Why You Don’t Write and What You Can Do About It

To begin, tell me a little bit about yourself. How many of these have you experienced in your writing life during the past two years? I’ll include checkboxes so you can keep track.

Never finding the time to write
Making the time but not writing
Dreaming of writing but never getting started
Starting but never finishing
Starting but never finishing that one particular piece
Thinking you can do it without help
Thinking you’re beyond help
A love/hate relationship with your writing
Focusing on unhelpful criticism and ignoring positive feedback
Focusing on positive feedback and ignoring constructive criticism
Wanting to write deep but writing shallow
Writing for others instead of yourself
Writing for money but not treating it like a business
Reading about writing instead of writing
Seeking out feedback before you’re ready
Seeking out the wrong level of feedback
Ongoing health challenges like
    Unexplained fatigue (physical or mental)
    Mysterious illness (a neverending or recurring cold or flu)
    Injuries (constant little accidents)
    Addiction of any kind (substance, activities, self-destructive habits)

How many did you check? Type the number right here:

Is it more than zero?

If so, you’re facing Resistance.

I’ve written nearly 20 books and 200 songs in the past 11 years. I checked 17 boxes. SEVENTEEN.

I’m facing Resistance.

You’re facing Resistance.

Resistance? What’s That?

According to author Steven Pressfield in his seminal work The War of Art Resistance is the mental and emotional pushback we feel when we dare greatly by creating something. It is our unconscious mind protecting us from the “danger” of emotional vulnerability. It manifests in all the ways in that checklist above, and more.

Resistance is a bully. It will stand in your way and stop your progress. It will knock you down and hurt you, emotionally, even physically.

Resistance strikes nonfiction and fiction authors alike. (Memoirists, are you hearing me?) Writing a business book is still a creative endeavor and will expose you to the associated fears.

It will stop you from writing using the tools you checked off in that list above.

It’s Not Just You & I

“I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write. I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who as ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent.”

“. . . in my heart I stayed ashamed. I kept hearing Miss Hisler asking why I wanted to waste my talent, why I wanted to waste my time, why I wanted to write junk.”

Who was this loser?

Stephen King. Stephen 350 million books sold King.

This is a quote from his On Writing which, although not precisely instructional, is the most inspiring book I’ve read when it comes to staying the course as a writer.

This is the quote that gave me my writing life back. I’ll tell you that story someday.

Our innate desire to have our work respected can lead to problems if we put what others believe about our “God-given talent” ahead of what we want to write. It’s one of many ways Resistance twists natural feelings into quicksand.

What’s a Writer to Do?

You cannot defeat, once for all time, Resistance. It’s part of our mental and emotional makeup. We can, though, make it irrelevant. Note that I can’t say “ignore it” because you can’t ignore a bully. But if you defuse them, do things to take away their power, they are no longer a threat. Like the bully at school (or, frankly, in the office) they still show up every day. But we don’t have to keep giving them our lunch money.

Being a writer is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

Too many writers are facing the emotional struggle to write without the support they need. After years of writing about it, I’ve created a forum to help writers and artists deal with writer’s Resistance.

It’s not going to be a collective moan-fest or even chat-fest. Instead, it’s a guided learning environment, a community of writers making a safe place for some “you’re not alone” emotional support. It will also cover practical and actionable tools and processes to get you writing and keep you writing.

Membership is $5 per month or only $25 for the whole year. Questions? Comments? Shout ’em out below and I’ll answer every one.

How Long Does It Take to Write 1,000 Words?

stopwatchThat search shows up here more frequently than any other except searches for my name.

Here are a few answers:

  1. At a typing speed of 25WPM, about average for a nonprofessional,
    1,000 ÷ 25 = 40 minutes
    At a more professional speed of 50WPM, it’s 20 minutes. If you’re my wife and type 80WPM it’s less than 13 minutes. This is the least meaningful answer I have.
  2. My scenes tend to run about 1,000 words. Most writers manage 2,000 per scene, but I’ve tried adjusting my stance and leaning toward the plate, and I’m still not hitting it, so I do what I do. One scene, about 1,000 words, takes me about an hour, because although I type 50WPM I also pause sometimes to ruminate on the next bit. Sometimes I can blaze away for 90 minutes nonstop, but that’s the exception. The rule is, about an hour for a 1,000-word scene.
  3. The writer who pauses to fix every typo, polish every sentence, adjust the punctuation, and carefully balance sentence lengths, paragraph lengths, and whatever else they balance, all the while keeping one eye on the word count meter, will take a week. Or a day. Or a month. Or forever. I don’t know. At this point, it’s the wrong question.
  4. How long does it take to write 1,000 good words? Still the wrong question.
  5. How long does it take to write a 1,000-word story? Good question. I write what I call 1-Page Classics. I shoot for 1,000 words. They take me about 3 hours, start to finish, idea to polished prose.
  6. Now we’re talking about storytelling, real writing, and not word count. How long does it take to write 1,000 words of good story, in addition to all the words you already have? It depends on whether you’re in the flow, brain dumping a scene you envisioned en tableau, and spend half an hour, or grinding your way through a vital slice that weighs heavily on your emotions, dredging up doubt and anguish from past pains and future fears. That might take all day, all week, even.
  7. What if you haven’t even started yet? Your first 1,000 words might flow like mad, at nearly typing speed (20 to 40 minutes.) If you spent some time planning, or if an idea gripped you and won’t let go till you spill, that’s feasible. Otherwise, if something doesn’t feel right, either because you didn’t stop to celebrate finishing a novel yesterday, don’t have an idea what this one is about, or need to get paid so it doesn’t matter, you just need to get the blasted thing written, we’re back to hours, maybe days.
  8. One last answer: sit down at your computer, start a timer, and write until the word count meter says 1,000. Check the timer. There’s your answer. Not the dumbest answer, but perhaps the least satisfying.

How long does it take you to write 1,000 words?

How I Write

Or, more accurately, how I begin the process of moving toward my books.

Planning is a left-brain process. Creativity has to have a healthy dose of right brain. You need both. The apocryphal Hemingwayesque “write drunk, edit sober.”

many-books

Here’s a very short version of my story-generating process, which thus far has given me good results blending left and right, analytical and creative: … more … “How I Write”

“There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.

quotesPicture the scene:

You and a friend are having lunch by the water. Their phone rings. They chat for a moment, hang up, and turn to you and tell you it was Bob.

If you’re nosy, you ask a question.

“What did he . . . ” What?

Aver? Shout? Insist? Snarl?

… more … ““There are only two possible dialog tags,” he said.”

More Than One Way to Write a Cat Story

carved in stoneWhen I talk about your time writing, what picture comes into your mind?

For most of you, I suspect it’s about clattering away on a computer keyboard. (Or, if you have a Mac, gently gliding over its delicate surface, nudging the keys toward their destination.)

Have you ever tried writing whatever it is you write using some other method?

… more … “More Than One Way to Write a Cat Story”

Building the Writing Habit

image http://www.sxc.hu/photo/962000 by vassiliki koutsothanasi http://vassilikimytara.wix.com/graphic-designerBoth Tchaikovsky and Somerset Maugham are credited with saying “I write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes every morning at 9:00 when I sit down at my desk.”

There’s an excellent book by Dr. Richard Wiseman, The As If Principle. Research shows that when we behave as if we believe something, we begin to believe it. When we behave as if we have a quality, we develop it.

Set a schedule you can keep, and keep it. It’s the single strongest way to build the writing habit.

Now, what most people do is go off and plan to write 3 hours a day, 7 days a week. That lasts about 4 minutes.
… more … “Building the Writing Habit”

Why Authors Must Have a Blog

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1413339 by Melissa Anthony http://pixelcookies.is-great.net/I’ve been a web developer for almost 25 years, so this is not simply from the perspective of an author, though I have published 18 books so far and show no signs of stopping.

An author without a website and blog is like any other business without a website.

The first place people go for information these days is the web. If you’re considering a new mechanic, and this one has a good website and the other has nothing, don’t you lean toward the one you can find out about online?
… more … “Why Authors Must Have a Blog”

4 More Quick Marketing Tips

Add these 4 to the 6 we already did, and you’ve got a good start.

photo http://www.sxc.hu/photo/702996 by Alfred Borchard http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Alfi007

  1. When anyone asks “what do you do?” introduce yourself as “the author of [your book’s name.]” When you self-identify as a writer, it changes your own perspective. This is not the same as pestering every person you meet with “hey, I wrote a book, and I’m going to tell you about it whether you like it or not.” Just identify yourself as the author, and if they don’t ask, you don’t pester. But say it.
  2. Ask your readers to write honest reviews at Amazon
  3. Carry copies with you everywhere, so when an opportunity arises, you can talk about it and sell it.
  4. Write your next book. A single-book author doesn’t stand out very much any more. “I’m working on my second book” is a good way to show you’re a career author, not a flash in the pan.