At times writers feel like gods looking at worlds that no one else can see, words flow out faster than nimble fingers can type and thousands of words can appear out of no where. Then there are the other times when you get the fear as writer Holly Black used to,
“I was scared I was doing something wrong, that I was leading the characters down the wrong path. I was scared of making choices. I had completely lost touch with the part of myself that thought of writing as play.”
This week’s blog is going to suggest three helpful ways to stop the fear and get you back to putting words down on the page.
The Sweet Spot to Stop
The great and often challenging Ernest Hemingway once stated in an article with the Paris Review;
“you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. You write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live through until the next day when you hit it again.”
This advice is true for all writers and possibly, if you can cultivate the habit, one of the most valuable pieces of writing advice you will ever receive. If you are writing and you know you are coming up to something exciting, stop for the day. That moment you are itching to keep going is your halt mark. That pick up point is the surest way of knowing a direction to head in next. Let it stew for the night and then when you wake up in the morning you will be so eager to start writing you won’t have time to listen to the voice of doubt.
Out and About
Writers are observers of life. Sitting numbly staring at a blank screen is disheartening and doesn’t get you any where. Go for a walk, to the library or to your favouring cafe with a notebook and pen and write what you see. Writers have a habit of living behind desks and sometimes you need to get out like Haruki Murakami who swears that,
“Most of what I know about writing fiction I learned by running every day.”
Observing people when they don’t know they are being watched is some of the most interesting character building insights you will ever gain as a writer. It is when the masks are dropped that the characters, like people, reveal who they really are. It may seem counter intuitive and unrelated to the piece you are writing at the time but those observations will get you writing. The change of scenery may just be the thing to recharge your creative batteries and spark new stories.
Shut Up and Write
“Writing is contagious madness, a lot of the times. Even when it sucks, you wanna do it. And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well,” says writer Chuck Wendig, and he is dead on.
Writers write. It is hard work and the people that are serious about it know that it is a skill that takes many hours to master. Writing is a muscle that needs to be worked every day even when it hurts and there is a million other things demanding your attention. Setting realistic daily word counts, slowly increasing them as you meet your target, is the ONLY way to get things written. As writers we have to carve out time, shut the door, set a goal and stick to it.
The ultimate goal of a writer is to keep at it every day, to defeat the fear of the blank page altogether. Leaving stories at interesting points, getting out and watching the world around you will always help but at the end of the day only putting in the hours of hard work it will get it done.