Note: This is a guest post by Christine Niles. She likes to make up stories before the crack of dawn, and she works with authors to publish and launch books by the light of day. Christine helps determined writers take their next step at www.writersnextstep.com. Follow her on Twitter @croyseniles.
You’ve felt it, haven’t you?
It starts as a tremble in your fingers. Maybe you feel a funny little flutter below your stomach. But then as you hover over the Publish button, you just can’t click.
Fear of finishing.
You’re not alone — we all feel it.
I talked with a bestselling author recently who was still fearful of calling his latest book done. He wanted to waffle and tweak. To get more opinions. To keep editing.
Even the most veteran writers (at least the honest ones) admit a twinge of fear each time they hit “Send” on a new piece.
And really, if you’re not a little afraid, you’re probably not pushing yourself enough. (We’ll get back to that in a little bit)
But fear isn’t the only thing that stops us. Here are four more things that get in every writer’s way from time to time, and the practical tricks to kick all of them to the curb.
Budget is a real issue for a lot of people. If investing in your writing will cause your kids (or you) to go hungry, then please…buy groceries.
That said, writing is one of the least expensive endeavors you could choose. It’s never been cheaper to share your work with an infinite number of potential readers.
You can set up a self-hosted blog for less than the cost of one latte a month, and you can start an email list for free. You can find thousands of professional-quality, royalty-free images. You can even create your own eBooks and print books — free.
Sure, you get to choose between investing time or investing money, but don’t let a tight budget stop you.
And if perspective helps, consider the cost of golf equipment, photography gear, or even a gym membership and running shoes. All of a sudden, writing is one of the least expensive, most rewarding activities you can invest your time in.
2. Technology (hint: don’t overthink it)
Learning everything the “gurus” say you need to know is probably making your head spin.
I get it. I really do.
The internet is changing fast and it’s natural to be overwhelmed by all the different tools and terms and tricks. And each one of them has its place.
But here’s the real secret: You don’t need to do everything at once.
If you take it one step at a time, I promise you can nail it.
Keep your site simple
It’s not reasonable to expect the average writer to create her own super-pro web site with a 5-image slider and shopping cart integration in two days. (But you could do it if you had enough time and patience!!)
The good news is, you don’t need all that.
Use a simple, free theme, like WordPress’s 2016 theme. It’s nice and clean, and you can get started with practically no hassle.
Not only will it get you up and running quickly, your readers will thank you, too! Simple for you to create also means simple for them to navigate and find what they need!
You can always upgrade your theme (the look and feel of your blog/site) once you’ve been at it for a while.
[specialbox]ProTip: IF you can swing it, start out on a “self-hosted” site (also sometimes referred to as wordpress.org). This costs a few bucks a month, but it sets you up for long-term growth.
When you’re starting out, this is the #1 thing worth spending just a little bit of bank on.[/specialbox]
Start an email list
Every guru says it, and this time, they’re right.
Social media platforms can change what users see on a whim, but nearly everyone still checks their email. Getting the email addresses of the people who want to read what you’re writing? Super-important.
Mailchimp is the best option for starting up. It’s FREE for up to 2,000 subscribers, and there’s almost nothing you could be doing as a new writer that would make you need the paid version.
[specialbox]ProTip: Keep this simple, too. Readers prefer simple, plain emails with NO fancy formatting over branded, pretty emails with headers and matching colors and crap. And if you keep it simple, you can be up and running in under an hour.
You can download a free tutorial video and cheat sheet at my site, Writer’s Next Step.)[/specialbox]
Seriously, that’s it.
There’s a lot more you can do. And you may have even heard that you HAVE to do all this other stuff. You don’t.
If you’re not sharing your work because you’re overwhelmed by all the technical crap? Stop it.
Keep it simple and get your writing in front of your readers.
3. Writing Tools
New writers ask veteran writers all the time: What do you use to write?
Now, if it’s pure curiosity about other people’s processes, that’s cool. But I suspect most often this comes from a desire to find a magic bullet — a tool to make your words miraculously appear.
It’s easy to hold back on writing because you’re looking for the perfect tool.
News flash: that tool doesn’t exist.
Write on a napkin or a top-of-the-line MacBook. Use GoogleDocs or Microsoft Office.
[specialbox]ProTip: The second thing worth a couple bucks (and it’s only $45 max…one time….ever) is the writing application Scrivener. It’s like a 3-ring binder where you can keep all your various writing organized.
But be forewarned, it’s different from anything you’ve ever used. So if tech overwhelms you, take a pass on it for a while. Your time is better spent writing than learning software.[/specialbox]
As a global society, we worship at the altar of busy. You scream. I scream. We all scream for more time.
But that’s a waste of energy. You have the same amount of time in your day as Taylor Swift does.
I’ve studied and re-engineered how people use their time (like, professionally). And one thing I found across the board was that how people think they spend their time is not how they actually spend their time.
Do the hustle…or not
Advocates of “hustle” (which I was for years) will tell you to cut back on TV and cut back on sleep. I’ve done both. And I can’t say I regret it….to a point.
But here’s the thing. You can only cut back on so much sleep. I, for one, really need a solid 8-9 hours a night to be at my best. I can function on less for a while, but it’s not sustainable. No one wants to be around me after even a couple weeks of no sleep.
You also can’t go for long without down-time. Relaxation and play are important to your creative engine. And TV (good, scripted TV) provides exposure to great storytelling. Whether you realize it or not, you’re learning.
Now, I’m not telling you to make a career out of watching Netflix, but I’m also telling you there’s another way to recapture a bit of time.
The better way to find more time isn’t to find more time. It’s to waste less of it.
I bet you’re doing a lot of stuff that’s related to writing, but isn’t really writing. Things like taking online courses and doing assignments, jumping into the latest blogging challenge, and promoting your blog posts on 9 different social media platforms…
Evaluate the return-on-investment of everything you do.
Take a look at each activity, whether it takes a minute or an hour, and ask yourself “to what end?”
Consider how likely each activity is to generate results. Ask yourself how long it will take to get those results. And then make smart choices.
Keep the activities that are critical to accomplish what you need to do next. Then kill off the things least likely to take you where you need to go, and use that time to actually write.
Because promotion does you no good if you haven’t written anything to promote. (Tweet that!)
And my final word on finding time? If you want something bad enough, you’ll make the time for it, even if it’s just a little bit each day.
I said we’d get back to it, and I meant it. Bryan talks a lot about how fear can stop us from writing and from sharing our work. I won’t repeat him here, other than to say he’s right.
Here’s my big thing about fear.
Being a little afraid means I care about what I’m putting out there. And that’s a good thing. But being too afraid to release a piece? That’s not OK.
We’re harder on ourselves (at least I am) than any reader ever will be. And chances are, even if your piece is imperfect, it’s likely to connect with someone else, who’s also imperfect, and who needs to hear what you’ve got to say, typos and all.
So what are you waiting for? Get your writing on, and post a link in the comments to something you’ve done that you’re especially proud of (or scared to share)!