Write about the things that are stopping you start writing.
Writing is a form of therapy. When I first started therapy five years ago, talking about myself for an hour was a bizarre concept. If I felt unable to share what was going on, my therapist encouraged me to speak about the ‘elephant in the room’ – the blockage itself, rather than the deep shit I thought I should be bringing to the sessions. I spoke about what was happening in my body, my fear of opening up and why it was there, the worry of what she was thinking, etc…
She explained that often the most healing thing in therapy is working with whatever is present during the time you’re sat in the therapists office, rather than bypassing it and trying to go for something deeper but feeling stuck in the process. That way it makes way for the deeper stuff to surface more naturally later down the line – in that session or in a few sessions later.
The same applies to writing: write about what’s getting in the way of you starting to write, and the chances are, by doing that and expressing that, it will make way for something else (or that writing will make a good story/article/page in your journal itself), rather than battling with yourself and your journal/computer, whilst feeling ‘stuck’.
Are you scared of what people will think? Are you finding it hard to find time in your day to sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard? Are you unsure where to start? Is your inner-critic telling you you won’t be good enough even if you do start?
Write about that! Write about whatever it is that is stopping you start. I still need to do this and I’ve been writing solidly for years…
Not everything you write needs to be published.
You have my permission to write for your eyes only – you are a worthy enough audience of your words!
When I began to get regularly published in magazines, I thought everything I wrote needed to be for something or someone…I forgot that it could be for myself and no-one else. I ended up putting lots of pressure on myself to use everything I created, or create with the intention of using whatever it was that I created. This totally effects creativity/writing!
I forgot that my writing was actually better when I found time to write for myself alongside writing articles I knew were going to be read by people. And even the articles I wrote for the eyes of others needed to be written for myself, too, not just for the reader. At one point I got obsessed with the view count of articles in an online magazine I used to write for – I desperately tried to write articles that would get higher view counts, but I lost my writing mojo pretty quickly, so I went back to writing for myself first, reader second. The reaction I got from these was always better than the articles I wrote to try to gain readership.
It doesn’t need to be perfect.
I want to say this again: it doesn’t need to be perfect! Perfect doesn’t exist – it’s a myth.
Just write. It doesn’t even need to make sense! Write gobbledygook, write sentences over and over again, if that’s what you need to do. Listen to your creative impulses – the more you do, the more you’ll have them.
I have written in various ways for my whole adult life, but my writing really transformed when I spent three years writing on a personal blog. I was really strict with never editing anything I uploaded – it was a journal-like stream of consciousness. I found my voice and it really, really, helped me become confident with not editing the fuck out of things.
Write from your body or your heart rather than your head.
I know this might sound wifty wafty, but it is one of the best writing advice I was ever given. Take a few deep breaths and drop down into your body or tune into your heart, and write from there.
Writing automatically takes you into your head, where our ability to overthink and overanalyse can overwhelm us. If I’m experiencing ‘writers block’ it almost always comes from this, or from the booming voice of my inner critic.
Try to drop out of your head and turn the volume down of your inner critic. Sometimes this is really difficult, so distract yourself or choose a different creative outlet for a while – draw, sing, play.
Or – and this is something I swear by – write down what your inner critic is saying to you. It brings me distance from the dialogue, helping me realise how ridiculous and harsh my critic is being (which always results in me laughing), and helps me work through the self-criticism rather than feel stumped by it.
Write morning pages.
Morning pages make way for the gold beneath the rubble. I did them for about two years, and noticed any writing I did – even just an email – was clearer and more articulate on days I wrote my morning pages. They gave me a space in which I could share my thoughts and feelings, whatever they were and however much they ‘didn’t make sense’. This freedom of expression can be a lifeline in just surviving life, but also an essential tool in the creative process.
Keep a pen and a journal by your bed. Wake up every morning and write (before you have done anything else). Write for you. On days you overslept, still do it – even if just a few sentences. Rituals ground and focus us.
Writing is a muscle, and morning pages work this muscle beautifully.
Get off Facebook.
Remove distractions. Give yourself this time to focus solely on writing, even if just for 5 minutes. Resist the temptation to jump on Facebook when you feel stuck or frustrated – stay on your page and work through it there.
Writing isn’t always easy! Often it is a workout, but when I finish (whether it is that day or a week or month down the line) the sense of achievement is wonderful, and addictive.
Get involved with the writing community.
There is a wonderful online and in-person writing community. It’s been an indescribably brilliant experience, connecting with writers all over the world or writers in my local city.
Find a local media source or magazine and go to writers meet-ups/workshops. Join a Facebook group for writers of the magazine you want to write for (or already do). Find bloggers writing about stuff you love or are inspired by. Comment and participate in discussions on social media/blog posts. Find a writers group. Do collaborations with people.
Be persistent – it takes time but the writing community has been an invaluable support for me and I can’t recommend it enough for whatever stage of writing you are in.
Find a writing mentor.
Get in touch with someone who writes articles you love. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other writers and ask for advice. You’ll find that, providing they have the time, people almost always want to give it! Find someone you trust and admire, and
I’ve had a few different writing mentors over the years who I’ve shared my work with and asked for regular advice from, and they have all been incredible support. You’ll find yourself being asked to share your wisdom with others, too, which is a beautiful part of it.
Do peer edits.
Peer edits are informal and fun, and often the most helpful editing I have ever gotten. Try sharing articles before you feel as though you have finished them – I’ve always had the best editing suggestions when I’ve shared pieces before I’ve given it my final edit. Plus, they are often more healing experiences – showing someone your work when it is raw and unfinished rather than preened and ‘perfect’.
There is no right or wrong way to be a writer.
People often get swept up in wondering what they ‘should’ do and ways they ‘should’ write or what they ‘should’ write about.
What do you want to do? What do you want to write about? Do you want to blog, write for yourself in a journal, write a book, or get involved with someone else doing collaborative projects? Or do you want to do all of that?
Don’t listen to what anyone else tells you, you ‘should’ do – listen to you.
If you want to try blogging, set up a blog. If you want to journal, journal. If you want to submit something to a magazine without much writing experience, do it! If you want to spend the next few years writing a book, do that.
You don’t need to be published to be a writer and you don’t need to have been published in order to get published.
There is no right or wrong way to be a writer. There is only one way to do it, and that is: to write.
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