Obviously, I like to write. It’s what I do for my day job and what I do in my free time (you know that because you’re on my site). It isn’t always easy, though. There are certain things all writers face at one point or another, so, my fellow scribes, I’ve distilled all your frustrations and neurosis into a handy five-point list.
5. Getting started
Much like going to the gym, your first obstacle is actually getting started. There are several things that stand in the way of getting started but, in my experience, there are two things that really keep me from working: distractions and lack of ideas.
Unfortunately, nowadays, everyone writes on laptops…which also have access to the Internet–probably the greatest distraction in human history. It’s easier than you think to waste half an hour watching music videos from the ’90s when you intended to get something done. But it’s not just the Internet. There are also TV and video games, which distracted generations of people before Internet was even a thing.
Of course, in the previous construct, there’s a subtle implication that you have something to write about. That’s not always the case. There are some days, weeks, even months, where inspiration is plentiful, you know, like bad grammar in Youtube comments. But there are other times when it’s like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
I find the best cure is to start typing anything, even if it’s just a stream of consciousness. Secondly, if you have what you believe to be a sub-par idea, work on it anyway. It might turn into something else (read better) entirely. It’s not like you have to publish everything you write either.
Once you have the creative juices flowing, it’s important to establish some semblance of a routine. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at following my own advice.
I know that I write better in the morning or late at night, and I usually stick to that. In the morning, I write for work, which leaves the evening for my blog. The afternoon generally turns into a wasteland of ineffectualness.
Consistency is a problem, though. Ideally, I try to publish at least two post a month. That’s a kinda nebulous goal, though. It leaves a lot of room for procrastination and good ole’ fashioned laziness.
I want to move to one post a week with a hard deadline of Sunday night. A weekly deadline has two key benefits. First, it gets you writing more,which subsequently improves your writing. Secondly, people are more likely to follow and/or visit your site if they know it will be updated on a regular basis. Exposure is important. The more people who see your work, the better.
Criticism can be good. Advice from an editor, another writer or some other creative type can help refine your work. But that’s not really what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Internet criticism, the kind of cold disrespectful criticism that makes you cringe.
Peruse the comments sections of most articles online and you’ll find some of the most sexist, homophobic and generally offensive statements (usually poorly spelled and punctuated) you’ve ever read. They’re things no one would dare say in public, and, well, that’s kind of point. The anonymity and distance the Internet provides makes it easy for people to say those things because they can’t see the impact of their words.
There are also less extreme comments that are equally unhelpful. I’m talking about “that Internet guy.” You know the guy. He always has to point out every minor mistake even if it’s only technically wrong and doesn’t invalidate the piece, because he already made a Hot Pocket and fed his mom’s cats, so what else is he going to do all day?
I should make it clear–these types of interactions are minimal on WordPress. I estimate that 98 percent of the comments I get are supportive and constructive. That’s the great thing about this particular site–there’s a feeling that everyone is in this together.
Doubt is something I don’t think writers will ever really escape. Comedians often talk about how they have an innate need to get up in front of people and show them what they’ve created, in hopes of some sort of approval.
I think there’s some of that in writers, but with that need also comes a certain amount of neuroses. That’s why I can rewrite one sentence 10 times and never really be happy with it.
Don’t misinterpret that, I love writing, and I feel good while doing it. But when it comes time to share what I’ve written, I’m never 100 percent satisfied with the finished product. Even when I receive praise there’s a voice in the back of my head that says, did he really like the article or was he just being polite?
Doubt can be useful, though. If you’re never 100 percent satisfied, it means you’ll never stop working.
1. “Finding your voice”
This sounds like terribly clichéd advice, but it’s true. It takes time to develop your own style and to sort through your various influences.
For a while it will seem like you’re merely imitating your favorite writers, but eventually you’ll identify what does and does not work for you. You’ll develop a flow and vocabulary that are all your own.
Then you’ll be a writer.