Let Go of Fear When Writing:
What stops writers writing?
I bet a whole list of obstacles popped into your head just now. You know what’s at the top of my list? Fear. Fear of not being good enough, of never getting my writing out there and of what might happen to it once it is. If I let it, that fear chokes the words before they ever make it to the page.
Unfortunately, I know there a lot of writers out there who grapple with similar fears on a daily basis. It interferes with their writing, interrupts the flow of words or stops it altogether. To me, there’s nothing worse than wanting to write but being unable to.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are two ways in particular that I’ve found invaluable in freeing myself from the writing paralysis fear can cause. I hope they can help you do the same and kick some word-butt at the same time!
The Magic of the Word Sprint
When fear has the words in a stranglehold, nothing breaks it like a word sprint. Setting yourself a time limit and doing nothing but writing until it runs out forces you to cast aside all doubts and focus solely on getting as many words down as possible. No time to agonise over each sentence when the clock is ticking away, which makes word sprinting ideal for getting first drafts down.
The real magic of the word sprint comes from its flexibility. You can sprint on your own, for a couple of minutes to hours at a time, or you can join others and compete for the highest word count. There’s nothing like a bit of friendly competition (and a handful of writing prompts and dares) to crank up motivation and make writing fun again.
The sense of community and camaraderie that comes from sprinting with other writers is something my fellow word warriors, Taylor Eaton and Cristina Guarino, try to foster on @TheSprintShack, our writing-dedicated Twitter account. Come join us for a word sprint or two if you have a spare moment and let us know how your projects are coming along!
Of course, sprinting is just one way to banish fear and free up the words. If waging word wars has helped you move past the initial block caused by doubts, this next recommendation should keep them at bay on a more long-term basis.
The Power of Daily Writing
What’s the best way to improve at something? Practise. The more you practise something, the better you get and the more you know about it.
Part of the reason fear used to stop me writing was because I believed I wasn’t good enough. When I started to write on a regular basis, mostly thanks to sprinting with other writers, I saw how much I was improving. That not only motivated me to continue writing but also eased my fears.
Besides increasing motivation and lessening the pressure we writers like to pile on ourselves, writing daily is a great habit to form. The only problem is forming that habit. It’s not easy. That’s why I started the Write Chain Challenge. The rules are simple: set a daily target and, for each day you reach it, you earn a link. Consecutive links make a chain, which you try to keep unbroken for as long as possible.
Again, easier said than done. Say you struggle to find time to write or you’re often jumped by the procrastination monster. How can you write each day, every day, when sitting down to do it is difficult in the first place? Here are three ways I’ve found that help:
1) Make a public promise to write daily.
If no one knows your goal, they can’t hold you accountable. It’s so much easier to give up or forget about your commitment. However, if you make your target known to others, then the incentive to write daily is that much stronger.
Declare your daily writing goal to your family, to your friends, to fellow writers, or even to strangers on the street (you may get a few funny looks if you do that last one). Write your target on a big sheet of paper and stick it to your wall. However you do it, get your promise out of your head and into the world. Make it real. Make it known. Make it happen.
2) Set a goal that you know you can meet every day.
This is where writers often fall down. They choose a word or page count that they can do on a good writing day and aim to maintain that. Remember: you’re aiming to write this amount every day, whether you’re feeling tired or distracted or just can’t be bothered. If you’re not used to writing lots or regularly, start small, something you can reach on your worst day, and then, once you’ve built up a writing streak, try upping your target.
3) Write whenever you have a spare moment.
Even if it’s just five minutes of scribbling in a notepad or sprinting online, it’s better than nothing. I write a page of flash fiction in my journal every night before I go to sleep—seriously, it takes no more than ten minutes. Some people write in the morning, first thing after they wake up. Others squeeze in a bit of writing on the commute to work, during their lunch breaks or after dinner. Dedicate a little bit of time to writing each day, squeeze in a word sprint or two, and watch the words build up.
And, finally, don’t forget: it’s okay if those words aren’t perfect—with every one you write, you get better. So banish those fears, embrace the thrill of unrestrained creativity, and go out there and write.
Skye is a writer fascinated by the mind. She loves to dig into the heads of characters, readers and writers on her blog, Think Ink: Psychology for Writers. Alongside two fellow bloggers, she also runs the Sprint Shack, a place for word sprinters to find motivation, absorb inspiration and have a virtual chat over tea and biscuits. When she isn’t caught up in the online world, you can find her working away at her steampunk work-in-progress, Her Clockwork Heart, or sipping a lovely cup of tea. (Did she mention she loves tea? Mmm, tea.)