I did a previous post about why you’re struggling to write, which was a way of sharing all the feelings, realisations, and problems I’ve had as a writer, too.
I’ve now thought of even more reasons why you may be struggling to write right now, even with the extra time of quarantine…
1 – Your familiarity feels like boredom
I got this idea from V. E. Schwab’s YouTube channel. She has some good writingadvice on there and one of the videos was about the “shiny new idea”. This is the new story idea that comes and taps you on the shoulder while you’re writing another story. It’s pretty and new and you want it so bad!
But she says to leave it. It is a distraction that comes along because you have become too familiar with your story, and so you feel a bit “bored” by it. But really, it’s not that you’re bored, just that this story feels familar. It feels different than a new one because you’re deep in it. You know it well.
You may be writing and don’t feel like it’s matching up to your original idea when you started. But as Schwab says, this is just because you have touched it; the redrafting is where you will push the story closer to the original idea in your head. That doesn’t happen in the first draft. The allure of the new idea comes from the imagined idea; the shiny topic that is untainted by your hands.
But the story you’re writing already isn’t wrong or boring or bad, necessarily, just because you’ve had another idea or because it feels hard to write or is not quite what you want it to be yet. Expecting it to be; or thinking it’s boredom instead of familiarity; or if you give up and write the other story, will only make you struggle to write and finish.
2 – You’re too focused on the end goal
This is a big one for me and I’ve considered this deeply lately, which informed my 2020 Writing Manifesto. You need to really and truly give yourself permission to be in the here and now. To just write what you’re writing right where you’re at.
Focus on the chapter, the scene, the moment you’re in; stop fast-forwarding ahead.
I think the striking end of the story; the finished book on the shelf; the competition money; the writing award; the contract; the pile of money… it’s all a desired end goal that is all well and good, but has no place in the writing process.
This imagined, desired end result will suffocate and murder your creativity because it’s just one big thing: pressure!
Take that burden off your shoulders and off the writing, which should simply be free creative expression and exploration.
3 – You’re calling it a book instead of a story
This kind of goes back to the above point: zooming in on the end goal. You are not writing a book! Even if you think (or are 100% sure) that you will publish when it’s ready, right now, at this moment, it is not a book. A book is an object. It is the finished, polished product.
You are simply writing a story!
This seems so small and perhaps you see it as semantics, but it’s a powerful shift in mindset. A “book” puts this pressure on it to be polished even in the first draft. But a “story” gives you freedom to find the story, explore the story, set a place for story, encourage characters in a story, and just be in the story and it’s world.
I want that, don’t you? That fun and freedom and enjoyment…
4 – You don’t know your characters well enough
You may be struggling to write because you haven’t taken the time to actually get to know your characters. For most stories (good ones, in my opinion), the characters are the important piece of the puzzle.
It’s not about a plot happening to a character(s); it’s a character(s) causing a plot.
If you’re stumped when writing or find that you’re just dragging your character along, it’s because you don’t know them very well and your story is happening to this 2D person instead of a fully-fleshed out human being (or whatever kind of being they are!).
There are many resources for fleshing out your characters, and this post isn’t for that, but I reccommend that you take a break and interview your characters! See what they say, who they are, what they might do in various scenarios. This will help to push your plot, take a new angle, and enliven your story because it will feel more real to you.
5 – You don’t have the skills or discipline
This one sounds harsh and it even feels like I’m calling out myself! But it is somewhat true, if we get honest with ourselves. Some of us are still amateurs, and therefore we will not be as accustomed to writing projects as seasoned writers. This means we need more practice, or we need to take a course/class, or read up on more specific and professional writing advice in order to get better.
But in the end, practice really does make perfect.
Keep reading, keep writing, repeat.
Learn what works for you for your writing routine or best method for success, which only comes through trial and error. Don’t be hard on yourself or give up. You’re allowed to be the learner: heck, we’re all always learning! But this may be why you’re struggling; you’re still not at the level you want to be yet. That’s okay.
It comes down to allowing that to be the case. Seeking advice and help if needed. Stop comparing yourself to seasoned professional writers. Stop comparing your first draft to a finished book. And to take each chapter you write as experience under your belt, not something that needs to be perfect.
Happy writing, guys!