“A professional writer is an amateur that did not quit.” ~ Richard Bach
The hardest thing about writing is the writing part.
It sounds strange, but for any fellow writers out there, I know you’re nodding your head right now.
The act of putting bum in seat and beginning to move fingers across keys in an orderly and creative fashion would seem, at first thought, to be fairly simple. Yet for many of us, myself included, it sometimes feels like the most challenging thing in the world.
Because writing is HARD. Some people don’t even like it; they simply feel compelled to write and at the mercy of their words. Whether we like to write, or have a love-hate relationship with the practice, those of us who do it know that it’s always a battle to eke out even a small number of words. And staying accountable to a regular writing practice is an even bigger challenge.
How often and for how long those words stream (or stumble) from head to keyboard will often depend on three things:
A) Our personality type
B) The demands on our time
C) What we believe about ourselves as writers
Let’s look at each of these in more detail…
How personality type messes with our writing time
I’m a Myers-Briggs type INFJ. If that means anything to you, you’ll know that for writers the “J” part of the equation can be a good thing. Js like to keep to a schedule and have some predictability in their lives; it’s all about structure and organization for a J. However that schedule can also take away from a wrier’s creativity. Forcing ourselves to sit down and write may not always be conducive to producing decent or soulful writing. For me I know my writing can vary hugely according to my mood and desire to write.
If, on the other hand, my Myers-Briggs type was INFP, the “P” part of my personality would prefer flexibility, and would adopt more of a play-it-by ear and see-how-I-feel attitude. The writing life for a P can in some ways be less productive because they don’t have the structure and self-motivation to sit down and write; however they may be more satisfied with the work they produce when they do eventually write because they felt more able to lean into their writing voice at the time. The P often needs to have a deadline imposed on them to make themselves write.
If you aren’t familiar with the Myers Briggs personality assessment, consider whether you thrive in a structured and organized environment, or whether you like to go with the flow and switch things up when you feel like it. Both have their advantages and disadvantages for a writer, but knowing which way you lean will help you figure out what you need in order to stay accountable to your writing goals.
How demands on our time affect our ability to write
This one may seem obvious; the busier we are and the more demands on our time, the less opportunity for writing.
Perhaps you think you have the monopoly on busy—that other people say they are busy but you are really really busy and that’s why you have no time to write.
Let’s face it; we’re all busy. It’s a sign of the times—we have the ability to do more and we feel under pressure to do it all. Sure, some of us may be trying to hold down a full time job, parent 5 kids, volunteer at church, make time for friends, walk the dog twice a day, spend quality time with our spouse, go to the gym and cook regular gourmet meals (not me, thank God—sounds exhausting!) but we’re all riding on some version of that wave and most of us need to find a way to calm the waters.
Saying “I have no room for writing” if it’s something you’re passionate about will only leave you with a hole in your heart in later life.
If writing is something you truly want to pursue and have a passion for, you must figure out how to make time for it. (tweet that!) You and only you can do that. It may mean removing something else from your life, or taking a look at where you might be able to fit in short bursts of writing in your day (lunch break, early morning, before bed…)
Take an honest look at your week, tracking how you spend your days if you need to. Look especially at where you may fritter your time away, but don’t confuse time for YOU with wasted time. For example, relaxing with a book is not frittering away time. Actually nothing is, if it’s what you need. But perhaps watching several hours of television or going shopping IS wasting time for you.
Divide your time into non-negotiable, flexible and free time. If the idea of making a fixed schedule scares you, then simply recognizing where your time is less effective will help you determine how you can work writing time into your week.
How what we believe about ourselves as writers affects our writing time
“I’m afraid my story is too boring.”
“I’m not really trained as a writer.”
“My grammar is terrible.”
“I love to write but I’m not that good.”
Any of these comments sound familiar? As a teacher in the creative writing field I hear variations on these comments A LOT. All of us—yes ALL of us—no matter how far along in our writing journey, experience self-doubt. You probably know this already; we’re a strange breed of self-deprecating creatives who frequently beat up on our words. But unless we actually spend time with more of our breed we don’t really acknowledge this truth. Somehow we believe we’re alone in our struggles with writing and everyone else is secretly better than we are.
I’m here to tell you we are truly all in the same boat.
No one writes an amazing first draft (unless they bring the editing process immediately into that draft) and we all struggle with thinking our writing isn’t good enough. If you allow these thoughts to take over during your writing time you will achieve very little.
My advice is to put that unhelpful—and quite frankly, unkind—voice that haunts your writing time in a box. Then lock the box and throw away the key.
Being aware of your critical thoughts will often be enough to help you work through them, so next time you write check in with what’s going on in your head.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this—which of the three factors mentioned in this post mess with your writing time the most? Are you able to push through them? Share in the comments!
Image credit: Andrew Smith