Today I was thinking of a friend who is a very talented writer but doubts her ability because of things people in her past told her. I won’t go into specifics, but from time to time, it seems these doubts creep up on her. I’m sure there are some triggers to it, but I don’t know what those are because I can’t get into her head.
But I was thinking that the reason some writers don’t finish a book or publish it is because they’re letting fear push them down. They might not be aware of this. My friend does have published books, but she’d like to write more books in a year, and I can see she’s making an effort at this. And it takes courage when you are pushing past a barrier of “I’m not good enough” because you’ve been told you weren’t way back in your childhood through high school.
Today, I want to address some strategies to help writers who are procrastinating because of that they’re not good enough.
Fear of rejection is a powerful one, and when it’s from someone you know and respect, it’s even more difficult. I really think people can become paralyzed by fear if they’re not careful. But think through the worst case scenario. No one likes your book or no one buys your book. That is the worst case scenario as a writer. I don’t know if not selling any books is more of a fear factor than being told your book sucks. You can’t have anyone hate your book unless someone reads it, which implies someone bought it, which implies you made some sales. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll say the fear that people don’t like your book is the bigger of the two fears.
Fear of rejection is a tough one, but it is one that you can overcome. You don’t have to be a prisoner to it.
I think the reason writers procrastinate is because they let fear talk them out of taking the chance. If you never publish a book, you don’t risk rejection because you can simply say, “Well, I just never got around to finishing it and getting it out there. That’s why I never made it as a writer.”
By not finishing the book or publishing it, you are buffering yourself from potential rejection.
“I don’t have time” Feeds Procrastination
I can hear someone say, “But I don’t have time.” This is actually a dangerous mindset because you’re setting yourself up not to finish the story. Books don’t have to be written in one day, one week, or even in one month. National Novel Writing Month isn’t for everyone. Just write a little at a time.
Break the word counts up into doable goals. This way you won’t get overwhelmed.
Strategy Tip #1: Small Steps Lead to Great Rewards
Let’s say you decide to write 200 words three times a day. That means you will take 10-15 minutes to sit down without anything distracting you, and all you’ll do is write. I bet you can get 200 words in that small block of time. Then walk away and do other things. Come back to the computer in an hour or two and write for another 10-15 minutes. Then you repeat this one more time in the day. By writing for no more than 45 minutes a day, you will have 600 words. At this rate, it will take you 83.3 days to finish a 50,000 word novel. You could potentially write 4 novels (at 50,000 words) in a year by simply writing 600 words a day. If you want to take vacations or breaks, then maybe you’ll want to write 3 novels instead of 4. But the reality is, it’s very doable, even in a hectic schedule to write a full-length novel in one year.
Let’s Further Break the Baby Steps Down
You could write 137 words every day of the year to make a 50,000-word novel, if you wanted to just write one book in a year. You can write 137 words in 10 minutes or less. You won’t make a career at this pace, but you can get the book done, and that is the focus of this post. Overcoming fear and getting a book out because it’s something you really want to do. Sometimes you will have to fight your fear by going slow, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Baby steps add up. The more you write, the more comfortable you’ll be, and the more confident you’ll become. And, it’ll get easier to ignore people who don’t like your work.
The fact of the matter is, you will not overcome your fear by doing nothing. You must write.
Strategy Tip #2: Put Things in Perspective.
Now, here’s how you put fear in perspective. Read the 1 and 2-star reviews of your favorite books by famous authors. I guarantee you, there are people who hate those books that you love. You won’t be the first person whose book has not pleased someone, and you won’t be the last.
If it helps, I come from a family who mocked me for writing romance (aka “trash”). I also receive comments from time to time from people who don’t like my stories for one reason or another, and if you take a look at my reviews (esp. on the books going back to 2009 – 2010), you’ll see I have a good number of anti-fans out there.
The reality is you will never please everyone. Taste is subjective.
Strategy Tip #3: Seek Out Trustworthy and Encouraging Writers
Networking isn’t simply about selling books. It’s also about establishing friendships with other writers who can be a huge support system. You don’t have to go through this alone. Local writing groups and meeting writers online can help you overcome fear by sharing common experiences with others who are in your shoes. Non-writers mean well, but really, they don’t understand why a 1-star review stings or why an email telling you that you’re the worst writer ever hurts. They don’t understand that our books are more than “books”. Our books are a part of us because we created them.
Surround yourself by encouraging and supportive writers.
Strategy Tip #4: Join a Good Critique Group
The key here is to join a good one. A good critique group will be full of writers who are honest but also encouraging. They should tell you what is good about your story but be brave enough to tell you what isn’t working. Feedback isn’t always pleasant, but you grow because of it. If you have a supportive atmosphere, you can really fine tune your writing skills. And this should help build your confidence as a writer.
Critique groups don’t have to be big. They’re actually better off being small. They can be online. They don’t have to be a formal critique group. Beta readers who are writers are a form of critiquing, too. Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to establish this.
Remember, you want to be open to the good and the bad. No matter how much you’ve written, there is always going to be room for improvement. Each story you write should be better than your last one.
Strategy Tip #5: Join Workshops, Go to Conferences, and Read Books on Writing
Thanks to the Internet, you can go to conferences and workshops online now. You don’t have to go to a physical place. Part of workshops and conferences are networking, especially if you go to them in person, and they are educational. These have a two-fold blessing built into them. Not only are you learning ways to improve your writing and learning about the publishing industry, but you’re also meeting people who share your interest for writing.
If you connect with a couple of writers who are encouraging and supportive, you will probably start to feel that way within yourself. I’m amazed at how surrounding myself with positive people makes me feel more positive, and I, in turn, can pass that on to others. Like-minded people tend to attract each other. Stay away from the negative as much as you can and seek out the positive.
And of course, reading books can be another avenue for improvement. I prefer to do workshops and conferences rather than read books, but I know someone who’d rather read books.
However, I do think if you surround yourself with happy and supportive writers, it will go a long way in helping you to be positive about your writing. When you’re positive about your writing, you’ll have a better chance of improving your work.
Strategy Tip #6: Do You Love Your Story?
Do you love the story? At the end of the day, you are stuck with the book. This is your story. It’s what you created. It is a part of you. As long as you love it, it was worth writing.