5 Reasons to Keep Calm and Write On
If you’re a social-media savvy author, you’ve probably seen the popular, hilarious, and highly relatable #writerproblems hashtag floating around the internet in which dedicated yet exasperated writers lament about the difficulties of the craft.
Here are just a few of the innumerable examples that will pop up in your search:
It’s true that writing is a long and intense process that requires patience and dedication when the going gets tough. But not all problems that plague writers are bad. There are quite a few “problems” that can actually be considered blessings and turned into a positive. Instead of grumbling about these challenges, let’s focus on how they can actually be an advantage.
Writer Problem #1: You have too many new story ideas
You’re in the middle of writing your current work in progress (WIP), and suddenly another totally unrelated story idea pops into your head. You tell yourself that it has to wait until your WIP is done, but ignoring the impulse to start something new seems impossible. Bursting with new ideas but feeling like you lack the time to nurture them can be frustrating, but who says you can’t branch out?
Sometimes taking a break from one project to work on another that you’re equally excited about can make you more productive. It adds variety to your writing life and can give you a much-needed break from your WIP, while also allowing you to continue honing your writing craft. When you eventually return to working on the first project, you may find that you’ve gained a better perspective and can look at your previous writing with fresh eyes and renewed vigor.
If you have new ideas but find it too difficult to work on more than one story at a time, that’s okay too. Just getting the idea down on paper to be revisited at a later date can be enough. Keep a notebook or journal of your new ideas and rest assured that you have plenty of material to work with once you’re ready.
Writer Problem #2: You research/organize more than you write
You open Google to research a specific term or fact for your WIP and a five-minute search turns into an hour. The more information you find, the harder it is to stop reading and return to writing—partly because your curiosity has been piqued and partly because you feel the need to ensure its accuracy.
Or, perhaps you’ve done your research but need to put it in context for your story. This requires constructing/updating a story outline or bible to keep track of creative decisions. Organizing your research can feel like it’s keeping you from writing, but it’s actually a crucial stage. Once you have all of the information you need in an easily accessible format, you’ll be much more composed and productive when you finally do sit down to write.
So pat yourself on the back for being a smarty-pants who braved the internet research rabbit hole and found what you needed to make your story more realistic. Now you can crush your word count with confidence!
Writer Problem #3: You read more than you write
Like most writers, you probably started off as an avid reader. You enjoyed reading your favorite genre—getting absorbed in plot and relating to a character or narrator—and it inspired you to explore your own imagination. When you make the transition from reading to also writing, that love of reading doesn’t disappear. In fact, the ability to read a book and analyze its makeup (e.g., themes, plot, characters, pacing, etc.) will actually help you with your own creative process.
A common fear is that reading another author’s work in the same genre you’re writing may influence your own creative choices. It does make you think about the elements of your own story, but that’s a positive. Inspiration doesn’t automatically mean you’re copying that author or going to plagiarize. Reading other types of writing challenges your mind to think about additional or other creative aspects of your story that might not have occurred to you otherwise.
Read as much and as often as you can while recognizing that whatever story you’re crafting will be your own unique twist.
Writer Problem #4: You keep expanding or changing your story concept
You’ve mapped out your story and are finally working on a draft. But as you write, you find that certain plotlines aren’t working the way you initially intended and require immediate revision. Or, you already have a solid concept but inspiration strikes, and you realize there’s a way to make a good concept great.
Brainstorming ways to make your novel come together and expanding on the original plan can be stressful if you must revise what’s already been written and then rework going forward; however, it’s a necessary growing pain. Writing isn’t a strictly linear process. It’s a multilayered literary experiment that requires constant creative tweaking. You can’t ever know what will work until you’re in the thick of drafting and trying to put the various pieces together. When a piece doesn’t fit, it’s your challenge and triumph as an author to create one that does.
Rethink; rework; revise; rewrite; and eventually reap the reward of a more enriched story!
Writer Problem #5: You’re “too passionate” about your story to be objective
There is a famous quote that states, “Write without fear. Edit without mercy.” It means that during the writing process, you shouldn’t hold back. What’s important is getting the words out of your head, on paper, and really charging onward. But when it comes time to edit those words, you will have to make tough decisions about what is working in your story and cut the excess that doesn’t serve the narrative—regardless if it’s something you really wanted to include.
Being overly passionate about your work can be problematic: it makes these editorial choices more difficult (this is why an editor’s objective evaluation is beneficial). Ultimately, this enthusiasm fuels your motivation and determination to continue practicing your craft through the ups and downs. Cultivating this drive is important.
Also, in the world of modern technology, there are alternative ways to make use of your favorite content that didn’t make the final cut in the manuscript. Many authors nowadays use “bonus content” or “extras” for marketing purposes and to build audience engagement. They share different versions or deleted scenes they’ve written with readers on their websites and blogs, or even offer it with book promotions and campaigns.
For more ideas about how you can repackage your literary “outtakes” and extras, check out my graduate thesis, “The Impact of New Forms of Technology on the Curation, Creation, and Engagement of Content in Young Adult Publishing.” Although my thesis focuses on the young adult genre, many of the strategies can apply to other genres as well.
So the next time you’re in a bind and battling writer problems, keep in mind these wise words from American Christian pastor and motivational speaker/author Robert H. Schuller: “Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.”