I know it sounds crazy to think writers would sabotage their writing, when our title alone says we’re writers. The conclusion, of course, is that writers write, and it’s a given that we love to write more than anything else in the world. That’s true, sure, but it’s not always true.
Writers have to swim against the tide of life each and every day to make time for our writing. We rearrange our schedule to create even mere minutes for it. We practice binge-working (my new favorite made up thing) to get ahead on projects and errands just to make time for writing.
And yet, writers often avoid writing.
No distractions? No problem! We can find one. We’re pretty creative, after all. Don’t get me wrong, many of us do also practice binge-writing. We get into such amazingly creative momentums that nothing, and I mean nothing, can get in the way of our writing. And of course, there are those lucky (jerks) who never have an issue and write anywhere anytime. We’re not here for them. Think of them as mortal enemies if you will. :P
So, why are we sabotaging our own writing?
What is it about putting words down that suddenly makes cleaning out your closet much more interesting than writing? I mean, sure, starting is the hardest part, but does it really have to be that difficult? A while back I started writing 500 words a day just to break the cycle of “difficult starts” and I can say for sure that it’s been helpful. And yet, I still find myself avoiding writing any other time. Just like many of my other writerly friends.
Here are four reasons writers avoid writing:
1- They hate everything they write
You know why? Because most writers are not capable of dealing with imperfection. In fact, many writers are never fully satisfied even with their published work. I know, it sounds insane to give into the “good enough,” but this feeling never goes away. No matter how much you want your first draft to be perfect, we just have to do the best we can and move on.
Yes, we avoid writing when our love for it turns into fear of judgment, but this love-hate relationship with writing is actually good. It helps us grow in our craft— if we can’t learn from our mistakes, we can’t improve. So, hating what you write may feel like failure, but that’s part of the writing process. Let’s not forget that failure can inspire creativity.
2- They feel burnt out
As unbelievable as it sounds, writers do get bored with their topic ideas, story, or world. Well maybe bored is too harsh a word, but we can get burnt out. Writers spend months meticulously researching everything they need to know about quantum physics only to have one line about multiverse theories make sense. We seriously need a break from certain scenes.
3- They feel anxious and afraid
We let fear of rejection take over and get anxious before we even write a word. That’s when the excuses begin: “my ideas are terrible,” “I don’t have time,” “I have other deadlines,” or “I’m just not a good writer.” These feelings are crippling and very real, but they are also excuses that we make for not writing. We torture ourselves before we’ve even given writing a chance.
4- They turn passion into work
When writing becomes a chore, it’s not exciting anymore. As human beings, we are used to separating work from fun. So no matter how much we love it, when writing becomes work, it changes our mental perception and we begin the avoidance of writing.
What can we do about this “avoiding writing” problem?
I don’t know, man. I’m here for you to help me! I’m kidding. Partially. I do want your input, but I also have some pointers:
It sounds really simple to say to make your writing a priority. If it was that easy, we wouldn’t be here, would we? But I mean, you kinda do have to make it a priority. Maybe it would help if you tried to remember the reasons you wanted to write in the first place.
Evaluate your days, especially your busy ones, and look for time you’re not truly spending wisely. If we’re honest with ourselves, we can find an extra hour here and there to write.
For the love of cake, there’s no need to reread every sentence before moving on. It’s just the first draft; the important thing is to get the story moving.
This is tough love: reflect on how shitty you feel every time you fail to write. Okay, I know that was harsh, but seriously, how do you feel emotionally when you let your excuses win? AND how awesome do you feel each time your writing session is a success?
Write down (yes write) reminders of everything that excites you about this story, world, or idea. And ask yourself what you would do to make it succeed.
Remember each time you avoid writing, what you’re really avoiding is your commitment to your passion, and your commitment to you.
Read. Write. Repeat.
All that being said, facing your fears and worries is hard. But if you don’t change your habits now, your book will never be written. Avoiding your writing doesn’t mean you don’t want to anymore, it doesn’t mean you’re not good enough, and it certainly doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You just needed a reminder of how much this means to you, and here it is: this is part of who you are. This is your passion. Get up and do it. Or is it sit down and write? Either way, go do the thing!
By S. Katherine Anthony
S.K. Anthony (Shanny) is a writer, a reader, and make-stuff-up-er who lives in New York. She is an award-winning author and a podcaster. When she isn’t busy with her toddler twins, S.K. finds herself being transported into the world of imagination. Well, either that or running away from spiders . . . she is convinced they are out to get her!