What’s Really Stopping You Writing?

Writing.

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?

Image by Ulrike Mai from Pixabay

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?

The Most Important Writing Rule

There are so many writing rules out there and plenty of disagreement about which ones are worth adhering to and which ones should just be ignored. Some of the most famous ones are the ‘write every day’ rule and the ‘write what you know’ rule – both of which are widely misinterpreted! But there are plenty of others too and new ones pop up all the time. But I think the most important one has been forgotten somewhere along the way.

Writing is hard. It should be hard because anything worth doing, anything with the potential to change the world, shouldn’t come too easily. Writing is something you work at. Natural talent helps a lot but all writers improve the more they write, and all writers should be keen to improve their craft as they go along, acknowledging their weak areas, feedback from readers and professionals and so on.

What I’ve noticed lately though is that ‘writing is hard’ seems to dominate the writing community more and more. I see a lot of negative memes and posts about writing and it worries me. Writing is hard, don’t get me wrong. From that clumsy first draft where you are crawling through the dark trying to find the plot, to those final, tedious proofreads and edits where you think you will go crazy if you ever have to read through this thing again. Writing is hard because the right words don’t always come easily and writing is hard because sometimes characters take a while to become fully realised and alive. Writing is hard because marketing and advertising are expensive and not within everyone’s reach. Writing is hard because all too often your nearest and dearest don’t support your book babies. We get it. Writing is and should be hard.

But we are forgetting the most important thing, the thing that makes writing less hard and less all of the things mentioned above! Writing should be fun! Writing should be enjoyable. Writing should make you feel better about being human and living in this world. If it’s not fun, not enjoyable, why the hell are you doing it?

I have to admit, I just don’t understand it when I see so many writers moaning about how hard it is to write and how they procrastinate for hours or days at a time, how they have to be dragged kicking and screaming into their writing chair. There are so many memes out there that seem to suggest writing a book is nothing short of torture…

I just don’t get it…

If it feels that bad, if you hate it that much… why are you doing it?

When did the joy of writing and creating worlds get eroded? It’s tough out there, believe me, I know. Low sales and reviews can be soul destroying and jealousy and imposter syndrome creep in when you see other writers doing better than you. No doubt there is a tough side to this. I often say I could happily give up on the publishing and selling side of books, because that is the toughest bit, but the writing bit? Hell no! Not ever… You would have to drag me kicking and screaming from my writing desk and you still wouldn’t win.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

Writing should be joyous, freeing and life affirming. I couldn’t do it if it made me feel worse. Real life is there for that! Writing is the escape… The chance to disappear and build your own universe, create heroes and villains, twisty plots to make your readers gasp and endings that are just too perfect. It’s not easy, but it should be fun. It should be more than fun. It should be utterly glorious. It should be something that excites you, something that makes you long for the moment you sit down and write…

In all the disappointment, self-doubt, endless edits and fruitless marketing, let’s not forget why we started this. Let’s not forget why we write. The most important writing rule in my opinion is it ought to be fun.

How To Support The Author In Your Life

You know an author. A writer. One of those weird, probably quite awkward and introverted people who like to make up stories for a living. This author you know would absolutely love it if you were a fan of their books, if you read them, reviewed them, recommended or raved about them. Of course, they would, who wouldn’t? But let’s face it; that’s highly unrealistic and there are many reasons why an author’s close friends and family don’t do this. If you like this person though, there are other ways you can support them – but first lets get some common assumptions about authors out of the way.

One of the reasons you might think you can’t be of any help to them, is because of the assumption that they are making an actual living out of writing books. Unless they are one of those famous authors that everyone has heard of, and whose books get made into TV shows and movies, then you can almost certainly guarantee that they have an actual job. A proper job to pay the bills because there is no way in hell that selling their books pays the bills. The average annual wage of an author who has given up the day job is about £11,000, so you can see why so many carry on to work in various jobs to make ends meet.

You might also think they have a budget for marketing and advertising their books, because obviously, these things don’t come for free. In reality though, even traditionally published authors don’t get much help marketing their books. They have to do the bulk of it themselves, any way they can, just like indie authors do. And chances are, they don’t have any budget for this. Chances are, if they do fork out for paid adverts, blog tours, social media blasts, etc, they are doing it with money they really don’t have. Once they have paid for editing, proofreading and front covers, the indie author is already well out of pocket. Authors are not rich. Never have been.

All that aside, you can help support the author in your life in several, easy cost-free ways.

You don’t have to buy their book, read or review it – though obviously they would be over the moon if you did! It might not be your genre. You might not be much of a reader. You might not have time to read. You might be worried your author friend/relative is not very good – and it would be awkward if you discovered that by reading their book. You might think its all a silly waste of time. Either way, I’ll say it again, you don’t have to read their book just because you know them and it appears that this is generally the case with most authors. Since I started my own publishing journey back in 2013 I have constantly been told by other authors that their friends and family don’t support their writing. If I ask what they mean by this, I’ll be told a number of things; some writers have brutal people in their lives who tell them to their face that writing books is a waste of time, so they know full well not to count on these for any support when they are promoting a new book. But usually it’s simply that the friends and relatives don’t notice it or talk about it. They change the subject if the author mentions their books. They neglect to like, comment or share any of the authors posts. It’s a bizarre phenomenon and I never truly realised how many authors it effects until I started digging. I used to think it was just me but now I know it’s a bigger issue and it fascinates me.

Because let me tell you, if this author you know is your friend and/or your relative, they have noticed your lack of support and without a doubt it bothers them. They wrestle with it. Are they too in your face? Are they posting about their book too much? Are they annoying you? Have you read their work and scoffed at it? Do you secretly hate them? They will be thinking this!

To conclude, you don’t have to read or like their books. They probably write in a totally different genre to the one you read in, but you could really make a difference to their self-confidence, their reach, their visibility and yes maybe even their pocket if you supported them in other, smaller ways:

  • Like their posts – it helps them reach more people. It only takes a second to click ‘like’ and it will mean so much to them.
  • Comment on their posts – even a thumbs up or well done will be much appreciated and again, it will help the post reach more people.
  • Share the post! – Probably the most helpful thing you can do apart from reading and reviewing their books. You might not want to read it, but people you know might like it, or people they know! Share the post and see how far it can go. You could be making a huge difference and they will be forever grateful and less likely to give up on their dream.
  • Follow their page or other social media platforms -You could just follow one and again, the odd like, share or comment will help their page reach more possible readers.
  • Read and review the book – This need not cost you anything either. If money is really tight but you would still like to support your friend or relative, you could request a review copy for free and I can guarantee they will be delighted to gift it to you, especially if you leave a review afterwards. Or again, you could share pictures or links for the book to help them reach more readers.
  • Ask them about their book – the easiest and cheapest thing to do to support them. Authors love talking about the worlds and the characters they have created, so why not let them indulge from time to time? It might even be interesting!

So, there you have it. Easy, cheap or free ways to support the author in your life. I can promise you it will mean everything to them to know they can rely on your support. Writers tend to be quite insecure people and as we have already discussed, there is very little in way of financial reward, so to know your close friends and family are ready to jump in and help push your book when it’s released is just the best feeling ever.

Indie Author Of The Month – Richard Dee

It’s been a while since we highlighted a fellow indie author on the blog, but that’s more to do with how little time I have for reading at the moment, then the quality of indie authors I’m coming across! Please welcome sci-fi/fantasy author Richard Dee to The Glorious Outsiders today. Richard has just launched a brand new novel, We Are Saul, which I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing recently. Here, Richard tells us about the inspiration for the book, the research needed to write it, his writing process plus his tips for aspiring indie authors! You can find links to Richard’s social media pages and books at the end of the interview. Here is the blurb for We Are Saul, followed by the interview.

When Saul is paralysed in an accident, he thinks it’s the end of his life. In fact, it’s just the beginning. While trying to come to terms with his injuries, the mysterious Dr Tendral offers him a way to make a difference. All he has to do is join his project. There are no other details until he agrees, he’s either in or out. What choice does he have? Agreeing is just the beginning. Saul undergoes drastic surgery, only then is the full depth of the project revealed. Or is it? As time goes on and he learns more about Tendral’s scheme, Saul’s new life becomes increasingly difficult. In the end, he has to abandon everything as he learns the truth. All second chances come with a price.

  1. Congratulations on the release of We Are Saul – tell us a bit about the book!

We Are Saul is my eighteenth novel and a stand-alone story. Although it may get a sequel one day, a lot of my series have started with the intention of being stand-alone stories, so never say never. Basically, it explores the life of a man (Saul) who is given a second chance, after things go horribly wrong. Circumstances force him to face and relive his past mistakes and he learns that second chances come with a price.

  1. Where did the idea for We Are Saul come from? What inspired it?

The idea grew from research that I did when writing the sequel to my earlier novel, Life and Other Dreams. I’ve been trying to write that particular sequel since 2017, every time I think I’m getting close to completing it, I get side-tracked by some part of the science that I’m researching or a part of the plot. Before I know it, a new story suggests itself. We Are Saul is the third (or fourth) such side project.

  1. Did you have to do much research to write this book and if so, what did you research and how?

I had to research nanotechnology, robotics, wireless communications, advances in liquid batteries and a lot more besides. I also needed to look at medical ethics and emotional responses to certain situations in quite a bit of detail. Some of it was only for a short paragraph in the book but it all needed to sound right.

  1. What are you working on right now? Tell us about any upcoming releases

I have about ten, part-finished novels, one or two of which I’m hoping to get finished this year. Most of them continue series, which I get most of my ideas for. I also have a new stand-alone project, a psychological thriller, that’s earmarked for NaNoWriMo 2022.

  1. What are your preferred genres to write in and why?

I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, as well as an amateur detective series set in space. I’ve also dabbled in High Fantasy and psychological thrillers and have written a textbook. They are the sort of thing that I always loved to read.   Most of my work crosses or blends genres, which can make them hard to place in marketing.  

  1. What about reading? Which genres do you prefer and why?

I’ll read just about anything, although, as I said, I do prefer the sort of thing that I like to write. Never to pinch ideas but to get a feeling for where others are taking the genre. Often, it’s more a case of what someone hasn’t written. That’s the thing that will plant the seed that leads to my next idea.

  1. Name your top 3 favourite books of all time

My first choice is a bit of a cheat, The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov (I know it’s more than one book but it all fits together as one story). Next is The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke. Lastly, The Hobbit. From a single line, Tolkien created a world. It shows what can be done.

  1. What is your writing process? How does an idea become a book?

I get an idea and see a film of the story in my head. I just write down what happens. I can slow the action or pause it for a better look, I can even rewind it but I can never fast-forward. This means that I see the end at the same time as the reader does. It’s usually as much a surprise to me as it will be (I hope) to them.

  1. What are the best things about being an indie author?

I have complete freedom of expression, no deadlines to stress over and more importantly, nobody telling me to change anything. I can employ my own editors (and ignore them if I want to), design my own covers, set prices, control distribution and special offers. I have a network of beta readers who give me honest opinions about new projects.

  1. What are the worst things about being an indie author?

Marketing is the thing that gives me the most grief, although I hear that’s a familiar refrain from the trad side of the publishing world as well. I think the worst thing about the Indie scene is the assumption (from some parts) that, as Indies, we’re somehow not proper authors or that our work is not very good, because we don’t have the endorsement of agents and publishing contracts. I submitted my early novels to agents but never got much feedback, now I rely on the reaction of my readers to validate my efforts, which I think is a much more accurate indicator of my ability.

  1. Who is your favourite character from one of your own books and why?

My overall favourite is my amateur detective, Andorra Pett. Purely because she is an amalgamation of the traits and personalities of my wife and my three daughters. It makes her fun to write, as her adventures bring back memories of the life events that inspired them.

  1. What comes first for you, the characters or the plot?

As I said, I get the whole package in one, so I don’t have to agonise about setting the scene, building a world or even working out a plot. It’s all done for me. All I do is watch what happens and copy it down.

  1. What advice would you give to anyone considering the indie route?

First, don’t be afraid. There are so many generous people in the Indie community. They have helped me by sharing their knowledge and experience as I’ve progressed on my journey. You don’t need to spend much to get started, just about everything you need to produce words and pictures has a free version. The one thing you do need to spend money on is a good editor, remember that everything you produce will be scrutinised and must be of a professional standard. The most important thing is to be patient and not to get discouraged.

Thank you so much to Richard for joining us here to talk about We Are Saul. Here are the relevant links!

Purchase: http://mybook.to/We_are_Saul

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60304988-we-are-saul

About Richard Dee

I’m Richard Dee and I’m from Brixham in Devon.

I write Science Fiction and Steampunk adventures, as well as chronicling the exploits of Andorra Pett, a reluctant amateur detective.

I spent forty years in shipping, firstly at sea, then in Port Control and as a Thames River Pilot, with adventures to match anything you could imagine. When I retired, I just moved them out into space, changed some of the names and wrote them down.

When I’m not writing, I bake bread and biscuits, cook delicious meals and walk the Devon coast.

My first novel, Freefall, was published in 2013, my eighteenth, We Are Saul, will be published in June 2022

I also contributed a story to the 1066 Turned Upside Down collection of alternative history stories. I’m currently working on more prequels, sequels, and a few new projects.

I’m an active member of Exeter Authors Association, attending events and giving talks on World-building for speculative fiction. You can keep up with me at https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/ where you’ll find free short stories, regular features on writing, book reviews and guest appearances from other great authors.

There’s also an offer for a FREE novella, when you join my subscriber’s newsletter. I can be found on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RichardDeeAuthor

Richard can be contacted at: mailto:richarddeescifi@gmail.com