This article first appeared on the Writers Fun Zone.
Many writers, when they sit down to work, look with anxiety or stress at that blank page. Or they’re afraid to send their work out—to editors or publishers—or even for critique. Others are afraid they won’t sell. Or if they have sold, that they won’t sell again.
Negative feelings are common among writers, but they sure can leach the fun out of the work. And the more you fear, the less you might get done. Sometimes, though, when you see the emotion as it occurs, you can do a few things to lessen its impact.
Maybe at some point you’ve said to yourself: What if my readers hate this book? Or This book is stupid. Anxiety is common among writers, but these thoughts are your worries about what others will think of you, not about about your writing. Remember: first drafts are always lousy, and no one will see it but you. Take a couple of deep breaths, do a warm-up exercise, play some music, or chant a mantra: It’s just a draft.
First cousin to anxiety is doubt. Whether you think you can or you think you can’t write a book—either way, you’re right. Look for successes. Record your achievements. Keep track of your progress and watch your word count grow. Did your critique partner compliment you? Remember those things, and keep going.
Perhaps you don’t have energy to write. You’re tired or stuck in the doldrums. In fact, you might not be getting enough sleep—most people need seven or more uninterrupted hours. But you might also be burned out from the book or your day job, or just not having enough variety in your life. Give yourself some slack. Get as much sleep as you can. Cut your screen time and go to bed sooner. Recalibrate your expectations: Can you really hold down a full-time job and produce 2,000 words a day? Maybe not. Finally, fill your well. See your friends, spend time with your family, go to the movies and the gym. Read.
Don’t know where the book should start or is going? Figure out what you want to say. Prepare an outline. Research. Ask questions. Google. Do whatever you need to do to understand your subject or characters.
Related to confusion is frustration. You’re stalled. Maybe you can’t get started, or you’re stuck in the middle. Maybe you think your writing sucks. Try an outline—not the plan you wrote before you got started, but the story you have so far. Maybe the problems will jump out at you. Do something else for a while—often good ideas come when we’re at the gym or waiting in line at the store. Try writing in a shorter spurt—fifteen minutes at a time. Cram every idea into that time. Edit later. Consult with a colleague.
We All Get the Blues
Negative feelings are normal—every writer has them, and, after all, they’re holding you back to try to keep you from failing. Just don’t let them cripple you. Identify them, try to see what brings them on, accept them, and then keep going.
Your finished book will be your reward.