At some point or another, I’m pretty sure that every single writer on the face of the earth feels like they aren’t good enough. Fear, embarrassment, self-doubt. It happens to all of us. We deal with it, live with it or eventually get over it.
But when it stops you from doing what you love to do, when it stops you from writing… that’s not a great feeling. I know. I’ve been there (over and over and over again).
Writing is cathartic and relaxing and a fantastic creative outlet. But it’s also hard and painful, making it pretty easy to give up on. Sticking with it is tough. But, we all know that if you give up on it, there’s a very small chance you’re going to end up as a successful writer.
So, if you really don’t want to give up on it, or if you’ve been writing and writing and don’t feel like you’re making progress or are feeling stuck, here are the steps that I’ve found help keep me on track.
Step 1: Get Past the Fear & Self Doubt So You Can Keep Writing
Fear of rejection and doubting ourselves is the number one thing that fellow writers tell me is holding them back.
Here’s an interesting fact for you. Like him or not, Stephen King is one of the world’s bestselling authors. And his debut novel, Carrie, almost never saw the light of day because he thought it was crap.
He absolutely, 100% doubted himself.
In his book On Writing, Stephen King writes about his first draft saying, “I crumpled them up in disgust and threw them away. I couldn't see wasting two weeks, maybe even a month, creating a novella I didn't like and wouldn't be able to sell. So I threw it away.”
His wife found the start of his book in the garbage bin, took it out and read it. After getting through the first few pages of Carrie, she told him that he NEEDED to keep telling that story. But Stephen King himself? He thought it sucked.
After taking his wife’s advice and continuing on with it, the novel went on to be hugely successful and it launched his career. But it almost never happened due to self-doubt. The point is, it happens to all of us. Even the wildly successful among us.
So, how do you get past it?
I like to keep in mind little stories like Stephen King’s to inspire me. Or I remember the fact that J.K Rowling’s first draft of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by 12 publishers before it was finally picked up. (Side note: Her series went on to sell more than 450 million copies worldwide).
Read & Listen
I also like to read books on the process of writing. Check out Stephen King’s book, On Writing. It’s considered one of the best books on the process of creative writing. Or listen to podcasts on writing. There’s one called Write Now by Sarah Werner that I discovered a while ago. I find Sarah Werner to be especially good at motivation and inspiration.
Another tip I’m getting into that really seems to help tackle the problem is meditation. Here’s what to do:
- Take a moment to quiet your mind and let the feelings go. Close your eyes and everything. Really get into it.
- Try something useful like the Headspace or Aura app.
- The key is to take a pause and breathe, but not to abandon or give up on your writing.
- Wait for the moment and the feelings to really pass and then continue on writing.
Step 2: Work Through Writer’s Blocks
So, we’ve gotten through the self-doubt (or we’re at least working on it). Now, what do you do when you’re staring at a blank screen and don’t know where to go next?
You have to just keep writing.
Try this: Freeform Writing
Freeform writing is a process in which you write for a certain amount of time, without doing any self-editing. You just write and write and write, letting the ideas and words flow.
You’re free to write whatever comes to your mind, even if it doesn’t seem to make sense. The more you write, the more your ideas and thoughts will come together. The great thing is, you’re not editing, and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is because it’s only for you. So, it’s a great way to just push through a block.
Here are the benefits:
- It only takes 10 minutes at a time
- You focus solely on writing and not worrying about editing
- Nobody else sees it—you’re writing just for yourself
- It helps you connect to some pretty deep down, inner thoughts
- It’s an excellent way to practice your craft
- It helps you with idea generation, too!
When the 10 minutes are up, leave it for a while and go back to it with fresh eyes and edit, edit, edit.
Step 3: Find New, Original Ideas
Another thing that seems to hold all of us writers back is coming up with new ideas. Knowing what to write about is generally the biggest hurdle.
First of all, keep in mind that almost all stories have been told and coming up with purely original and new ideas is REALLY hard. So, don’t worry so much about having a new, never-seen-before idea. Focus on how you’re going to make it your story.
So, with that in mind, how do you start developing any ideas?
Well, writing prompts are a great way to help you get going. The nice thing about prompts is that they seem to have nothing to do with what you would likely submit to an online publication—but you never know where they’re going to take you or how they might end up. Often, they’ll lead to other thoughts and ideas. The important thing is that they get you writing. The ideas will flow before you know it. Here's an example.
Writing Prompt: Write your life like a movie.
Have you ever closed your eyes and let yourself daydream about what your life would be like if… [insert a billion different scenarios here]. I used to do this all the time after watching the Oscars. I’d like to imagine what my life would be like if I won an Oscar. (For what, I have no idea… didn’t get that far!)
Spend around 20 minutes to a half an hour writing your life like a movie in one of your dream scenarios. Write it like you’re watching a movie or like you’re right there living it. It should be more like a scene, and less like just a recounting of facts.
For a whole list of great prompts to help you find ideas, practice your writing and develop your skills, go here to grab my downloadable freebie: 10 Great Writing Prompts to Help Get You Unstuck.
And that’s it. Those are the steps I like to follow to help keep me on track and keep writing. Hope you find them helpful. Let me know what you do to make progress.
And for more helpful advice and encouragement...
Get my free guide on how to pitch an editor. I'm breaking down exactly what to do to grab the attention of an editor (from an editor's point of view!) Grab the free guide right here: