Overwhelm often stops people from writing. I know it did me. I couldn’t even conceive of writing 300 pages, give or take, to get my first novel out. Just the very thought of it made me tremble, and I had incredible approach/avoidance over doing it.
Too much commitment!
Insert any easy rationalization that I could think of to make me shoot myself in the foot.
Do you do that to yourself, too? Do you feel frustrated with yourself and does that feeling make you say to yourself, “What’s wrong with you, loser? Why can’t you do this?”
Yeah. I felt those feelings and hated myself for not knowing where or how to start. I knew I could, just not that I ever would. But I remember wanting that validation of being a “writer.” Because I was a stay-at-home mom, that was really important to me. The family is my number one priority, of course, but if I don’t have a sense of achievement for me, I’m not happy. I think a lot of women who stay home have these feelings, too. We want to make a mark on the world, and though being Mom is great, we’re not 100% happy unless we have something to call our own.
So, was I lazy? Of course not! I was just freaked out thinking about writing a whole book. I had no idea how to motivate myself to do something so difficult. I’m guessing that 99% of all writers go through this stage.
The other thing that stops us is the idea that people put into our heads about how difficult it is to be published. Yes, it’s difficult, but… It’s NOT impossible. People definitely become their own worst enemy in this battle.
They try to skip steps.
I know that when my husband first wrote his book, we never took the time to figure out formatting, for example. That’s HUGE! If your manuscript isn’t formatted properly, an editor looks at it on top of the enormous pile of stuff she has to go through that day, and thinks, “Amateur.” They’re so busy that they really don’t have time to sit down and help you figure it all out! YOU have to figure it out yourself, and you’d better do it before ever sending off that first volley.
I remember reading Youngblood Hawk by Herman Wouk when I was in high school. (The book was originally published in 1962.) It’s about a writer — a rather backwoodsy type guy, who hand writes his first novel in pencil. The editor finds it, reads it and he’s instantly not just published but an industry star! What a pipe dream that is, but I really thought that kind of thing was possible for a long time. And really…
That never happens. Well, at least it never happens that easily these days. I’m guessing that Frank McCourt with his lack of paragraphing in Anglea’s Ashes is the exception to the rule (and there are always exceptions), but this is not the usual way of the publishing world. The chances that you’ll be seen and immediately adored are slim and none.
So, do your homework to figure some of this stuff out and you’re going to increase your chances of success exponentially.
Don’t think of writing the whole book at once, either. Create an outline. Chunk down your chapters into bullet points. And work on all of it for one hour a day until you catch the rhythm. Writing in chunks isn’t so daunting — chunks of time and chunks of work, and as you see yourself accomplishing the smaller goals you’ve set for yourself, you’ll be excited! Once you see yourself doing something, it’s just a matter of time before it’s complete.
Another practice that might help you is mind mapping. I use a huge drawing tablet and just pencil things in and out. When I’m done, my map is a genuine mess, but that’s how I get a general idea of where I want to go with my outline. It makes boiling down six months’ worth of research a lot easier, believe me.
And if you’re a procrastinator, get an accountability partner, someone who wants to see you achieve your dream. For me, it was my family. My mother would check in on me, rest her soul. (She also used to carry my most recent book around in her purse in a plastic bag to show to her friends.) My sister would ask how things were going, and of course, my husband was right there, cheering me on. It makes a big difference for you when you have people that you don’t want to disappoint. It’s easy to disappoint yourself, but not so easy to disappoint people you love.
So, step one is to carve out that hour a day to work. Step 2 is to get your ideas out onto paper or a screen where you can see them. Step 3 is to create an outline of what you want to do, and Step 4 is to gather a team of supporters that will keep you on track. Does that help?
I think that having any skeleton of a plan always does. If you’re a writer, what kinds of self-motivation tricks do you use? I’d love to see your thoughts.