The other day an author I follow shared a writing prompt to write about “Why I Write.” I realized this comes up often, and that I’ve already written about that, probably several times in several ways. However, I’ve never written about what keeps me from writing—what scares me enough to stop me from lifting a pen (or sitting at the keyboard).
I thought Why I Don’t Write would make a more appropriate questions and post after my long hiatus.
During the winter semester last year (it’s literally been almost a year since I wrote here!), I wrote a lot and I felt my work became better developed for it—my world of Dadreon became more developed. Between Creative Writing (and the huge number of assignments in that class), Horror & Sci Fi, and Mythology, I had lots to inspire me and deadlines to motivate me.
Then, I started Kristen of She’s Novel’s 30 Day Author Up Challenge. It went well in the short lull between my winter and spring classes. Granted, it took up a LOT of time—writing a blog post everyday—but it felt good. Even if many of the posts didn’t feel as polished as I prefer, I had goals and deadlines.
Then, spring got underway. I got busy with both school and work. Spring turned into summer and now here it is spring again. Of course, I bought a house in the interim. But school, work, and house hunting turned into almost a year of my blog sitting untouched.
The wider that gap between my last published post and today became, the more difficult to pick up my pen/keyboard. Even when I did have time, I didn’t use it to write.
Why is that? I’ve always been happiest when I’m writing. I’ve been writing all my life—albeit on and off—and I’ve always received positive feedback on my writing.
I think the process of writing that last sentence says a lot. I had to rewrite and reword it several times. My confidence is not what it should be, that’s for sure.
My work sits hidden on my Google Drive or slightly less hidden here on my blog, in this tiny corner of the internet, obscure and unpublished. Family and friends give me positive reinforcement, and occasionally I have the opportunity to share something with a class. (Max’s class last winter was the most I’ve ever shared my work face to face.) But for some reason, I lack faith in my abilities, lately especially.
It’s easy to lose faith in the lulls it seems.
So I ponder further the question of Why I Don’t Write?
- Writing is hard and requires a lot of work. Without deadlines I tend to lack the ambition to work that hard, to push myself. After my more than full time winter school schedule, plus working, I think I broke my ambition for a while.
- Social media is so much easier to waste time on. I can spend five minutes or an hour. I can mindlessly scan and not have to come up with anything witty or even coherent if I don’t want to.
- I get lost in a loop of not knowing what to write RIGHT NOW. For months, I made progress through my stories. Now I feel like I have to play catch up, find new things to write about, and it’s paralyzing.
- Because of this paralysis, I’ve become bogged down in negative self-talk: I’m never going to go anywhere with this. I’m not good enough. It’s a waste of time. I don’t have anything worthwhile to say. I can’t make the words fit together right. I’ll never get published. I’m too old.
My first step toward beating back this self-doubt and paralysis was starting a new, hand-written journal. I slowly started building myself back to writing regularly by writing there.
In fact, this blog post started in that little journal.
Another thing to help motivate me was to finally take the advice of several of the writers that I follow to create a schedule and write every day.
After we got moved, I found some of my boxes of books and notebooks. I realized that with all of the time I’ve devoted to writing over the past few years, I’ve not tried to finish any of the novels that have been in my head since middle school. I’ve spent all this time focusing on world-building and short stories.
But those will never make me a true “published” author.
So about two months ago, I reread my original version of the novel (all 200 rambling, handwritten pages of it) and started pre-writing. One of my favorite writers to follow, Kristen over at She’s Novel, put together a workbook for pre-writing. It sparked new ideas and facets of the novel I’d never thought of. It expanded my world further and improved the depth of my characters.
Then, I further improved my theme and outline with the help of Autumn Writing.
At the beginning of February, I started writing my novel.
At the beginning of March, I made the commitment to myself to write an average of one page, or 300 words, per day.
I’m trying to write every night, but I’m finding some weeknights I’m so exhausted that my brain just can’t do it. I’ve been making up my words on the weekend, though. So I’m starting to wonder if it makes more sense to give myself a weekly goal, rather than a daily goal—still aim for writing every day, but give myself a break if I miss a day.
Consistency has definitely been one of my biggest stumbling blocks.
I think giving myself more leeway is the way to keep myself on track. I need goals and deadlines, but if I miss one here or there it can’t beat myself up and fall into the all or nothing trap. That’s usually where I fall off the writing wagon. I’ll start a challenge or make a goal and once I miss one day or one post, I feel like I’ve failed and there’s no reason to go on.
I think that’s the biggest reason Why I Don’t Write.
The best example of this was falling behind on the Author Up Challenge. I turned my failure into ten months of not writing on my blog. I can’t let that happen again.
My novel is my top priority. But I also need to give myself the breathing room to miss a day without crumbling. I also have other options for writing on nights that I’m not feeling the novel—my journal or writing a short story or distracting myself with a blog post.
If nothing else, I’ll keep you up to date here with my novel progress.
Currently, I’m on Chapter 11 and I’m 15,993 words in. Since March 1st, I’m averaging 424 words per day.