Is your latest writing project not going well? Do you seem to hit one dead end after another?
That’s what happened with my current work-in-progress. I recently shared how before I publish my debut novel, Pennies from Burger Heaven, I want to first publish an expanded version of my nonfiction eBook, Creative Monsters. I gave it to you in January and wanted to add stories and exercises to it to help writers even more with their struggles on the page.
Except the new version wasn’t going well. At all. Everything felt wrong about it: the title, the format, even the target audience. It was more than jut good, ol’ fashioned Fear.
So, what do you do when…
You don’t know what to do?
Houston, We Have a Problem
My project fell apart about one-third into it. I know from experience if you stick with it, this is where the book stops being what you thought it should be and becomes the book it’s meant to be.
It’s terrific once you have that epiphany, but it’s torturous while you’re still finding your way.
When I’m seeking answers about my writing and my life, I journal. Since that is almost always, I journal everyday.
The trouble was I was journaling like a mad woman about my book dilemmas, but still had more questions than answers. I kept a list of them all because they were so confusing. Here’s a MPW post I love: How to Make the Right Writing Decision.
I tried to look normal for my family. My husband and two teens are wonderful and avid readers, but writing is a language they do not speak. They’re lack of understanding would just add to my distress.
I journaled for well over six weeks straight, but felt no progress. I decided to talk to my critique group.
Who are the people you turn to for writing advice?
They do not have to be writers. They just have to be trustworthy with your heart. If your wife always complains how much time your hobby takes, but what little results it yields — don’t ask her. Don’t ask your frenemy from writing class who always leaves you feeling ‘less than.’ Don’t ask your grad-school adviser whose approval you constantly sought, but never quite attained.
Ask someone who understands how precious your writing is to you. If you have no such person in your life, I’m always here to help. There are also publishing professionals: writing coaches, freelance editors, etc. Just make sure they’re reputable.
Something interesting happened to me. I’d been considering writing this post about my complications in my journal one day when a MPW reader emailed me. We were catching up with each other and I was honest how my book was going nowhere fast.
Ching said, “Don’t worry about your Creative Monsters project. You’ll be able to do it, I know you can…sometimes it pays to have people there to help you, and we ARE there to help you. It’s not just the other way round, you know.”
I needed that reminder. Thanks, Ching!
That email seemed to be confirmation of the next, right action for me. My critique group also said I had many more solutions than I thought. I was too close to my own project to see the answers staring right at me.
To Recap, what do when you don’t know what to do:
- Journal to find answers to all your writing struggles: plot, publishing problems, which step to take next.
- Reach out to trusted friends or even consider paying a publishing professional for guidance.
Top 7 Writing Struggles
I’ve received well over 1,000 emails here at MPW. Many answer this simple, but important question, “What’s your #1 writing struggle?”
This new book explains the top seven struggles I’ve learned from your responses, plus exercises to help with the creative process. My hope is if The War of Art married The Artist’s Way and had a baby, it’d be this book. Please note, these are not Merriam Webster’s definitions for each fear. They’re Marcy’s mash-up of our anxieties:
- Self-doubt – You’re pretty sure everything you write sucks. No one would ever want to read such crap.
- Perfectionism – The crap you write is so far from flawless you either keep: a) starting over, b) rewrite it forever, or c) can’t even muster the courage to put words onto a page.
- Procrastination – You suddenly become interested in anything besides writing (or publishing-related tasks). Your home is spotless.
- Self-sabotage – Procrastination on steroids. Not only do you avoid writing, but you hurt yourself in the process (this can be as mindless hours of TV research to alcoholism).
- Jealousy – Hating another writer’s success or talents to the point if you knew how to make a voodoo doll to curse them — you would.
- Sabotage by Others – Letting others make you feel guilty about your writing (sometimes, you even quit altogether).
- Criticism – Others letting you know how much you suck to the point it hurts your writing (again, sometimes, you quit).
Before my epiphany, I liked all the information and exercises I had for each struggle. I began each new section with a different story from my career.
That was the problem. I don’t want this book to be about me. I want it to broader, to tell a bigger story. The universal struggles all writers face.
I need other perspectives. I’d said that in the very beginning, but somehow forgot. Fear is a master at amnesia and scrambling your thoughts to make it difficult to write.
Want to be in My Book?
Tell me, which fear you battling most with your writing? Please note, I really need more stories about numbers 4 – 7: self-sabotage, jealousy, sabotage by others and criticism. I’d love it if you left a comment so others can see they’re not alone with their Fears. However, if your anecdote is too private, then you’re welcome to also email me with the specifics: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have no idea which stories I’ll use. It depends on the number of response. It may be a lottery process where I select you at random, or whichever stories seem fit best. If I do use yours, I’ll ask your permission and will only use your first name, or will even change it to something else if you prefer.
I’m happy to report my new book is going much better since I solved this mystery.
I hope the same is true for you and your writing. Remember, if you’re persistent (and maybe reach out to others for direction), you’ll find the answers to your problems (on and off the page). Good luck.
From the list above 1-7, which is your top writing struggle?
Please leave a comment. I’d love to chat.
Pick up your FREE copy today of the mystery, The Moon Rises at Dawn (SkipJack Publishing). Read, enjoy, repeat.