It’s been a while since I wrote any writing/creativity related posts and so I thought I’d do a quick one. I’ve been doing some soul-searching and asking myself why I’ve struggled to write and complete a draft of a book for over a year. I’ve written a lot, and started many manuscripts, but I haven’t had that passion and drive and completed any since November 2018.
Here are some potential reasons as to why, which may apply to you, too.
It’s the wrong story
You may be trying but failing to write anything because you’re trying to write a story that your heart’s not in. This may mean that it was a cool idea that ran dry. Or a cool idea that had no personal connection for you. You’re trying to be disciplined and push on, but truly, it’s just not meant to be.
You’re not meant to write that story.
Don’t get dejected, it happens. Maybe you needed to write some of that story to make way for the right story later. Just because this one didn’t work, doesn’t mean no other one will.
You have other priorities
You are putting other things ahead of your writing. In the last 6 months, that was work and my university studies for me. I work 8-4 (pre-quarantine) 5 days a week. When I get home, I walk my dog and have a cup of tea and then get to my uni work. By then, I’m usually tuckered out and not in the mood to push for writing a chapter, too.
With the right priorities, we get the right things done, though.
Analyse what you are assigning importance to. What are you putting time and energy into right now, and are those the right things?
You keep telling yourself lies (or half-truths) that give you permission not to write.
“I’m too tired”
“I’ve worked hard at work today”
“I’ll write at the weekend…”
Even if these things are true, ask yourself if that truth needs to actually prevent you from writing. Writing is something you’re supposed to enjoy, so why are you letting excuses stop you?
I’ve written while tired plenty of times. I’m a tired person by nature! So why let tiredness stop you so often now? You aren’t too tired to watch Netflix or scroll social media or do other non-important stuff, so why are you too tired to write (again, that thing you’re supposed to enjoy)?
No one said you have to write a perfect chapter. No one said it has to be for long or reach a certain word count. No one said you have to do it on your laptop (I know screens can be bad for your eyes, especially when tired). Just do something, anything, in any way that you can.
Don’t let excuses run the show.
You want the writing to be amazing every time and this paralyses you. Again, when I say don’t let excuses stop you, I mean they are usually only stopping you because when you do sit down to write, you’re expecting it to be great work each time. It will not be; it doesn’t have to be!
Instead, give yourself permission to write a shoddy scene!
Let go of the need to write a polished, publish-worthy chapter every time. All books go through rounds and rounds and rounds of editing with professionals before they reach our shelves. To expect our own work to stack up to that, is just barking mad!
Need a break
Just like anyone else, writers need breaks away from writing! Gasp! I think this is so hard for us because for many writers, writing isn’t just what we do, it’s a part of who we are. We identify with being a writer as a part of our personality. And so, not to write means losing a part of who you are. It feels wrong; you feel lost.
But this can be dangerous. Over-identifying with anything can be difficult because as soon as something changes, you feel like you’re actually in pain. Like something is very wrong.
But it’s okay to take a break. It doesn’t mean you’re no longer a writer. It doesn’t make you lazy or stupid or poor. It makes you human.
In fact, by stepping away for a while and not forcing the writing, you’ll find that ideas and inspiration will come back to you. The love for it will return.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder!”
Wrong reason why
And lastly, maybe it’s because you’re writing for all the wrong reasons. Maybe, like me, you’re no longer writing for the love of it but because you “have to” and you “need to“. This puts a lot of pressure on it and therefore it feels stifled.
Me and a friend of mine realised that we’ve been writing with the focus on publishing for a while. This is pretty normal, but when you can’t help but look to the end result, you put unnecessary stress on the process.
The first draft is about freedom, discovery and creativity. Potential and abandon. But when focusing on this perfect end product that’s going to make your life change forever and make you loads of money…it’s just not healthy; it’s frightening.
I’ve been journaling lately about maybe letting go of the idea of becoming published. Not that I don’t want to be an author or will stop trying, just that I will stop focusing on that. To give myself permission to write just because, with no aim to publish. To let go of some imagined timeline or better future once I get published.
Because I started self-publishing at 18, I started to write to publish. That became an obvious and natural goal. But Elizabeth Gilbert, among other great advisors, points out how suffocating that is. That our vocation, our love, our sacred special thing should not be forced into making us money and being revered by millions. If it does later, so be it. But that shouldn’t be, at least for me, what I put my energy into.
There you have it, some hard truths and very real ideas about why you may be struggling to write right now. I hope you can get honest with yourself, find the reason, and get back to doing what you love in no time.