How to Overcome Writing Roadblocks

The path to authorship is paved with questions: How do I find an agent? How do I get published? Who do I need to network with? Should I have an online presence? But here’s what you should ask yourself first - How the hell do I find time to write?

Think about it in building terms. We often find ourselves worrying about the drapes and decor before construction is even started. Before we know it, the contractor is telling you that the room you had perfected in your mind, complete with a just-purchased peach-colored rug and a pale blue table runner, has to be nixed. 

Let’s back up and discuss how to create a plan so the dream house doesn’t fall apart. One step at a time is always a good place to start. Writing can feel overwhelming at times; don’t let that dampen your spirit. Write on with these tips.

Tip #1: Shift perspective

Instead of approaching your writing as some arduous task, look at it as an opportunity to explore new worlds. Have fun with your writing. Writing is a serious career, but if you only look at it as work, it will become back-breaking.

Self-doubt tends to plague my brain, taking its toll on my writing progress. Free-writing exercises, journaling, and meditation have all helped calm my fears.

Tip #2: Avoid Avoiding

There will always be excuses not to write. Errands, cooking, walking the dog. And don’t even get me started on TV and the internet. Black pits of doom that will suck your time faster than a Dyson. Trust me; I have just as much trouble ignoring these modern trappings as anyone.

I find it helpful to have a set writing time. This doesn’t have to be rigid; just find some time where you can escape into writing wonderland. I carry a notebook with me everywhere I go in case genius strikes. Only have 15 minutes before that important phone call? Set a timer and write like the wind. You will be surprised at how much you can get done.

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Tip #3: Get Inspired

Many people like to blame writer’s block for the reason they are not writing. What is it, really? Probably just an excuse to do something else. We are often the barrier to our own success, sabotaging our best intentions with endless to-dos that grab our attention away from the goal. Writing is challenging at times, but don’t let those bumps sidetrack you from progress.

Some ideas for ideation:

  • Family, friends, and even strangers are good sources for motivation. Have a good chat, or think back on an interesting experience with the people in your life. I think we’ve all got that one crazy relative just waiting to be written about.
  • Just start writing. Doesn’t matter what it is; you never know where it might lead. Sometimes I open up a piece I am working on and tell myself I am just going to look at it. This always gets the juices flowing.
  • Even though I called TV a black hole, I do think great ideas can come from art and entertainment (just don’t do it when you are supposed to be writing). Art tends to evoke the muse.

Tip #4: Read

If there is any art form that will inspire great writing, it is the written word of others. If you are not a regular reader, it will be hard to sharpen your own writing skills. Books are wondrous places to let your mind go wild. Even bad books will help you; they will teach you what to avoid when writing your own stuff.

I like to carry books with me. Actual books. As a child, I always had my face between the pages of a good read, even at the dinner table, or at family gatherings. Magazines are also great sources of inspiration. The Sun, a monthly ad-free magazine out of North Carolina, is chock full of heartfelt stories from people like you and me.

Podcasts and audiobooks are both excellent ways to hear inspiring tales if you don’t have time to sit down with a book. The Moth is a podcast where people share true stories at open-mic story slams; I dare you not to get emotional during some of the episodes.

 Cry me a river.

Cry me a river.

The best advice? Just write. Even if it’s crap. The act of writing regularly will help you gain confidence and become a better storyteller. Don’t give up. Don’t let that contractor bully you out of that dream house. You can build whatever world you want if you stick to it.

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Your turn. What tricks do you use to motivate your inner muse?