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?