Tag Archives: obstacles

Four Major Writing Obstacles And How To Overcome Them: #4 Lack of Support

The fourth article in a four part series.

Here we are. The last obstacle.

And it’s a doozy.

Support, both professional and personal, can be a deciding factor for whether you continue your writing or abandon it. So…

How do I find professional support?

The easiest way is to sign up for a workshop or class. If you like your instructor, keep in touch. They may not always have time to read your work, but they can offer you the encouragement you need to keep going.

Believe it or not, rejection can sometimes yield useful feedback. Agents may not have the time, but literary magazine editors may give you notes on your short story. Accept them.

There are also writers out there who are just as vulnerable, just as frustrated as you are. Why not host a networking night? It’s a great chance to talk about writing challenges and triumphs. Who knows, maybe you’ll meet your new best friend. Maybe you’ll find a mentor. (Or maybe you’ll drink a lot of wine and bitch about writer’s block. Either way, it couldn’t hurt)

Professional support isn’t going to fall into your lap. You have to seek it out. Find community where you can. And remember, you are not alone.

What if I don’t have personal support?

I’ve been very lucky that my family, spouse and friends are all super supportive. (Thank you, everyone!) But what happens if your loved ones aren’t? If your work is an extension of yourself and they don’t love it, how can they love you? Believe it or not, they can. They just might not understand why you do what you do. They may not appreciate books, writing or the arts. At the end of the day if the people you love don’t love that you write, remind yourself that they don’t have to. You’re not writing for them. You are writing for you. You’re the one who has something to say. If they don’t want to read it, that’s fine. Other people will.

If you can’t find personal support among family and friends, can you find it within yourself? For Writers Only author Sophy Burnham says, “I remember once discussing with a playwright how we talked to ourselves when we’re not working well. ‘Oh, I speak roughly to myself!’ I said. ‘I scold myself and shout and whip at myself to quit this laziness and get to work.’ She looked at me in surprise. ‘Oh, no.’ she said. ‘You must never speak to yourself like that…. No, what you do is to put your arm around your shoulder and comfort yourself…’ I was amazed. I had never heard of that. But the next time I felt despairing I remembered her advice – and to my surprise my heart immediately lifted, and immediately I sat back down to work.”

Do you believe in you? Stop focusing on what you don’t like about your writing and concentrate on what you do like. If you are able to give yourself encouragement and confidence, that’s all the only support you will ever need.

Now give yourself a hug and get back to work.

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Four Major Writing Obstacles And How To Overcome Them: #3 Money

The third article in a four part series.

“I never had any doubts about my abilities. I knew I could write. I just had to figure out how to eat while doing this.” – Cormac McCarthy, author of The Road

If you’re a writer, chances are you don’t earn much. Whether you have a day job or make your living as a writer, it can be challenging to watch your peers excel financially as you struggle to make ends meet. While these tips may not help you as much as a winning lotto 649 ticket, you’d be surprised how much you can save.

Keep Track
This can be a pain but it’s wellworth it. Write down everything (and I mean everything) you spend. Did you buy a $3 slice of lemon poppy seed cake at Starbucks? A $4.75 birthday card? Write it down. At the end of a month review your expenses. Where could you have saved? Make the appropriate adjustments for next month.

Professional Development
There are plenty of courses available for writers. Unfortunately the fee for a 10 week writing course can be more than your rent! Before you drop all that cash, first ask yourself what you hope to gain from the experience. When you target your goals you can often find workshops that are less expensive than full courses. Libraries also have writers in residence who offer free workshops on dialogue, character creation and story. It’s also a great chance to connect with other writers.

Books
Library. Library. Library.

If you absolutely must own, purchase them at a used bookstore or ask for them as gifts.

Food and Drink
If you’re looking to save money, eating at home is a great place to start. Drinking at home saves money, too, or you could stop drinking all together. (…On second thought, just drink at home…)

When it comes to grocery shopping, do as your mother told you and eat your vegetables. By learning how to make veggie meals you will be saving both your body and your wallet.

Bake homemade muffins and granola bars so you won’t be tempted to spend the $3 on a slice of lemon poppy seed cake.

Entertainment
I can’t speak for other cities or suburban areas, but the amount of free/inexpensive things to do in Toronto is outstanding! Here are just some of my arts and culture favourites:

Word on the Street
Nuit Blanche
The Fringe Theatre Festival/Next Stage Festival
The SummerWorks Theatre Festival
The Hot Docs Film Festival
Pay-What-You-Can days at smaller theatres

And if you’re under 35 there are some great deals available if you know where to look.

As if that’s not enough, NOW magazine lists dozens of free events on a weekly basis.

Other Tips
Stay away from dollar stores. Seriously. Those dollars add up and soon you’ll have a $30-$40 charge on your credit card for a whole bunch of crap.

Christmas can be an expensive time of year. My husband and I put away $30 a month towards presents so we don’t end up with a massive credit card bill in January.

It can be hard to deny yourself the more expensive luxuries (a day at the spa, new clothes). Every once in a while treat yourself to something small. Like a slice of lemon poppy seed cake. (…Starbucks does not sponsor this blog)

We are so bombarded with advertisements trying to sell us this and that. Recognize that you have all you need. Live a simple life. Live a creative life. Live a writing life.

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Four Major Writing Obstacles And How To Overcome Them: #2 Time

The second article in a four part series.

“Where do you find the time?” A popular question for writers. The truth is, no one ever “finds” time. You can’t look under your couch cushions and produce half an hour. If you need more time, you have to make it.

Discover Where You Spend Your Time

Write down hour by hour what you do in a day. Where are you spending your time? Work, sure. Chores, check. Where else? Could you have passed on or postponed something on your list to write? Rejigging your routine and/or your social life may seem like a sacrifice at first, but once you start writing you won’t be thinking about what you could be doing. You’ll be focusing too hard on what you are doing. Writing.

Procrastinate… With Chores

Go ahead. Put off until tomorrow what you could have done today. This includes grocery shopping (get some take-out for a change), cleaning your bathroom (if you’re like me you procrastinate on that one already so good for you!) and laundry (your underwear is good for one more day… um, maybe not). There are plenty of things we think we have to do RIGHT NOW but can actually wait. (And hey, if you have time after an hour or so of writing and want to scrub your toilet, be my guest)

Say Goodbye To Your TV

I hardly ever watch tv, you say. Are you sure? I bet you watch a little. Write instead. It’s tough if you watch popular shows. Tell your friends and co-workers not to spoil things. You’ll catch it on net-flicks or you’ll buy the dvds. Right now you have to write.

First Thing’s First

I’m going to preface this by saying I tried this and failed. Miserably. I can stay up until two in the morning with ease but ask me to get up at seven am and I’m done for.
That doesn’t mean I don’t recommend it. A lot of writers are morning people or at least “I can manage to crawl out of bed without feeling like death” kind of people. By writing first thing in the morning you are telling the universe who you are and what is important to you. It’s also a great way to whet your appetite. As little as fifteen minutes of writing in the morning can help prevent hours of procrastination at night (more on that later).

Forgive Yourself

There will be days where you’re sick as a dog, where out of town family members need looking after or when your day job is making high demands on you. Don’t chastise yourself for not writing. Forgive. And then get back to work.

And Now The Problem No One Ever Talks About… Having Too Much Time…

A three day weekend. A staycation. So much extra time! And what do you do with it? You shop. You watch tv. You bake. Other artists don’t seem to have this problem. Musicians, painters, dancers, they just get to work. As vulnerable as artists are, there seems to be something extra terrifying about putting words down on paper. Do whatever it is you need to do to get writing. Read inspirational quotes. Do a stream of consciousness writing exercise. Visualize a finished draft.

For those hard core procrastinators, I would like to make it clear what does and doesn’t count as writing…

Does NOT Count
– Organizing your home office
– Buying new stationary
– Reading how-to books (another blog article on that later)
– Checking/answering your email
– Checking facebook
– Almost anything to do with the internet

COUNTS
– Purposeful daydreaming
– Brainstorming on paper
– Rewriting

I’m not sure where blogging falls in this. I’m going to count Dee Tales as writing but a regular blog post… I have to admit that although I’m pretty diligent about working on my novel every day, sometimes, just sometimes, it’s just easier finish a post.

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Four Major Writing Obstacles And How To Overcome Them: #1 Fear

The first in a four part series.

As part of my first year university acting class, I performed an excerpt from Anton Chekov’s The Three Sisters. I no longer remember the plot, but I do remember all three sisters wanting to go to Moscow. They talked about it (a lot) but they never went.

Being not even 20, I was baffled by the sisters’ lack of action. “Why don’t they just go to Moscow?!” 14 years later, I understand. What if Moscow didn’t work out? What if it made them miserable? If they stayed, at least they would have the beauty of the dream.

Writing is terrifying. But what exactly are we afraid of?

Never Finishing

You have an idea. A great idea. One that makes you really excited to get started. There’s just one problem. This isn’t an idea for a poem, a short story, or even a play. It’s a novel. With an average word count of 100,000 starting a novel is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. So what do you do?

The truth, is if you wrote 274 words a day, in one year you would have a draft. Even if you skipped days here and there, you could still have yourself a beginning, middle and an end in less than two. Think of finishing your novel as a goal you can accomplish. Only then can you sit down and get started.

An Awful Book

But what if it’s bad? I’m going to level with you. It will be. That’s the point. If you really want to write a novel, you need to give yourself permission to write badly. Cry through the draft if you have to, just get something down. No book has ever been published without ridiculous amounts of rewrites and you can’t rewrite what doesn’t exist.

Genre

Working on a novel is challenging enough, but tackling sci-fi or fantasy means creating an entire world and the rules magic or technology. Where to begin?! Do not despair, rejoice! While other writers are researching Maine or what people wore in the eighteenth century, you get to create an entire world from scratch. Don’t focus on all you have yet to create. Celebrate the little victories – the name of your world, how the people look. These genres are daunting, but they’re also a lot of fun. Enjoy it.

Rejection

It will happen. A lot. If rejection comes with some constructive criticism, take it. If it doesn’t, move on. Resubmit. Again and again. Rewrite again and again. The only way you are guaranteed never to be published is if you never submit.

Admitting You’re a Writer

Even published writers have a hard time admitting what they do for a living. When asked about her new year’s writing resolution, Emily Schultz, author of The Blondes, said “To actually admit that I’m a writer. Until now I’ve always been afraid of making people with normal jobs feel uncomfortable when I talk about being a writer… So in 2013 I’m just going to say it: I’m a novelist. I’m 38 years old, I’m committed now, there’s no going back, for better or worse I’m going to die a writer.”

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t published. Get comfortable saying you’re a writer now. Have your short, two sentence description or elevator pitch ready for the following conversation:

SOME GUY What do you do?

YOU I am currently working at (insert day job here) while I work on my novel.

SOME GUY Oh? What’s it about?

YOU (Insert elevator pitch here)

Now here’s the tricky part. Most of the time SOME GUY’s response to the description of your novel will be,

SOME GUY You know what you should do…

As you listen to SOME GUY tell you his ideas, just take a slow, deep breath (try to do this subtly) People have good intentions. They’re excited that you’re a writer. You should be, too. Remember, the purpose of publication is to have readers buy your book. That means you will have to tell people about it.

Most things worth doing are scary – traveling to a foreign country, telling something you love them. If you’re afraid it means you’re on to something.

Don’t dream of Moscow. Pack your bags and go.

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