After cruising the Internet for a few writing resources, I believe I’ve found the major stumbling blocks and their remedies for the dreaded and brain-draining fear of writing. I’ve heard directly from friends who wish to write only to sling up a brick-and-mortar defensive wall with reasons not to write. Is your dream to write caught in a cloud over your head?
It might be that English was never a great subject of yours. Or a teacher hammered in the grammar and distilled the frills until you felt your writing had less appeal than an accounting ledger. Just so many rules to remember, and so many hours to invest in a finished product that might receive a weak C+. It happened to me in sixth grade, too. Until Mrs. Gifford pulled me out of the ooze of English muddle and sent me on a better course. I wanted to write from my mind not the English III hardbound textbooks that we lugged around like that albatross.
As a professional writer, you may feel that you have a gift, a calling, having never faced a teacher of English or Composition who marked you as a drudgery of their daily life. Only, they hoped you would make it through class, and you hoped for a fire drill.
So step forward, 40 or 50 years, past the letter writing, the book reports, the attempt at polishing the resume, and a short stint at prosy poetry — Your reason for writing is clear. It’s because you want to. Some little germ of an idea has been festering for years. It could be that book. It was stepped on and ground into your brain like the creative juice it started from.
So why now? Because the kids are gone to their new homes, time is running out, time is running too slow? No need for judgment now. Just pick up your favorite … well, any writing instrument or computer screen will do … just write.
Sure, that’s easy for me to say. Here’s a few gems gleaned from the Internet and writing gurus across the blogosphere:
1) Take on the writer in you with effervescent yet smaller steps. Allow yourself to mull over an idea from all sides. Write it down. Write several pages then stop and see what you’ve done. Not bad. Reward yourself. The process of writing has many facets: an idea, the fleshing out, writing it down, scratching lines out, rewriting what we’ve written from a different angle. It’s all the things you’ll need to do — and do often.
2) Avoid fixing things as you write. Sort of like baking a cake; don’t peek or it will fall. Most new writers are timid in sharing what they write. They want everything perfect first. How can you be perfect before you finish the draft, or even the first chapter? These little tricks you play on yourself will only fall into the hands of the Muse who taunts you. Constantly fixing things will bog down your creativity, slow your writing, and degrade the excitement of why you are finally writing.
3) Use tools like the professionals do. Some like to outline to keep in step to a targeted end. Some like to “mindmap.” Some feel that this method works so much better than outlining and it will give you a more relaxed access to your inner thoughts. You are trying to extract the ideas and place them in a way that leads you on. You can Google mindmapping for more details but what you do is take one or two key words or ideas, present them on blank paper, then allow your mind to free-flow with thoughts that are linked to these words. Write them down and circle them. Connect lines to a similar thought that grew from the main one. Soon you’ll have a sheet of circled words connected to thoughts that move you on to your next chapter.
You can create fictional characters in this way, too. By starting with a name, then linking all is attributes that define him. Include the other characters who are related to him. Soon you’ll have a collection of Cast Cards. You can refer to them to refresh your thoughts. I prefer to use index cards. I can write scenes on them, characters on them, and link ideas with them.
4) Emulate your favorites. Print out a few pages of your favorite blogger, or rewrite several pages from a favorite book. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so write daily for 30 to 60 minutes each day. Test your brain muscle. Put it through some paces that challenge it. The copy concept is easy: write regularly, practice from others but never claim others’ work as your own. Practice will make the brain see the inner workings of sentence structure, use of adverbs, and strength of phrases connected by verbs. We all have trained prior to doing … anything worth doing. You will see a difference in your own writing that no English III book can cram into your brain. And face it, your brain wasn’t ready back then; now it is.
I think that blogging has taken a boost in quality writing due to the short form of it, and the need to be read. Only the better bloggers have a larger following based on quality and specific, focused interest. Usually under 1,000 words, bloggers retain their readers because they offer what a reader wants — high quality, fast read. Finding that target audience is the tough part.
5) Write a lot. There’s not much to this. Just write. I admit that I’m wired to write. I started with poetry in fifth grade, then wrote short stories about my favorite TV characters. Then on to college and writing obits for a local newspaper, then news articles flowed right into journalism. It was all practice, and I don’t feel foolish having gone through those phases. You may not feel “writerly,” as one author said, but you will feel more fulfilled knowing that that novel churning in your head spilled all over the floor and now you have an excuse to pick it up, wring it out, and proceed to write. Come on! Be a writer.