Whether tackling fiction, nonfiction, or something in between, the writer’s journey is laden with obstacles. Writers must navigate the perils of writer’s block, maintain writing routines, and face anxieties about reader feedback. This post will attempt to guide writers through these common hurdles.
When confronting writer’s block: Be sure not to use your block as an excuse to avoid work. When faced with a fallen tree in your path, for example, you don’t wait for the tree to get up and walk away; you find another way around or through the obstacle. There’s no single best way to conquer your writer’s block, but here are some methods you can use to start figuring out what works for you:
- Get out and do something, whether that means taking a walk, visiting the gym, or participating in an activity your characters might enjoy or hate.
- Read a piece from an author that inspires you.
- Draw inspiration from different form of art—watch a ballet, check out a gallery, find your new favorite Instagram photographer, or even try your hand at sculpting.
- Talk it out. Message your writing friends or chat with your roommate about the problem you’re running into.
- Start a journal entry; this way, even if you find you’re still unable to return to the piece that has you stuck, you’ve still accomplished a bit of writing. Take that, writer’s block.
- Keep calm and write on. Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect—sometimes just showing up and doing your bit is the best you can do. Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, spoke about the brilliance of detaching writers from their creative genius in this TED talk.
When establishing a writing routine: If you’re dedicated to writing, you’ve likely looked into establishing a writing routine. Many writers will establish a routine to hold themselves to do their work and generate new material. Some may build time for writing into their regular schedule, like writing for an hour before bed or first thing in the morning. (Side note: Here’s a fun infographic that details the schedules of some great creative minds). Some writers may struggle to stick to that schedule, though. For those who have difficulty writing regularly, try some of these techniques:
- Write snippets and ideas at times where you have nothing else to do—when you commute to work or school, for example, or when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office. Have a notebook on you at all times, or download a writing app to your mobile device.
- Record your daily activities, dreams, thoughts—anything, really—in a daily journal. This will engage you in a daily act of writing without putting you under the pressure of writing a larger creative work. You may even choose to create a jar of prompts to keep you engaged.
- Tell your friends or writer’s group about your goal. If you plan to write a poem a day, for example, tell others and encourage them to hold you to your goals. Some of your writing friends may be interested in setting similar goals, and you can work to hold each other accountable.
When worrying about reader feedback: I’ve never met a writer that didn’t worry about how their writing would be received. Many writers—even published authors—feel the weight of imposter syndrome and the fear of rejection. Ultimately, this is rooted in the very human fear of failure.
You may find it helpful to have a friend or family member read your work before showing it to others—all the while reminding them the importance of gentle honesty. If you find you struggle with any form of criticism, try confronting your fear of failure head-on. You might, like Shonda Rhimes, challenge yourself to say “yes” to activities you fear. You might shift your mindset on failure, embracing failure like Google X. When preparing a draft for feedback, don’t be afraid to tell the readers about your anxieties. No one is fearless, and your honesty about your worries may help others open up about their worries, drawing your writing community closer together.For more information on writing processes and mindsets, check out: