When I talk to prospective writers and teach writing classes, one of the most common things I hear from people is how much they want to write, but “something” is holding them back. That “something” is always an obstacle that creates a mental block that keeps them from getting the ideas on the page. The obstacles are not uncommon and I’ve faced many of them myself. But if you really want to write, you need to know how to tackle these challenges so you can pursue your craft. On that note, here are five common writing blocks and how you can overcome them to get writing.
1. I don’t have time. This is probably the most common thing I hear. After all, we all lead busy lives and are pressed for time. But here’s the thing: this obstacle can be easily overcome by simply making writing a habit. You don’t need to devote hours every day to write. Start with 15 minutes. I guarantee we all have 15 minutes! And make it a habit. Just like brushing your teeth each morning is a habit. Whether it’s setting an alarm and writing for 15 minutes when you wake up or before bed, make writing a part of your routine.
2. I don’t have any ideas and don’t know what to write about. Chances are, you’ve thought of many ideas; just not when you sit down to write. So-called “writer’s block” can be easily overcome because there are ideas EVERYWHERE! I write down every idea I have, wherever and whenever I have it. Use a note pad app on your phone or keep a notebook and pen in your car/purse/wallet. I can’t tell you how many ideas, sentences and character dialogue come to me when I’m driving (that’s where dictating into my phone helps). There are also tons of books and websites that have prompts to get you writing.
3. I’ll write tomorrow. Oh procrastination, how we hate thee! It’s so easy to say you’ll work on a project tomorrow. But here’s the thing: tomorrow never comes (not when the project is concerned). So get writing today! Again, create a habit and making writing part of your daily routine. Write for 15 minutes or one page each day. Another great technique is using an accountability partner. Have a fellow writing friend hold you accountable (and vice versa) for writing each day or week. Depending on your personality, if you know someone else is waiting on you, you’ll be more likely to accomplish the task.
4. I don’t know how to organize my ideas and writing. I always say that you only need a notebook and pen, or computer to start writing. But if you are someone who needs to have things organized before you start, there are ways to do this easily. Get a tabbed notebook or binder and organize your writing and ideas that way. Use index cards or Post-In notes and attach them to an empty wall to order thoughts. Programs like Scrivener exist to help writers organize chapters and thoughts (I haven’t used it for that, but some writers swear by it).
5. I feel guilty for taking the time to write. Whether it’s writing, exercise or any type of self-care, we all – at some point or another – feel guilty for making time for ourselves. However if we don’t do the things we need to do to care for ourselves, then we’re actually doing our family or loved ones a disservice because they’re not getting our best selves. So if you feel guilty, STOP! You can take 15 minutes to write or fill one page with thoughts. Your family will still love you. Your job won’t suffer. Your life won’t fall apart. But you might if you don’t do the things that are vital to your soul.
Writing is not an easy task. Even for me, who makes a living by putting words on a page, I struggle with getting my personal writing done knowing my professional writing pays the bills. But if you really want to write, find a strategy to overcome these obstacles that keep us from letting the world read our words.