to this voice to you can write?
You are a writer
The discouraging part of you is skilled at presenting you with evidence that you aren’t and can never be a writer. You need to present yourself with evidence that you are a writer so you can begin building your confidence to the point where you can deal with the challenges of writing. How?
Write a little every day.
OK, by now you’re probably thinking “Well duh”. But here’s the thing: Writers write. They show up with dedication and persistence to write even when they don’t feel like it. By writing even a for a few minutes every day you show yourself that you are dedicated, that you are persistent. That you are a writer.
There’s no magic bullet for this; I’m not going to claim that it will be easy and that your motivation and confidence will go through the roof. But motivation comes from action and confidence comes from experience, not the other way around. This means you can’t afford to wait until you feel motivated and confident enough to start. You have to start to build evidence for yourself that you’re a writer now.
Keep your goal simple – to write every day. There’s no need to produce a certain number of words or write for a set length of time. Your writing doesn’t have to make sense, even to you, and you don’t have to share what you write.
I was dubious that showing up at my laptop or notebook to write every day would make any difference for me, but it has. I write this blog, another one with a friend and I’m working on a non-fiction book. There’s nothing grand or ground breaking, but writing every day makes me feel that I’m a writer, and I feel good about that and that feeling keeps me trying and helps me to continually set aside self-doubt to keep going.
Your fears around writing aren’t irrational or invalid but they have taken on an exaggerated size. Building evidence that you’re a writer will help to put them back into proportion so you can write, instead of being one of the many people who’s fear keeps them trapped, their creativity stifled so that they never try to reach for their writing dreams.
Here are some more articles to help you to find and free your voice: