Okay, first things first. Don’t get me wrong. Writing is my job, and I love my job. I enjoy writing stories where people fall in love and have happy endings, and it amazes me that people actually buy them, and read them, and like them. This will never get old. And I count myself very lucky that I can do this for a living.
But… (you knew there was a but coming, didn’t you?). With writing, comes The Dread.
So here’s the thing: writing will never not be hard for me. A few authors make it look easy, but actually when I talk to other authors most of them agree that it’s hard. Getting those words down on the page takes a lot of effort, it’s often boring, and usually involves a constant battle against fear and insecurity. “Is it crap? Am I crap?”
Today, I started a new WIP (Housemates #3). Starting a new story is usually one of the most stressful times for me because I’m more of a pantser than a plotter, so I tend to feel as if I’m lost in the middle of a forest without a map. The only way out is to write.
Once I get going, it usually gets a little easier, and every now and again I have a magical day where the words flow, my characters behave and everything is awesome. But this pie chart is a pretty realistic breakdown of my brain on any writing day.
Then along with that hot mess of insecurity, add in a deadline, and yep. Starting that new WIP feels a lot like going back to school after a holiday, with an overdue essay and exams looming. The Dread creeps up on you, lurks in your gut, and makes you crave chocolate and a blanket fort.
But I’m here to tell you, that it gets easier. If only because each time you manage to finish a story, you prove to yourself that it’s possible to beat The Dread. And also, each time you push through and finish a first draft, you learn a little more about the process, about what works for you and what doesn’t, and how to challenge those pesky inner voices.
Top Tips for feeling The Dread and writing the damn book anyway
Have small, manageable goals – whatever suits you, whether it’s 500 words a day, 3000 words a day, or a weekly goal with more flexibility. Make goals, and try and keep to them. Nothing makes me feel empowered like achieving my goals, and an empowered writer is a confident writer.
Whether you use timers, productivity apps, social media blockers or write sprints with other authors, find something that makes you sit and focus. My current method is writing in 45 min blocks with 15 minute breaks. That suits me, but your mileage may vary.
Prioritise writing time
Tempting though it is to use editing, promo, admin, cleaning, laundry, or stroking the cat as an excuse for leaving your writing till later, don’t do it. Write first and try and avoid getting sucked into procrastination. If you don’t write more books then you won’t have anything to edit/promote. Writing comes first.
If you’re like me, the big picture is sometimes too scary. I try and forget how many words the story is likely to be when it’s finished, because the thought of writing 40, 50, 60k words is overwhelming. I think in days (2000 is my usual goal), and weeks (10k is my weekly goal). If you break it down like that, suddenly it seems like less of a mountain to climb.
Cheerleaders and companions
Find other writers to write with. Support each other, kick each other’s arses, don’t let each other give up. FINISH THE DAMN STORY. Remind each other that there is nothing in a first draft that can’t be fixed. I belong to the m/m sprint club on Facebook and sharing goals and progress in there is really motivating. Plus who doesn’t like a bit of office banter to get them through the day?
If you like feedback as you write, find a critique partner who will read as you go, and who you can bounce ideas off or talk through ideas if you get stuck. Annabelle Jacobs is my writing partner and I couldn’t do it without her. I can’t write into a void, I need feedback as I go. But even if you prefer not to share your words until the draft is completed, writing on your own is pretty lonely. I like the camaraderie of shared goals and writing sprints.
How do you keep going when you’re struggling to stay motivated? Please share your tips/experiences in a comment 🙂