by Rohi Shetty
And what’s your excuse?
- lack of time
- lack of ideas
- lack of energy
- lack of talent
- lack of consistency
- lack of inspiration
- lack of confidence
- lack of clarity
- no support from family
- too many commitments
- too many distractions
You know that if you really wanted to write, you would. So what is actually going on here? Why do you often do everything but write?
In a recent interview with Marie Forleo, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, lists five reasons why you may want to be a writer but don’t write as often or as much as you want to.
- Fear of failure
This is the biggest cause of writer’s block. Gilbert says: “Irrespective of what we say, the real reason we don’t move creatively ahead is always and only fear.”
All of us are afraid of criticism and rejection. We feel we don’t have the talent and every time we sit down to write, we feel like an imposter.
Though fear is necessary and protects us from actual physical danger, it is the biggest foe of creativity. That’s because fear is nervy and can’t tell the difference between real danger and pseudo-danger.
The good news is that we don’t need to overcome fear. We only need to acknowledge it and not let it paralyze us when we write.
Fear often takes on the insidious form of the internal critic. When you write, it’s okay to let fear look over your shoulder, but don’t let it stop you or influence your creative choices.
Action step: Start with a “a shitty first draft.” Never stop to think or edit while writing. Write fast as if your creative life depends on it. It does.
- Perfectionism paralysis
Perfectionism is fear in disguise, the perfect way to sabotage yourself. Gilbert calls it fear in high heels, a serial killer that kills your dreams and aspirations.
Perfectionism not only stops you from completing your work, it stops you from starting because you know that your work is not going to be perfect. So why bother!
Action step: It’s not your responsibility to be a great or successful writer; your own responsibility is to show up and write and persist in the face of difficulty and doubts. And to have fun along the way.
- Lofty Motivation
If your primary motivation for writing is to change the world, that’s too heavy a cross to bear not only for you but also for your readers.
Don’t be the person C.S. Lewis had in mind when he said, “She’s the sort of woman who lives for others—you can always tell the others by their hunted expression.”
In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert: “People would say thank you so much for your book, Eat, Pray, Love; it really helped me. But I didn’t sit down to write that book saying, ‘It’s high time I changed people’s lives.’
“That book was about me just looking for grace, looking for resurrection in my own life, and then accidentally, because I followed my own curiosity, trusted my creativity, made the work I wanted to make, I ended up helping people. That’s a side effect that can happen in the end.
“So if you want to help, just love what you’re doing and bring love to it. Whatever the thing is that you love, you’ll start to radiate this thing that people will want to be near and it will make them better and that’s the very kindest thing you can do for your community.”
Action step: Write because you love to write, because it gives you joy without bothering too much about the rewards or consequences of your work.
- Monetization woes
Here’s the biggest reason why you are stressed, depressed and frustrated as a writer. It’s because you feel that you are not a legitimate writer unless and until you earn a living from your writing.
Here’s how Gilbert dealt with this burden: “I made a contract with writing when I was 15 years old. I lit my candle and made my deal with the universe and said, ‘I’m going to be a writer for the rest of my life.’
“One of the promises I made to the work was ‘I’ll never ask you to support me financially; I will support both of us. I am a resourceful person and my parents raised me to be a worker. I’ll do whatever I have to do to pay the rent and you and I will have a love affair on the side of this that is not contingent on monetization.’”
Gilbert worked as a waitress, a bartender, a cook, and so on for the first few years of her writing career before she was published.
Action step: Don’t expect to make a living from your writing. Don’t let material necessity steal the joy you get from your creativity. Don’t quit your job just yet.
- Shit sandwich
Here’s the question you must ask yourself regularly, if not daily:
Do I love writing so much that I don’t mind eating the shit sandwich that comes with it?
This shit sandwich comes in different forms. For Gilbert, it was not being published for the first seven years of her writing career. Nowadays, it’s a negative book review in a prominent newspaper or an awful comment on Twitter. She asks herself: “Do you still want to do this thing?” And the answer, as always, is a resounding “Yes!”
Action step: So what’s your biggest shit sandwich?
- Yet another rejection letter?
- No comments on your latest blog post?
- Snarky comments about your latest story?
Ask yourself if writing is still what you want you to do in spite of it all.
The bottom-line is this:
Treat your writing as a journey, an adventure, a love affair. Because it is.
By the way:
A few days, I ran a free promotion of all my Kindle books. If you missed it, no worries. You can download all the eight PDF files here for free: Rohi’s Kindle Books.
And if you like any of them, I would really appreciate it if you could post a review on Amazon. Thanks in advance.
Join the conversation:
Which among these five writing blocks is your biggest obstacle?
Let us know in the comments below.
(18 May 2016 2016)