You wish you had writer’s block.
That would mean you got yourself to a sitting position, in front of a piece of paper or laptop, and you were ready to write.
Truth: 95% of would-be writers can’t even get themselves to the writing table.
So, why is this so hard?
Try searching for tips on writer’s block, on writing, and guess what – you’ll find them. The internet is loaded with tips and how-to’s, but most people don’t use them.
- There are tips on exercising – yet you’re not as fit as you could be.
- Tips on money management, yet you never set up that auto withdrawal to your savings account.
- Tips on writing, yet you have not finished your writing project, and perhaps never even started.
“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the un-lived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” Steven Pressfield
Something you can’t put your finger on is stopping you from sitting down and writing, from scheduling time to write.
Many people go into therapy or hire a coach to analyze the roots of their resistance. What happens is this: They now have more of an intellectual understanding of the specific things that hold them back in general, yet it rarely translates into a finished book or blog.
You could go and create the perfect writing space, or begin working part time or quit your job. Some would-be writers plan a trip – they feel like if they travel to a cabin in the woods or an ocean front space they’ll begin writing.
While I am sure this has worked for some, most find they are still faced with the same thing, which is this gnawing feeling of resistance to writing. Because guess what, it’s not a one-time thing – resistance comes to visit on most days. Even after you do write for a couple of days, or weeks. That unseen gremlin crawls right back in, waiting to put a wall between you and your writing anytime it can.
So what is the secret to getting past resistance day in and day out, and to becoming a productive writer?
Here are 3 ways that consistently work for me:
- Have Accountability & Support
- Have External Deadlines
- Get Permission to Write Imperfectly
1) Accountability: You need something or someone other than yourself to be accountable to. Some people have mastered the ability of being self-motivated, self-accountable. But most of us might as well face the truth: We need someone to help us with this.
I wrote a blog post for the Write To Done writer’s website a while back. I just read an old post on that site by Leo Babauta on writers facing resistance. I want to share the online conversation in the comments between him and a reader of his post.
Here is the conversation:
I don’t agree with your idea of creating a synthetic boss, Leo. I wonder if that sentiment is still a left-over from your time in servitude? It took me a long time to really get the fact that I am accountable to myself. What I do with my life, how productive I am, how hard I work or play – all of that is up to me and my own discipline.
I’m lucky because I’ve had triple training in discipline: I trained and worked as a professional musician, then did 18 years of martial art training and have been involved with Zen for more than 2 decades. All that amounts to discipline plus! And I need it to keep myself on track.
I’ve kicked out all bosses – virtual and otherwise – and happily work for myself. To keep myself on track I set clear goals.
So if you have 18+ years of discipline training in martial arts, zen and professional music, go ahead and be accountable to yourself!
Everyone else, if you want to quickly become a productive writer, and if you want to finish your writing projects, books, blogs, then do this:
Get someone to hold you accountable.
This is a hard one for so many of you – you have success in business, your career, relationships, parenting, and it seems like it you should be able to just get your own self to sit down and write.
You think about how it doesn’t cost anything to sit yourself down and write, and how you can do it anywhere.
Yet it’s not easy. BOTTOM LINE is that you’re not doing it.
Do what works.
- Find a friend that can hold you accountable
- Hire a coach or teacher
- Join a class on writing
- Join a writing group on or offline
- (Or you could always study martial arts for the next 18 years and then you will be ready to be self accountable!)
Here is Leo’s response:
@Mary … congrats on your success! You may be the rare person who doesn’t need tricks like this to motivate you. But these tricks are just tricks — I’m not suggesting you actually need a boss. It’s just a way to hold yourself accountable and put that positive pressure on yourself.
I’ve found that positive public pressure works well in creating new habits — I’ve used it in creating numerous habits, from running to quitting smoking to waking early to eating healthier to becoming a better blogger. It’s a powerful tool and it works for writing as well. It’s worked well for me, but if you don’t need it, more power to you!
2) Set External Deadlines:
I interviewed many published writers and I asked them,
“What is the #1 tip you can give me on how you came to complete your book when you have other things going on, such as families, businesses, jobs etc.?”
They all said the SAME THING.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that that you can take out your calendar and set deadlines for yourself for the completion of your writing, and that you’ll get it done consistently.
Most simply do not stick to the deadlines they assign themselves. For those that do, it’s usually hard. There is an easier way.
So – see #1. Have your friend/coach/mentor/ assign reasonable deadlines together with you, depending on your schedule. This could also be a blog owner that you submit an idea to – they generally tell you when to send the post in. Or once you have an editor or publisher, they certainly give you a deadline.
Generally when you pay for a writing class or writing coach and you set deadlines with them, you keep to it.
When my clients work with me and we set reasonable deadlines, the writing almost always comes into my inbox right before our scheduled session. Procrastinating is fine as long as you get it in before the deadline.
I actually find that the most creative part of the brain is used when you cram it in at the deadline – your inner critic has no time to keep re-reading and criticizing your work and you just get it done.
3) Permission to Write Imperfectly: It’s tricky to do this. I mean, why would you want to write imperfectly? The way I coach my clients is to trick yourself into getting the first draft out and editing later. A way to do this is to write it in a non-threatening way – such as by opening up an email to yourself or your coach and start writing your first draft in the body of the email.
This tricks your brain into ‘jotting it down’, or writing down some ‘thoughts’ you’re gathering… If you write by hand, then use a cheap pen and the cheapest notebook. Writing in a fancy leather book creates pressure, as does opening the blank document on your desktop. I write my blog posts right into the post section of my website so that I can keep hitting ‘save draft’, and that takes the pressure off me.
I have even had clients tell me the opening sentences of their writing by phone or text, and then I write it down for them and email it. They are so pleasantly surprised that they got their writing going without realizing, and this gives them confidence to keep going.
This may sound weird to you, if it does, just know that a good coach/teacher/mentor can tailor a conversation about permission to write imperfectly to you as an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all here.
Joyce Carol Oates takes this in a bit of a different direction.
“I would never write first – I don’t think that’s good at all. As soon as you write in language, it becomes frozen. It’s better to think first – to think for a long time – and then write when you’re ready to write. But writing prematurely is a mistake”.
This gives you permission to spend time thinking about it, and opening and closing your document a few times, jotting down some notes before you actually write.
“Fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.” Steven Pressfield
Think about it: a kid studying music or doing his homework has the accountability of his parents making sure he does his work, his music teacher to play for at the next lesson and the teacher to check his/her homework.
So what makes us think that just because we are adults that accountability and deadlines won’t make it easier for us, and work for us?
In the NYT bestseller and Oprah Book Club Choice book Love Warrior, by Glennon Doyle-Melton, she talks about going for what she wanted and how she did that. She writes that when she was 24 and found out she was pregnant, drunk and on the bathroom floor, she made the decision to stop drinking and drugging. She felt the universe gave her a chance and trusted her to have this baby.
Yet she did not proceed alone. She got support. She went to a therapist, to her family, and to 12 step meetings and to the page to do her writing.
So perhaps we underestimate ourselves in the need we have in many areas in our lives to give ourselves the gift of having someone to be accountable to and the many people we need to support us.
A creative decision, the decision to write and share your thoughts and ideas with the world is an obligation to the entire planet. So it’s not a bad idea to do whatever it takes.
People seem to be self accountable when it comes to things like getting up for work and getting your work in on time – because the accountability comes in part from the fact that you won’t get a paycheck if you don’t show up and work. A fear or lack based accountability for something you may not even want to do.
When attempting a creative goal, there is so much joy and self satisfaction by doing it that perhaps this is why we have so much resistance – it’s resistance to the good, the creative genius inside ourselves and our doubts about if our writing is good comes to play too.
At the end of the day, remember this:
No one is you, and that is your power.
So do whatever it takes for you to get the support to get past your resistance day in and day out and you will be writing consistently, and truthfully, and imperfectly.
You will be a productive writer at last.
Email me and let me know what you would create if you had a writing coach to help you get past your resistance.