So, you’re a writer, but you never find time to write? Projects pile up, deadlines go whooshing by — making the sound that Douglas Adams so enjoyed — and you sit slumped over a keyboard wishing you had carved out those extra few hours. All because now, the stress of having not written, is weighing you down.
First, remember you are not alone. All writers share the same challenges, whether you’re an author, a copywriter, a screenwriter, a journalist, a business professional, or a blogger. There are many obstacles standing between us and our writing. From our old friend writer’s block, to time management skills, to battling our demons, our writing passion is thwarted in a myriad of ways.
Let’s dissect the top obstacles in the way of your writing, and unravel ways to diffuse them:
Make Writing a Priority
I’ve met many screenwriters in Los Angeles who haven’t written a single, complete screenplay. If you are a writer, then write. It is your priority, and you can’t expect other people to take your writing seriously if you don’t.
What is your most productive time of the day? Are you a morning person? Do you get a rush of energy in the afternoon? Or are you a late-night warrior who’s visited by your muse as the clock nears midnight?
Whatever your most productive hours are, those are the hours you should be writing. Identify when you write best and commit to writing during that time every day. Like making a commitment to go to the gym, you need to carve out your writing time and make it a priority.
Eliminate Time-Suckers—This Means You Netflix
Yes, one can make the argument that binging Netflix is a type of research. Polling friends on Facebook helps you find the perfect name for a new character. The truth is, the many hours wasted watching TV, on social media, and with other time-sucking activities, is likely detrimental to your writing.
Stephen King advises, in his tour de force On Writing, “If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug-wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far. Just an idea.”
The point is, remove the distractions that suck away your writing time. You don’t need to completely remove Hulu and Snapchat from your life, but diligently managing the amount of time — and the type of time — you spend with ancillary activities, creates an environment that’s optimal for writing.
Write Right Through It
Lacking inspiration? Struggling with a plot hole? Procrastinating your writing because you can’t quite determine a character’s motivation? Or do you simply feel like the words aren’t coming? We’ve all been there. The best way to combat writer’s block, is to write right through it.
Pull out the keyboard or journal and get to work. If an idea isn’t fully fleshed out, that’s okay. Don’t stop to self-edit, don’t worry about technical elements you can look-up later, don’t get caught up in smoothing out the clunky dialogue.
Remember, the first draft of any story means you’re telling it to yourself. Outline and be a plotter if you’d like, pants if you must, either way, getting the words down is the first step to all writing. To be a writer, you gotta write.
Tell Your Demons to Shut the Front Door
There are voices we listen to, naughty little demons, whispering that we’re not good enough. That our writing will never get us anywhere. That we’re wasting our time. That we’re not talented.
The demons may take the form of a former teacher, a negative colleague, or even friends and family. If they haunt you, tell those demons to shut the heck up.
Whether real or imagined, or embellished by our own self-doubt, the voices in our heads that prevent us from writing can be some of the most constraining. If you have a desire to write, then you are a writer. If other writers intimidate you, and you aspire to be like them, then be inspired by them.
Don’t stand in your own way.
Writing is a journey. A path that many have traveled. But not a single writer will tell you it was easy. Like the hero in your story, you as a writer have many obstacles to overcome. If you are up to the challenge, then be bold, be fearless, and write on.