How to Build a Writing Practice (When You Hate Writing)
I hear this a lot: “I want to write. I need to write, but it’s so hard. I hate it.”
Boohoo! A lot of things in life are hard but we still need to do them.
“But but but…shouldn’t we only do things we love? I read this book one time that said I need to follow my passion and only do things I absolutely love.”
But it’s time to accept reality. Fight against reality and you’ll lose. Every time.
The reality is there are things you need to do to move your life (business/website/book project) forward. Writing is one of those things.
And, again, it’s hard. I have been a writer for over eight years and I still whine and squirm and make twisted faces sometimes when I sit to write.
Now that we agree on the tedium and mental anguish of writing consistently, here’s how you can minimize the pain and build a writing practice, anyway.
Shine a Light on Your Writing Gremlins
To face the blank page is to face a wall of resistance. It helps me to imagine a wall made of big-eared Gremlins. Yes, Gremlins. (I have a weird imagination. I know.)
You’re not a good enough writer. You won’t follow through with this writing project, just like you didn’t follow through with the previous ones. Your grammar is awful. You don’t have enough time. You need to do more reading about being a writer.
Why Gremlins? You may know Gremlins from the 80’s movies, but they’re mischievous, mythical creatures that mess with the machinery of your mind. And in the case of our writing habits, they’ll convince you:
In the movie, the Gremlins would come crawling out of the dark, just how your mental gremlins come crawling from the corners of your mind right when it matters most…
…when you need to sit and write.
Well, also like the movie, we’re going to shine a big, blinding light on them. When we do that, you’re able to identify what exactly it is that you hate about writing and then you may be able to eliminate or minimize those things.
What stops you from writing? Why does it feel so hard?
- Is it that you don’t know what to write about? (Try doing thorough research and creating a solid outline before you write.)
- Is it that you don’t think your writing is good enough? (Understand that the only way to get better at writing is to, well, write.)
- Is it that you struggle with distractions? (Sharpen your focusing skills by engaging less with social media, reading more books, and stretching your focus muscles a little more each day.)
Or maybe it’s something else? I can’t possibly know what all of your Gremlins are. But you do. And you need to sit, get quiet, and get clear on them. This is step one. This is what it means to shine a mega-light on your Gremlins.
Shining that light on them brings awareness. In the movie, the Gremlins hated bright light and would seek out the darkness. You want to do the same. Shine a light on what feels hardest about writing and then minimize their impact at that moment. Send them crawling back into the dark recesses of your mind.
Corralling your Gremlins at any moment works. You don’t have to do a ton of expensive, time-consuming subconscious work on yourself to rid yourself permanently of what’s stopping you from writing consistently.
You simply need to focus on banishing your Gremlins at the right moments. The moments you’re about to write but feel their presence emerging. The times you’re mid-writing practice and self-doubt clouds your mind and convinces you it’s time to grab your 1,293rd snack.
Those moments are your sole concern.
Push through each of those moments.
Write over them and through them.
And a writing practice you will build.
Why does this work?
To be a writer means to consistently face writer’s block/feeling uninspired/facing self-doubt and to keep writing, anyway! That is the definition of a writer. and that’s how you build a writing practice. Writing when it feels easy AND when it feels hard.
This is how you build a writing practice.
One word, one writing session, one day at a time.
Be Meticulous with Your Preparation
Before every writing session, get everything ready.
If you struggle with knowing what to write, create an outline and stick with it. Outlines are like super capes, they give you power. You don’t have to search your brain or wait for mythical inspiration to come to you.
Look at your outline and follow it.
If you’re not used to outlining, it will take you a little while to get accustomed to creating solid outlines that take the guesswork out of your writing sessions. They are worth all the time and energy because the payoff means you can write when you need to without wasting time and energy trying to come up with ideas.
You want to aim to have your butt glued to the seat, with your writing software open and nothing else. Not Facebook, not Google search, nothing.
Get your favorite beverage prepared and put it beside you. Eat before you write if you’re hungry. Use the bathroom, etc.
These sound like minor details, but the details matter.
You want to limit the possibilities and excuses to break your writing session (to go to the bathroom/fridge/search Google/etc.).
When you’re writing, write. Don’t edit (that comes after). Don’t research (that comes before). Don’t get up to check what’s in your fridge (you already know what’s in there).
Rhythm. Rhythm. Rhythm
Become a robot with your writing schedule. We are surprisingly robotic creatures. Do you think you’re spontaneous, ultra-creative, can’t be held to restrictions/schedules/monotony?
Your life is made up of a series of the same actions and reactions over and over again.
And this isn’t such a bad thing. You can use this concept to create and sustain a writing habit.
We are creatures of habit. The more something becomes habitual, the less you even need to think about it or motivate yourself to do it. You just do it.
And that’s what you want for your writing sessions.
Less getting stuck in your feelings (I don’t feel like writing. Wah-wah).
Less waiting on some magical creative inspiration (which doesn’t exist, by the way).
More butt in chair, outline open, and fingers plucking away.
Don’t write like a robot, but become methodical, routine, systematic about your writing practice.
*Create a routine around your writing (maybe you sit in a certain place, drink a particular tea, light a candle, etc.)
*Set the specific days and times you’ll write every week.
*Rinse and repeat.
Put These Concepts Into Practice
1. Become aware of what aspects of writing you find so difficult and eliminate/reduce them where you can.
2. Prepare for each session — outline, get your environment ready, have everything you need in place before you sit to write. Everything!
3. Maintain a rhythm for your writing sessions.
Originally published at https://adventurousnerd.com on July 2, 2021.