Writer’s block is one of those things I don’t talk about a lot and there’s a reason for it. I very rarely – if at all – find myself with writer’s block.
Now there have been times I’ve had writer’s exhaustion. Those are the days where I really just don’t want to write because I’m physically or mentally exhausted. Or I’ve gone and burnt myself out. Periods like this rarely last long for me. One to two weeks is the average.
I’ve been writing professionally since 1996. I learned quickly that professional writers don’t have time to lament or dwell in writer’s block because professional editors won’t hire you again if you can’t meet your deadline. I also learned that readers aren’t very sympathetic to writer’s block either. If you take forever to write a book, by the time you actually finish that novel you’ve been promising or the book you’ve been promising – they’ve moved on and forgotten all about you. The ultimate consequence being the book sales and readers and word of mouth recommendations stop flowing if you stop writing. That means income dries up.
There are a lot of reasons writers give as to why they find themselves blocked. Sometimes the words just don’t flow. When this happens, I’ve found that switching from fiction to non-fiction or vice versa works well for me. Sometimes the words just won’t come because you need time to really think through what you’re writing about. Most of the time just working on something else will grease the wheels and let loose the ideas on another project. The ultimate goal is to always keep writing and keep producing.
Another reason for blockage can be what my online acquaintance Morgan Drake (Musings from the Pen) calls toxic writing friends. All those naysayers who think there’s no money in being a writer so it’s pointless, don’t think you have any talent, or just like discouraging you in some way. I think we’ve all had someone like that in our life. I used to have a friend many years ago with whom I was very competitive. All the way down to the point that we both started writing novels around the same time. We both took a creative writing class, too. It was after I got an A in the class and she got a C, that she became a toxic writing friend. From that point forward she told me how awful my writing was and how I’d never make it because I wasn’t smart enough to be a writer.
Well the joke’s on her. I have over 10 books to my credit. Of course I’m also one of those people who takes “Living well is the best revenge” to extremes. I actually thrive with a critic like that because I actually get a thrill from proving them wrong, pissing them off or making them jealous. Nothing like a naysayer to motivate you into being successful and rubbing their nose in it.
Now onto the people who say being a writer is pointless because they think you’ll never make a living doing it.. I’ll be quite honest with you all – after 5 years of constant work and regular book releases, I currently make the same amount of money from my writing as I’d make from a part-time job (okay, a low paying part time job, but still…). If I could devote myself to my writing full time I’m sure I’d be making a lot more. But I do have a day job so my writing time consists of stolen moments after work. Ultimately though, how I’ve dealt with my toxic writing friends is I’ve either kicked them out of my life, or I’ve just plain proven them wrong. My father always told me to keep my day job because writers don’t make a lot of money. He told me that because he loved me and didn’t want to see me struggle. So I have kept my day job — but he’s never been prouder of the fact that I’ve kept writing. He can now tell his friends that he has a daughter who is an author (and don’t think he doesn’t!).
Sure – being a writer isn’t easy and it takes awhile to build an income from it — but it CAN be done. It helps to remember that everyone who discourages you couldn’t write a book in a million years. I highly recommend the film “Heckler” to writers out there who have found themselves discouraged and blocked by critics. There’s a line in that movie, something about people who criticise and heckle do it because they don’t have a creative bone in their body and could never do what you do in a million years. I’m sure a great deal of criticism from non-writers may actually be jealousy. Of course criticism can be healthy as it keeps us realistic, too. It’s learning to separate legitimate criticism from sour grapes that can pose a problem.
My next bit of advice is to surround yourself with supportive people and people who love what you write. Write for yourself and those people because they’re really the only ones who matter. They’re your target audience and chances are – the ones who are going to become your core paying readers. This will keep you motivated.
Another good practice is to keep deadlines and goals and consistantly try to meet them. This is really important for those writers who either haven’t sold anything, or who haven’t been hired yet. You need to give yourself deadlines and goals so that when you do sell something – the deadline doesn’t sneak up on you. This goes for you self-published folks, too. A writer who can’t meet deadlines or keep goals isn’t going to make a lot of money writing.
I suggest starting realistically with a goal of 1,200 words a day. Depending what you write I also suggest the goals of one book/novel per year (add to this as you can manage), or one article every two weeks, or whatever. Give yourself deadlines and word counts.
So there’s my .25 cents on the matter. Feel free to comment!