Something that keeps you awake at night. Something that pops into your mind at the weirdest times. Something that you ponder over and wonder about. Something that you can’t let go.
Maybe its been there for a long time. Maybe it only came to you when you got older. You know what it is yet you constantly push it down and deny it, because to admit what it is would be dangerous.
You have an idea. A glimmer or maybe something more. You have something growing inside your brain without your permission. No one knows how it got there and you don’t understand why it keeps evolving, taking up more and more space. It wants to be listened to. It wants you to look at it. It wants you to write it!
But if you are like a lot of adults I’ve known, you’ll keep ignoring it, pushing it away, denying it, trying to forget it. You’ll tell yourself it’s silly, you’ll tell yourself it’s stupid. You won’t tell anyone else about it because chances are they’ll say the same thing, right?
People are unkind to writers and negative about writing, even though telling stories is what makes us human and is what has drawn us together through shared experiences throughout time. It’s how we’ve passed on information, it’s how we’ve stayed alive, it’s what makes us different to the animals. It’s not silly, it’s important. It’s not stupid, its magical. But you won’t find that out until you give in and write the thing.
So, what are you waiting for exactly?
To get more time? Who is going to gift you more time? No one. Certainly not this life or this world. If anything, they’ll just keep sucking more from you, if you let them. Give up on the idea that you will ever have the time to write. No one has the time to write. They make the time to write. They demand the time to write. They steal it back and make it theirs so that they can finally write the thing.
What else are you waiting for? The space to write? Is someone going to magically deliver a special writing room or secret loft or wooden cabin for you? No chance. Grab your space, steal it just like you need to steal your time. You just need a desk, you just need a chair. You just need that thing that is in your head!
Are you waiting for confidence? Forget that and write it anyway! Whose permission do you need? Everyone is a beginner when they start. Everyone is a novice, and amateur, learning as they go. Why are you any different that you can’t push that aside and write it anyway? You’re not. And you can.
Are you waiting for your skills to develop? They can’t do that unless you start exercising them! Let go of the need for perfection and write it anyway. Write the thing and let the thing guide you and teach you. Let it out.
Are you waiting for self-doubt and imposter syndrome to go away? Don’t be silly, they never will! Writers are anxious introverted people. We observe the world and absorb its pain and beauty. You’re going to explode if you keep all that inside of you!
Do you think its silly? Self-indulgent? Selfish? A waste of time? It’s none of those things. It’s there in your head waiting to be set free. It’s there for a reason. What is it doing there? How did it get there? You’ve got an idea, an itch, an inkling. Don’t you dare push it aside and focus on your boring job and household chores. Life is short. We are a long time dead. We will never get this moment, right here, right now, ever again. What are you waiting for?
Are you afraid of failure? Put off by the publishing industry? Made to feel not good enough? Maybe you don’t know how to start. Just start! Just do it! Just write the thing, write the thing down in all its ugly, clumsy, upside down glory and then breathe out in victory because you’ve started the journey and no one can stop you now.
There is something achingly tragic about a writer who never wrote, a human who never told their story, never voiced their fears and dreams, never let the thing run riot from brain to hand to pen to paper. Forget everything else. Forget publishing, forget editing, forget readers, forget sales, forget reviews. None of that matters when there is a thing in your head clawing to get out. Write the thing and leave the rest for now. It is your duty to set it free.
An interest, hobby, past-time or career pursued by people who like telling stories. Isn’t that the main thing that motivates us? The stories in our head. The desire to put words together until they make sense and hopefully even entertain.
Yet so many writers don’t write. Or at least, not as much as they want to. This always makes me curious because I can’t think of anything I would rather do. Writing is an addiction. It’s not always easy, the words don’t always flow, sometimes it goes horribly wrong and sometimes I get blocked as much as anyone, but none of that stops it being the most joyful and exciting past-time I can think of. Not much stops me writing, but does that make me weird?
Maybe, or maybe I’ve just gone through the struggles and have managed to come out the other side. Below you will find the most common reasons people give for not writing. These are all things I have experienced myself, so I’ve included advice on getting past each one.
Not enough time – I think this is the most common one I hear and it is something I used to tell myself too. As a child and teen I wrote endlessly, but it faded out at university and when I became a young parent it stopped altogether. I spent ten years not writing anything! It was all in my head but I just didn’t think I had the time to write it down. One day I woke up to the fact that there would never be time unless I made time, carved time out of my day, grabbed it and guarded it. I started by writing in notebooks whenever I had a spare minute, and I still do this now. It made me realise I did have time! Maybe only five or ten minutes here or there, maybe while cooking dinner, maybe while waiting in the car to pick up a child, or maybe last thing at night. The writing bug grew stronger once I allowed it just those few stolen moments. I also gave up evening TV completely. As a parent, I was sitting on the sofa once they were all in bed, turning on the TV and feeling exhausted. I realised the TV had to go and shut myself away every evening to write instead. That became a habit I still live by now. Although, these days I do allow myself a bit of Netflix each night before bed!
Not enough energy – another common one, and one I can truly relate to, even now. Life is tiring, whether you’re juggling work, kids or both. Our brains and bodies can only cope with so much. We look forward to relaxing and grabbing a bit of me-time, but if you are serious about writing, the me-time has to become writing-time. Feeling genuinely tired is a tricky one, but just like forcing time out of the day for writing, I get past this by pushing through. Some days I might only manage a paragraph before nodding off gets the better of me, other days I might write a whole chapter while yawning constantly. I always do something, even just a sentence or some notes.
It’s too late, I’ve missed my chance… – I felt like this during my 20s when I was busy working and raising my children. I thought about writing all the time and my stories were always in my head, but I truly thought I’d waited too long and missed my chance. I’m not sure where this idea comes from but apparently it is quite common. But it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I told myself it was now or never and why waste another year, or even another minute? I started writing again with a vengeance when I was 33, and now I am 44 and have published sixteen titles. What changed my mind? I think questioning why I wanted to write, and realising it was mostly just for me. Not for publication, fame or fortune, but to finally get these stories out of my head. Of course, writing them only made way for more ideas!
Self-doubt and imposter syndrome – These are a horrible but inevitable part of being a creative person. When we are surrounded by greatness, whether it’s in TV, film, music, art or literature, we wonder why we should bother trying to add to it. We compare ourselves to others, usually those at the height of their success, and fall short. Imposter syndrome is when we don’t really feel like a writer and maybe even feel embarrassed to call ourselves one. I felt like this too. When I was a young writer it never crossed my mind. I was full of confidence then! But in my 30s the self-doubt was massive. When I started writing again, I kept it secret to start with. I used a notebook and hid it under the sofa or the mattress if anyone walked in. I was shy – I didn’t want to admit I was trying that writing lark again. I was scared people would look at me funny or ask too many questions. I got braver though, and it wasn’t until I created this blog and started sharing little snippets of work online that I started to believe in myself again. Sometimes you just need time and space to develop that courage, but feedback and positivity from others can be a real boost too. I’d always suggest joining a writing group in real life or online! As for imposter syndrome, all writers get it, even the famous ones, so don’t let that stop you.
Fear of rejection and other’s opinions – I think this is another big one. It certainly was for me. The first time I shared my work online or with friends, I felt sick. The first time I submitted to agents and publishers, I felt even worse. Think of it as a rites of passage. It means you’re a writer to have been rejected at some point. The good news is, these days rejection doesn’t have to mean the end of the road. There are so many ways you can get your writing out there so you shouldn’t let the rejections stop you. Instead, let them make you stronger. Listen to the feedback and try to get more by offering work out to beta readers or within a writing group. Other people’s opinions can be upsetting too. Sadly, writers are greatly unsupported by friends and family, a topic I have blogged about before. There are many reasons for this but the main thing to do is reach out to other writers and readers themselves. That’s where you will build your support network. Often, family and friends just don’t get it. If they’re not creative, it just won’t mean much to them, and if they are creative a bit of jealousy and resentment can rear its ugly head. Whatever it is, don’t let it stop you. Despite them, write anyway.
It’s too hard – I see this a lot on the internet. There is a lot of negativity around writing and being a writer. The stereotype seems to assert that writers are all crazy, introverted people who have to be dragged kicking and screaming to their writing desk, where they then procrastinate for hours and stare at a blank screen. I actively dislike this stereotype. It is not true of all writers. I know many writers who are dedicated to their work and write every day, sticking to a rigid routine, whether they are in the mood or not, whether it is going well or not. They don’t seem to get mentioned much though. People would rather laugh and nod at the memes suggesting writers moan about not having time to write and then stare into space when they do have time. That’s just not how it works. If that were true, no books would ever get written. Writing is hard, sometimes, but it’s also wonderful, exciting, exhilarating, joyful, magical and therapeutic all at once, but we don’t see that splashed around as much. It almost feels like these negative posts are trying to put writers off even trying! Don’t let them. Yes, it can be hard. Finding the right words, devising characters, organising a timeline, editing, revising, proofreading, marketing, finding the time, finding the energy, not getting distracted by other ideas; these are all things writers battle with but it is still worth it!!
Losing interest, getting bored, running out of steam…. – These are all similar to writers block in that they come along and derail your work-in-progress. But only if you let them. This happens to me too, of course it does. Some of my books have practically written themselves, some have felt totally addictive, and others have been a real struggle from start to finish. I always prioritise the one that is closest to being finished, but this doesn’t mean I don’t work on other things. One book is always ahead, always closer to being ready for publication and that is the book I will make myself stick to every night, whether I feel like it or not. Because I know that if I don’t, I will never come back to it and I will keep jumping from story to story and never finish anything. If it’s hard work, I will set a target, maybe writing a chapter of the tricky one each night and then allowing myself to mess around with a new idea. I do the same with editing and proofreading. If those books are that close to publication, then they take priority. I’ll do maybe four chapters of editing first and then allow myself to write something new. This way I am nearly always having fun with new ideas, but I am strict with myself about getting a book finished.
I suppose the question you have to ask yourself is, how much do you want this? What does writing really mean to you? If you want it badly enough if it is important enough for you, you know what you need to do, so do it. Push through the blocks, the exhaustion and the self-doubt, ignore imposter syndrome, do it despite your loved ones not caring, find the time, make the time, demand the time and accept that it is and should be hard.
These are just some of the reasons people don’t write, and I have experienced them all. I am sure there are many others though, so please feel free to comment and share. What gets in the way of your writing and what to you do to get past it?
” Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.”
Self-doubt is something that has plagued me my whole life and I am sure I am not alone in that. When I was younger especially, I had a habit of talking myself out of things I wanted to do, because this inner voice did not believe I could do them. This voice told me it was better to stand back and hide. Run away. And that’s what I did, one way or another, for many years.
Of course these days, as a so-called adult, I know better than to compare myself to others. I am me and I have come a long way since my anxious, angsty teen years which were nothing short of a horror show.
At least, I thought I had.
One of these days I am going to blog about the perimenopause which I believe I have entered but not yet. It’s definitely making everything worse as my teenage me is back to haunt in oh so many ways…
Self-doubt and imposter syndrome being one of them.
I’m pretty sure all writers get imposter syndrome one way or another. Well, maybe not Stephen King. I have to admit, I don’t really get it with my writing. And that’s not to say I’m big-headed about my work. I’m not. Why would I be? I hardly sell a thing. But because I write for myself first, for the pure pleasure and joy it brings me, for keeping me sane, giving me an escape, I could go on…Writing is my biggest passion and it always will be. I don’t think my writing is the best thing ever, but it does make me happy, so I don’t feel like an imposter, because I am just being me, doing what I love.
But for the last few weeks the imposter syndrome has really hit hard in other areas of life. In fact there are only two areas unscathed. Mothering and writing. I know I am a good mother and I know I am a good writer, at least for myself.
But hormones and emotions are having a lot of fun with me right now. Clawing their way onto my back and digging in for the ride. Whispering in my ear that everything I do is a failure, that I’m a failure, that I ought to give up and walk away, that I’m rubbish, useless, pointless. I feel this pressure given only by myself every moment of every day. It’s like something I cannot shake free from.
For the last few weeks I have seriously considered quitting my company. For those who don’t know, I started a writing group in 2015 as I could not find a local writing group to go to that fit in with having kids. I started my own and after a lot of thought and research I branched out into kids workshops. I used to be a childminder and I had really missed working with kids so it seemed to make sense to combine two things I loved, kids and writing and try to encourage the next generation of writing.
This then evolved into me becoming a community interest company in 2017, which was a brave move because it is just me, on my own, doing everything. A few years later and I still can’t shake the feeling that although the idea behind my company is a good one, I am not the right person to be doing it. When I stand in front of new writers and talk them through the ups and downs of self-publishing or building an author platform, I often think, who am I to be telling them anything?
The urge to quit has got very strong lately and it’s hard to explain why, as everything is going very well. It’s hard work, it’s time consuming and the paperwork drives me crazy…but I do genuinely enjoy being with writers, whether they are children or adults. So why the self-doubt? I’ve no idea but I wish it would go away.
It really is like a nasty voice whispering in my ear the whole time. It got so bad last week that I almost decided I would quit…I would go back to dog-walking full time because I’m better with dogs than people, there is less paperwork, less stress, more time alone, no people and so on. This was me wanting to hide. Wanting to run away and avoid the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings. This week I feel differently and several things have helped me be more positive. So how to battle through imposter syndrome?
Here are a few things that have helped me lately;
look for concrete evidence that you are doing well. This could be financial, ie sales, or a promotion at work or whatever, but if there is concrete proof through your finances that you or your business is doing well, cling to this and use it to quiet the scathing voice of self-doubt
feedback. Another concrete piece of proof you can cling to when the voice of self-doubt comes whispering…last week I had a lovely email from a parent with regards to one of my writing clubs. It made me realise that actually over the years I’ve had a lot of lovely emails from people, so this means I have actually helped and made a difference to some of the people I have worked with.
write your fears down. No matter how irrational. You don’t have to show them to anyone else. Just write down what it is that is bothering you or niggling at you. I usually do this in the form of poems that only seem to come to me when I am feeling stressed, panicked or sad. It really, really helps to let it out.
find a level-headed person to talk to. Last week, battling the overwhelming urge to quit it all and become a recluse, I really, really needed someone to talk to. I like being alone and never feel lonely, so perhaps I do have a tendency to gently push people away. But I suddenly realised I needed a human to talk to, face to face. I needed a coffee with a friend, someone who wouldn’t mind me babbling on about my self-doubt, explaining my imposter syndrome and helping me work through it. I nearly asked on Facebook, can you believe that? I didn’t, of course, and as it happened, I ended up having a lovely long chat with my eldest daughter, who is a very sensible person. It helped a lot.
make a list of pros and cons. Whatever your self-doubt is telling you to do or not to do, write down the pros and cons of doing it or not doing it. I made a list for each company, my dog walking and my writing group. There were way more cons for the writing group and that is understandable. It’s a far bigger challenge where far more can go wrong! But writing out the pros really helped me realise the positives about my company, which I had started to forget.
Take some time. If I had made a snap decision after making that pros and cons list, I would have quit my company and googled how to dissolve a CIC. I would have followed through on my upcoming commitments and then bowed out and returned to full time dog walking and writing. Oh, how tempting and blissful that sounded…But I knew that as my hormones and emotions are all over the place, I should wait for the storm to die down and see how I felt a few days later, the next week, the next month and so on. Definitely don’t let self-doubt lead you into rash decisions.
try to remember why you started in the first place. This is what I came back to in the end. Why did I start this company? Because I love writing and I want to help other people start writing and keep writing. Because I want them to feel like I feel when I write, to have that escape and that release, to be able to create new worlds, new friends and adventures, to be able to use writing to make sense of this world and this life, to make sense of your thoughts and feelings and hopes and fears, to say something to the world, to leave your mark…Those were the reasons. They are still the reasons. So, as long as I can still see concrete evidence either through financial means or feedback, or both, I know that I am achieving what I set out to.
Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to say that, isn’t it? I see memes like that all over social media. Self-care. Self-love. We are all pretty terrible at it and I’m not sure why. That might be a topic for another day. And the advice is there and it’s quite correct, but it’s easy to say, easy to tell someone to be nicer to themselves, but far harder to actually follow that advice yourself. I try to do it in small ways. I have that coffee on the doorstep and some time to breathe. I give myself occasional days off where I just sit on the sofa and chill. I have that wine or cider on a Friday night. I hug and kiss my kids. I surround myself with animals and nature. I read, write and listen to music. Those are the ways I remember to be kind to myself. As for the inner voice of self-doubt, I don’t think she will ever go away but some days she is a lot quieter than others, and that is something.
Over to you. Do you suffer from self-doubt or have you ever experienced imposter syndrome in all its ugly glory? How did you deal with it? Please feel free to comment and share!