There are so many possible roadblocks that have the potential to bring a screeching halt to the writing world we envision. Some of them keep us mired in the land of “Someday I want to…’ and we never even leave that land to begin the project that dwells in our heart. Here are a few things that threaten to keep us stalled and not writing the family stories that we long to.
Lack of time: Lack of time is possibly one of the most common excuses I hear from many writers. Yes, it exists. Time is limited. And when it’s taken up by a job, a family, a house that needs cleaned and maintained, it doesn’t always leave a lot of writing time. Yet, I’ve discovered that on the days when I have a large chunk of time that I think I can make some major progress on a project, I end up frittering the afternoon away and I actually get less done than when I have less time available to write.
Can you get up 30 minutes or an hour earlier and use this time for writing? Can you enlist the aid of the family and ask for an hour of uninterrupted time in the evening so you can work on your project? Are there pieces you can take with you to work – notes or an outline you can make on a break, editing you can do while you eat your lunch? Is it possible to set aside one day, or one afternoon a month that you can devote to your family stories?
Not knowing where we’re going: I find that I make better progress when I have at least a vague idea of where I’m headed with a story or a project. If I know that in the next scene I want to work on a certain story – or the next chapter will deal with a specific topic – I find that I dive in faster and get more accomplished. You probably won’t need every specific detail outlined ahead of time, but at least having a general idea of your next few steps alleviates a lot of the stalling.
Not having all the details we need: Sometimes what bogs down our progress is not having all the details we need. We either don’t have the pieces, so we avoid starting. Or, we’re missing pieces and stop writing to go look details up. I find that I accomplish more if I keep writing and use either ‘XXX’ or ‘_____’ as placeholders where I need to insert a specific detail – be it a date, name, number or other item that I need to look up or research. Then when I’m done with the scene or essay, then I stop and research the items I need to fill in later.
We won’t think anyone will want to read what we write: A lack of self-confidence can pervade our souls and keep us from writing if we don’t think anyone will want to read what we write. Keep writing anyway. Tell that little devil that’s whispering in your ear to go away. Don’t worry about whether anyone else will want to read your words or not. Write for you. Write for the desire that fills your heart.
Procrastination: Ugh! I’m certainly not one to lecture about this. I’m not just your run of the mill procrastinator. I’m a Master Procrastinator. I can have a list on my desk of what I want to accomplish that afternoon. And I check Facebook. I check email. I make sure all the cat bowls are filled with crunchies. I double-check the pot of sunflowers out front and make sure they don’t need water. I run out to the mail box – for the third time – to see if the mails run yet. I…yes, I can compete in the procrastination marathon with the best of them. But then at the end of the day I still don’t have a thing crossed off my list.
For myself, when I find myself starting to fall into this routine, I do best by forcing myself to choose one item on the list at a time. Okay – finish this ‘R’ blog…then I can go check the mail. Finish the draft of the Chicken Soup essay…then I’ll fill up the cat’s bowls. Add this one scene to the family story…then I’ll go take the chicken out of the freezer.
I know there are other tricks that help combat the procrastination bug, but this is what works best for me.
Fear: Fears are very real and can derail our writing faster than anything. We don’t think we’re good enough. We don’t think our stories are exciting. We don’t think anyone will like our work. We think we’re horrible writers. We think…
There’s a bazillion things we’re afraid of. (Yes, bazillion is an actual number, and well documented I’m sure.) But we can’t let that stop us. Just keep writing. Acknowledge the fears. They’re not imagined. They are real and they are powerful. But try to banish them and jump into the writing water anyway, despite the fears.
Perfectionism: This is another very real problem that can stop our writing before we even get started. And it gets worse when we read something that’s written very well. (At least it does for me.) I’ll read a piece that is simply wonderful. It’s beautiful. It’s lyrical. The words move the reader and read like a delightful sonnet. And I think…Oh, I can’t write like that! And somehow we expect that every word is going to flow straight from our hearts and minds, to our finger on the keyboard, and spill out onto the screen in front of us in absolute perfection. And if it doesn’t happen like that…then we’re just no good.
Rubbish! Even the best of the writers write, edit, cross out, revise again, and polish. I daresay that even Stephen King edits and changes from what he initially writes. Now, something they write on a second or third draft may be a thousand times better than what I have on draft 100. We’re all learning and growing with our writing. I look back at something I wrote five years ago – something that I thought then was nicely done. I’ll read it years later and think…Ugh! I wrote that trash?
Don’t let these roadblocks stop you or slow you down. In the words of a great many writing gurus…JUST WRITE!