Writing Techniques: How to solve the problems that are stopping you from writing
September 12, 2015
Writing a book is difficult, and there are no shortcuts. You have to change yourself from someone who can't write a book into someone who can write a book, which means overcoming obstacles like lack of time, lack of money, lack of ideas, lack of self-belief, procrastination, self-sabotage, lack of skill sets, and everything else standing in your way.
This is the technique that I found most useful in helping to solve the problems that were preventing me from writing, at a time when I was struggling to produce my first manuscript.
I first heard about this technique from Penni Russon, and modified it with my writers group. We all did it together, and I found that doing it as a group was powerful in its own right, kind of like an anonymous self help group any group pledge can be. Sharing our answers and suggestions with each other was really inspiring, and so was taking out dedicated time to focus on the activity. But it is also a technique that you can do alone if you prefer.
1. Write a list of your motivations for writing a book - make it a list of dream outcomes
Do not let realism or embarrassment limit you while writing your list! If you have glorious, ridiculous dreams, write them down, "I get a $10 million deal and never have to work my day job again then JK Rowling calls me and tells me the secret I have always wanted to know about Neville!" Write it. If you have intense, specific, personal reasons, write them, too.
Here were some of mine:
* I have a life where I do what I love every day
* Kunihiko Ikuhara makes an anime out of my book (!)
* My book becomes meaningfully part of a wider conversation
2. Now write a list of everything that is preventing you from writing your book
Be honest here too. If your obstacles are external like lack of money or free time, write that down. If they are internal, like procrastination, write that down, and if they are ability based, like you don't know how to plot yet or don't have ideas, write that down too. Make sure you list EVERYTHING that is standing in your way.
Here were some of mine:
* Don't have a place to write.
* Find it hard to concentrate for long periods
* Procrastinate and end up surfing the net instead of writing
3. Take your list of obstacles. Now, write a specific, tangible solution for each problem.
Some problems may have multiple solutions. Write them all.
Here are a few of mine:
Don't have a place to write
Find place to write, public library during day, hotel bar at night
Find it hard to concentrate for long periods
* Therapy to help improve concentration
* Exercise may help with this?? Investigate
* Write in short bursts, notice when concentration is wavering, get up and go for walk to relieve stress, return to work
Procrastinate and end up surfing the net instead of writing
* Write somewhere without internet access and leave phone at home
* Investigate 2nd laptop for writing and delete browsers so cannot connect to internet
* Investigate internet blocking programs like Freedom
Voila! You now know exactly what is stopping you from writing, and you have a solution for each problem.
I found that identifying and clarifying each problem transformed the obstacles from a nebulous feeling of "I can't do this," to a concrete list of problems with achievable solutions. Some of the solutions will by their nature be difficult to implement, but you can do it, and you now know how to do it. You also have a list of motivations to help you along. Good luck!
You can find a complete list of the writing techniques covered in the series at the Writing Techniques Master Post