Despite not “winning” NaNoWriMo (See my blog post called “NaNoWriMo update, part 3“), I was very proud of myself to have started writing a large project. But after November I stopped writing all but this blog. And even then, I haven’t been writing as often or as in-depth as I used to. I would like to say that the holidays took over. I was too busy shopping for Christmas presents, making Christmas presents (all of those homemade, hand-bound books I made went somewhere), and wrapping Christmas presents. I was too busy planning events or going to events, seeing friends and family, and too busy printing letterpress cards (well, that part is kind of true). Work was busier too, so I didn’t have as much down time at work as I normally do in which to write or work on my other various projects. Although December was a busy month overall, these are all just excuses that don’t hold much weight. Despite added responsibilities, a true writer makes time for writing — something I have not been doing.
My writing as of late has been placed on the back burner; it is no longer a priority. I’m not sure why, but I’m beginning to explore the various possibilities. Hopefully, by gaining awareness of why I no longer make writing a priority, I can figure out how to move beyond my issues so that writing once again becomes a large and important part of my life.
I recently came across a “colourful” but enlightening web article called “25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing (Right Fucking Now)” by Chuck Wendig (h/t to Nate Crawford at the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia for posting this on the WFNS Facebook page) that opened my eyes and helped me focus on some of the issues I’m experiencing with regards to my writing… or, more appropriately, my lack of writing.
Stop running away
Wendig says, “Your writing will never chase you — you need to chase your writing. If it’s what you want, then pursue it.” I do want to be a writer. And by that I don’t necessarily mean I expect to be the next Margaret Atwood or Salman Rushdie. Nor do I mean I want to quit my day job and live in a beach house with a typewriter in the South of France (although all of these things would be awesome times infinity). I doubt I’ll ever get published or be able to write full-time. I mostly want to be a writer for myself, but being a writer won’t just fall into my lap. Writing takes effort, but this is something I need to remind myself of ever day. Perhaps that is because writing hasn’t become habit for me. Or perhaps that is just because writing is hard.
Stop thinking it should be easier
Wendig reminded me that “[a]nything truly worth doing requires hella hard work.” Writing is hard work — if someone tells you that writing is easy then s/he is probably lying — and sometimes getting the motivation to work hard is, well, hard. It can be difficult to come home after staring at a computer all day at work and want to stare at a computer all evening to write. Or if I’ve had a particularly busy or difficult day my brain doesn’t want to do any more thinking. I’m certainly aware that this is a challenge for me. Yet, like exercising, I may not want to do it, but once I’m in it or have finished I feel so much better. The hard part is getting started.
I wait too much. I tell myself, “I’ll write tomorrow.” I tell myself, “I’ll write again when the next idea comes to me.” I’ll tell myself, “I need to figure out where this is going before I continue.” And so forth. I need to stop doing this and just sit down and write something. If it turns out to be crap, then oh well — at least it’s “writing practice,” as Natalie Goldberg says in Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within. However, ideas are more likely to come to me while writing than while watching television or doing the dishes.
Stop deprioritizing your wordsmithy
Wendig makes a good point in his article: “You know you’re a writer because it’s not just what you do, but rather, it’s who you are. So why deprioritize that thing which forms part of your very identity?” This is point enough as to why I once again need to make writing a priority. A part of me is missing. And I feel it.
Stop treating your body like a dumpster
All sorts of Christmas goodies haven’t helped this, but to be honest I started treating my body like a dumpster long before the holidays. Added responsibilities in the evenings that make cooking a nice dinner difficult have led me to start eating a lot of take-out (the opening of a Smokes Poutinerie in Halifax hasn’t helped), and plain laziness has resulted in choosing easy (but unhealthy) lunch options such as canned, processed, and high-carb foods. Although I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions because changing aspects of your life that you don’t like shouldn’t be relegated to a single day during the year, now that the holidays are over I have made it a point to once again start eating healthier and exercise on a regular basis. As Wendig says, “[t]he body fuels the mind. It should be ‘crap out,’ not ‘crap in.’ Stop bloating your body with awfulness. Eat well. Exercise.” Good advice.
Stop blaming everyone else
My tendency isn’t to blame other people, but to blame other responsibilities or life events beyond my control. Work was too busy. I’m tired. I don’t have time. I have too much else to do. I have a headache. And so on and so forth. In reality, the only thing I have to blame for not making writing a priority is myself.
Stop overpromising and overshooting
Wendig’s advice is to “[c]oncentrate on what you can complete.” Although I was happy to have started something big during NaNoWriMo, I was disappointed in myself that I couldn’t reach the 50,000 word goal; I didn’t even reach 10,000 words. But even though everything I’ve written above are poor excuses for not writing, I am a busy person with other hobbies and responsibilities that I need to juggle. My goal is not to drop everything else in life and focus only on writing; rather, I need to work on time management and include more writing in my life, even if it’s only a goal to write 250 words a day.
Stop being afraid
Wendig says, “Everybody who wanted to be a writer and didn’t become one failed based on one of two critical reasons: one, they were lazy, or two, they were afraid.” He has certainly hit the nail on the head there. Laziness is definitely a part of my problem (writing is hard and sometimes I’d rather not do it for this reason). But, mostly, it is fear that holds me back. Fear of failure. And maybe even fear of success because of what that might mean for my life and how that might change things. Fear of success is understandable because change can be scary. But not doing something from fear of failure is so silly because — by not doing it in the first place — I’m already failing. Although my brain knows this on an academic level, it is still a hard challenge to overcome. Perhaps the hardest. I suspect it was fear of failure after not completing NaNoWriMo that led me to stop writing in December, rather than an excess of holiday responsibilities. My thought process throughout November went from “I can do this; I can write 50,000 words in one month” to “I can’t do this. I can’t write. I am not a writer.” So, if I’m going to make any New Year’s Resolution, it is to change my thought process: I can do this. I can write. I am a writer. I am a writer on my own terms, and at my own pace.
What challenges do you have to overcome as a writer? I’d love to hear some of your experiences and what you do to overcome the challenges you face in order to write.