A Survivor’s Guide to Writing
I’ve been frozen with fear lately. My fingers and brain have felt paralyzed with my latest book….
It made no sense.
I’ve completed four 400-page novels before and had literary representation for two of them. Yet, I’m still unpublished. One agent retired before we got the chance to sell my book; the other, we parted ways. I’ve been paid to write more magazine articles than I can count.
I can produce. I’m a survivor.
Before I pursue publication for my novels, I want to publish a nonfiction book first.
The idea just won’t go away and I can’t find a book like it on any shelf. This started as a short eBook for my audience on the creative process — a Happy 2015 gift to start their New Year off right.
The words flowed from my fingers and was a joy to complete. It was very well received.
Now, I want to add more information and exercises to it to help writers achieve more success with their craft. There was only one small problem.
I couldn’t write. It was clunky and slow. I told myself it was just fear and tried to push through it, then realized my problem at last.
You might share these struggles, too…
There are a few sustainable skills you need for the long haul with writing.
Tools for Writers
I’m not sure why I didn’t recall these truths earlier. Sometimes, I think I suffer from amnesia, but writing is always new.
The process is always done the same — one word at a time, yet it’s different every time. That’s what makes it both fascinating and frustrating. These tips apply to both fiction and nonfiction, whether you’re a poet or a freelance journalist. Use them to achieve more and stress less.
- Learn to be Comfortable with Discomfort
Bleh, I hate discomfort. My first response is to avoid pain of any kind, emotional or physical.
Writing is like stepping into the great unknown, full of ambiguity and uneasiness. It’s scary. You fret about your characters or the plot for your novel, but don’t always know how to improve them.
You must learn to coexist with these fears and unanswered questions…today, tomorrow and even next week. This uncertainty can last for months, if not years.
I have a friend who is a multi-published traditional novelist who jokes she never quite understands her books until she types The End. That’s when she returns to the beginning to start revising and to make sense of her story.
Learn to live with the questions on the page. It’s not easy, but it’s an absolute must in order to survive.
- Trust the Process
Writing is delicious and messy and hard and important.
All this discomfort can be torturous if you don’t understand this is part of writing. Rewriting, setbacks, mistakes and flat-out failures.
The answers will come to your work in time. Never as fast as you’d like and you might need the help of others — trusted writers, friends, family or paid industry professionals, who can view your work more objectively. You can’t always see your own story.
If you’ve been lucky enough to achieve some success, it’s a blessing and a curse. There’s the added pressure to create that magic again. You fear that before was just a fluke. Others will soon discover you’re a fake, a fraud, a phony.
You’re not. Each time you’re brave enough to step into the great unknown of writing and brave enough to stay there, you’ll eventually be rewarded with joy on the page for you and your readers.
- Reshift your focus
Stop agonizing over perfection. Quit chasing fame and fortune, or counting Amazon reviews before you’ve even completed the first draft.
Instead, focus offering value to others. This change of attitude made a huge difference for me and my book. I put a post-it by my laptop as a reminder every day, “How can I be most helpful to my reader?”
I try to act like I’m just meeting friends for coffee, then sharing with them all that I know on the subject. I’ve felt my body relax and enjoy myself more. It’s working because I’m producing more and the quality is much better.
Find the right word to to energize your head and heart to give your very best.
For nonfiction, ask yourself, how can I help, educate, inform (fill-in-the-blank) just one other reader?
For fiction, how can I entertain, enlighten, inspire (fill-in-the-blank) just one other reader? Write it down. Shift your focus away from your fears, to providing value to your readers.
I hope these survival skills are helpful and wish you all the best on your journey.
What do you think of this Survivor’s Guide? Do you have any other tips to share? Share in the comments.
This article was written by Positive Writer contributor Marcy McKay.