There are times when writing is easy, when you get through that daily word count without too much effort. And there are times when the final goal – that moment when you can type The End – seems very far away. There will be days when you think it will be impossible to reach, and it seems so much easier to check Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or even clean the house.
When you get to that point, however, there’s a better way to procrastinate. Follow this quick and simple process to overcome your writing barriers.
Identify your barriers
Make a note of all the things that hold you back from writing, from all the things that prevent you from getting to the computer in the first place to the things that distract you in the middle of writing.
Examples could be anything from work, illness, a crying baby, and the need to make dinner to thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘I’m no good at writing,’ ‘This is too difficult,’ and ‘I wonder if I can beat my record time on Solitaire.’ You might be writing something based on your own life experience and painful memories might make writing difficult or certain sections of the story make you feel uncomfortable. Whatever it is, make a list of each barrier you encounter.
When you look at the list, you will no doubt notice that, like the characters in your story, you have external and internal barriers.
The next step then is to note which ones are internal and which are external, and we’ll deal with each type separately
Dealing with external barriers
Most barriers are not actually barriers but only function as barriers. They might make it difficult to write at the times or in the way or place you had hoped to write, but they don’t really block your ability to write.
Some external barriers can be difficult to overcome. If you break both your hands, typing is going to be pretty much impossible (although you could try speech recognition software).
Other external barriers will take some effort to overcome. If your computer has crashed and died, that’s going to be a big problem. You’d have to try to borrow a computer, use one in a library, or go back to writing by hand and type it up later.
The point is that many external barriers can be solved with some thought and planning.
But maybe you’re just too busy to write. That could be true. It could also be that being busy is an excuse you tell even yourself.
In fact, your external barriers can often (certainly not always) be caused by internal barriers, and those internal barriers can be easier to overcome.
The next step then, is to find the internal barrier in your external barrier.
You can do this by examining your external goals a little deeper. Try to see if there could be any internal reasons why these external goals exist, and again make a list.
Using the example of being too busy, it could be that you’re trying to succeed at work and you feel that if you concentrate too much time on writing, it will affect your success. Or maybe you have a family to take care of, and you believe that by taking time to write would mean taking time away from your family commitments.
Add these extra internal goals to the list of internal goals you made earlier.
Dealing with internal barriers
Identifying the internal barriers is already a big step. You can now recognize them when they appear, and that means you have the choice to act upon them or not.
When you feel that urge to click over to Instagram or start a new game of Solitaire, you can now recognize that urge and decide whether you really want to click away from your writing or not.
Another strategy is to set smaller goals. For example, you can decide to browse the internet when you’ve written at least 1000 words.
When you have the thought that it’s just too difficult and you want to stop, write another 500 words and then stop.
If you’re worried about how much time writing takes out of your family life, you could explain this to your family and see if you can all work out how you can get more time to write.
Overcoming your resistance
Syd Field, the author of Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, put it perfectly: ‘When you’re cleaning the refrigerator, sharpening pencils, or eating, just know that’s what you’re doing: experiencing resistance! It’s no big thing. Don’t put yourself down, feel guilty, feel worthless, or punish yourself in any way. Just acknowledge the resistance – then move right through to the other side. Just don’t pretend it’s not happening. It is! Once you deal with your resistance, you’re ready to start writing.’
And don’t be too hung up about hitting those goals. Sometimes life will get in the way. Don’t be too disappointed if your writing doesn’t work out as planned.
Just remember why you want to write, why you set out to tackle the huge challenge of creating a novel in the first place. Remember why that was important to you, and try to focus on that when your mind or the world is trying to get in your way.
What are your main obstacles to writing? How do you overcome them and keep working on your book?