I work with a bunch of writers in a program called Memory to Memoir, and I mentor two writers each year for a year, thanks to a grant from the American NewMedia Foundation (thanks Debra Hallock). And I write, so I’ve seen a fair bit of the things that get in the way of writing, those little foxes in the vineyard, demons of destruction–whatever you want to call them. Here are a few of the most common blockades for writers:
The Inner Critic: You’re doing it wrong, you haven’t got anything interesting to say, you’re not smart enough/sassy enough/sexy enough/strong enough. ENOUGH. You are enough because you are. Best way to deal with these bitches (who seem to travel in swarms) is to get a little medicine bottle and label it inner critic voices. Every time one goes off in my head, I open the lid and blow her into the bottle. A friend has an imaginary brick. When the girls show up, she picks up her brick and scatters them like roaches fleeing Raid.
The Hamster Wheel: You’re gonna write, of course you are–as soon as you earn the time by doing just those few little chores that have been hanging around and you just can’t sit down with a clear conscience until you’ve done them…. Make a list of things you need to do. Now prioritize the ones that have to be done to keep your world from blowing up. Literally, put numbers next to them. “Write something today” is not allowed to be below number four on that list. Now do the things above writing, and then write before you get to number five. Write for an hour at least.
The “I’ve Only Got an Hour” Fritter: You’ve only got an hour, and then you have to leave for someplace. Fine. Set a timer for 59 minutes, sit down, and go at it. The timer will keep you from forgetting to leave. Meanwhile, you can write with freedom of mind.
Oops I Forgot Syndrome: Similar to but kinda like putting a spoke in the hamster wheel, these are the “oops I forgot” moments that intrude on writing time. “I forgot to call my mom back; I forgot to get the laundry out of the dryer.” Keep scrap paper or a notepad by your writing area. Jot down the “I forgots” and let them wait there until you’re done. You have a note to remind you.
Interruptions: First, find a place where your family and work aren’t going to hunt you down, if you can. If not, establish an in-house writing zone in both time and space. Then establish the rules. Kids can’t show you blood? Don’t knock. Spouse needs to know RIGHT NOW? Then you get more time tomorrow while s/he watches over the rest of it. That’s the deal. If you have a home office, but closing the door isn’t enough, put up a color sticky when writing. When the family sees purple, they know you’re not to be interrupted unless the house is on fire. Make sure the family respects this, and you do too. Don’t blow off your time in there. It’s being paid for by other people who respect you enough to give it to you. That’s important. And validating.
These are the biggest writing bugaboos I see day to day. What are yours?