There isn’t a writer alive that hasn’t stopped writing, whether as a planned break or simply because they got out of the habit. It’s happened to me in the past and I’m sure it will happen again in the future. When it does, we often come up with excuses as to justify why we’ve stopped writing, but the majority of the time that’s all they are, excuses. The trick is recognising them for the lies they are and dealing with them. Here are the ten most common reasons people stop writing and why you should ignore them.
1 Your writing isn’t very good
You’ve just read back what you’ve been slaving over for the past few weeks/months and are horrified at how poor it is, so much so you’re questioning whether you’re a writer at all. I’ll let you into a little secret, every writer does this. OK, there may be a couple who write perfect prose straight off but we don’t talk to them. The key to being a productive writer is allowing yourself to write badly. We all write lumpen prose and stilted dialogue at times, as well as falling back on clichéd descriptions. This is alright because we know we can fix anything during the edit. So go ahead, stop worrying and get back to your writing.
2 You’re tired
Most of us have other jobs or roles which leave us drained at the end of the day. The most productive writers know this and either change their routine to compensate (by writing first thing in the morning for example) or learn to write tired. Unless you are lucky enough to be a full-time writer you need to find a regular slot you make your own and get into the habit of writing then. It will be hard at first but if you do it on a regular basis you will soon get used to it.
3 You’ve fallen out of love with the story
This can be a tough one. You started out writing your story with a fire and passion for the new but somewhere along the way you’ve fallen out of love with the story, possibly even questioning whether it’s any good. This is a normal reaction. A writer’s emotions vary wildly during the writing process. It’s important to recognise this and work through the down times. When this happens to me I have a number of ways to rekindle the fire. I’ll read back the start of the story to capture some of that initial passion. I’ll also switch to writing a scene I’ve been looking forward to. I’ll also stop writing win the middle of a scene I’ve been enjoying so I can’t wait to get back to it the next day.
4 You’ve written yourself into a hole
This can happen to any writer but especially to those who prefer to free write rather than follow a plan. Finding yourself in a hole can be really deflating because once you’ve written something your brain automatically tells you this is ‘how the story is, how it was and how it will always be.’ This is nonsense. You have full control over your story. You can do anything with it. If you’ve written yourself into a hole, go back to a point where just before it went bad and change it. Throw in something new, something unexpected. Don’t get disheartened, use it as an excuse to play around with things and be creative. You’ll soon find your story moving again.
5 The imposter syndrome
You’ve been writing for a while but you’ve realised you’re not really a writer so you’re giving up. It could be because of a bad review, some feedback you’ve received about your manuscript or just the way your friends smirk when writing is mentioned, but no matter how much encouragement you’ve had from others, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you you’re faking it. You aren’t a real writer. Some point soon you’ll get found out for the imposter you are, writers everywhere will point at you and laugh and all the doubters will be proven right.
You aren’t alone.
Nearly all writers suffer from the imposter syndrome, from award-winning novelists to newbies. And it’s a good thing. Rather than let it crush you, harness these doubts about your own ability to fuel the desire to improve, to never settle with where you are but learn and get better.
6 You don’t have the time
When I was younger I thought my day was full. Then I took on evening classes and realised my day hadn’t been full at all, it was just an illusion. I had plenty of time, I just didn’t use it effectively. Then I had children and realised doing evening classes was a breeze in comparison. I’d thought time was tight before but boy was I wrong. Everybody has time to write, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. The question is never if you have time but what are you prepared to give up to free up your writing time.
7 You’ll do it later/tomorrow
You’re going to write, sure you are, but not today. Today you’ll catch up with that boxed-set you’ve been watching, or finish polishing the family silver. Tomorrow will be your writing day. And when tomorrow comes, there’ll be another reason to delay getting back to writing.
You’ll do it tomorrow is one of the most insidious excuses for not writing because you genuinely believe it to be true, yet how often have you said this only to find that two weeks later you’ve still not written a thing. If you can find time to write tomorrow you can find time to write today, it’s a simple as that.
8 It’s a pain
Writing is a real pain, especially when you move from the lovely, free-flowing creative part into the painstaking grind of the edit. If writing was easy, everybody would do it. But you’re not everybody, you’re a writer. You’re don’t do this because it’s easy, you do it because you want to tell your story. The main reason people stop is not because the work is hard but because there is so much to do. They can’t see the finish line, just a seemingly endless pile of work that’s stopped being fun. The thing is, there’s no time limit to writing a book. It takes as long as it takes. Instead of worrying about how much there is to do, simply do. Then look back after a week, a month, and see how much you’ve achieved. You’ll be amazed.
9 The muse isn’t with you
For those of you who have a job other than writing, I dare you to go to your boss/business partner and let them know you won’t be working today because the muse isn’t with you. If you’re lucky, they’ll just laugh in your face. The most productive writers treat writing as a job. They sit down whether they feel creative or not. They learn to grind out words on the bad days and enjoy the rush on the good days. If writing as a hobby by all means sit back and wait but if you want to be a writer you need to treat writing like any other job by turning up and putting in the hours.
10 A fire has destroyed your home and all your belongings
OK, I’ll let you off this time, but you could always borrow a pen and a notepad to record just how you feel and use what you’ve written to fuel your next blockbuster!
So what about you? Do you recognise any of these or are there others I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.
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