Want to Write More?
The Real Reason Artists Put Off Writing and One Realization That Can Change Everything
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
Do you wish you would write more blog posts?
Or maybe you have a dream writing project that you can’t seem to start, never mind finish?
You should know all writers, even the famous ones, spend a disproportionate amount of time — trying not to write.
Here’s an example I love.
One morning a swanky journalist at The Paris Review called up author E.B. White to interview him for their Writers at Work series.
E.B. White told the journalist: “Sorry, but I’d be better suited for a Writers Not at Work series.”
Because in E.B. White’s mind he spent most of his time creatively avoiding putting pen to paper.
Can you relate?
Sitting down to write can seem impossible.
What is standing in our way of getting some words on a page?
And how can we help ourselves write, even for 15 miniature minutes a day?
Ralph Keyes, author of The Courage To Write has a beautiful answer for us.
But before we get to what will help us write more, we need to mention three surprising things that won’t.
Here’s 3 Things That Won’t Help You Write More
1. Truck Loads of Talent Won’t Help You Write More
If only we had truck loads of writing talent.
Then we’d write all the time right?
We’d be skipping meals to rush to our computers to pour out our buckets of brilliance.
But it’s not lack of talent or skill that kills the dream of consistent writing.
Veteran writing teachers will tell you; it’s often the most talented writers in their class — that give up on writing the fastest.
Who in their class ends up published or even famous?
The average writer with the drive to work, explore and persist is the one who sees their work in print.
Several famous authors admit they were not the best writer in their MFA programs at Stanford or NYU.
“Like teachers, editors find that the writers they publish most often are seldom the best ones. Brilliant writers tend to have trouble producing publishable material on a regular basis,” writes Keyes.
But maybe we know the reason we aren’t writing isn’t about talent.
It’s about time.
We’re too busy just trying to make a living, right?
2. Having Tons of Time Won’t Help You Write More Either
Sorry, in my experience it’s not lack of time that dashes the dream either.
You know that expression; Want something done? Ask a busy person.
It’s often true isn’t it? Think of the most efficient person you know.
If they’re like the extremely busy people I know they have systems, limits and methods for getting things done. And done fast.
The most successful magazine journalists I’ve met (the ones who put me to shame productivity-wise) have been mothers of young kids. Some with day jobs!
These moms know they have zero time for resistance.
After they put that baby down for a nap they power out a few more paragraphs. The cumulative effect is impressive.
Okay, maybe we use lack of time as an excuse.
But the lack of $ money $ thing, that’s real my friend.
3. Even Airplanes Full of Cash Won’t Help You Write More
Too much money can also be bad for writers.
Because it equals too much time.
Coffee shops in Los Angeles, Paris and Portland are spilling over with frustrated, desperate, wanna-be published writers who’ve got boxes of money.
Money enough to be sipping turmeric laced lattes all day and staring plaintively into their MacBook Airs.
Waiting for their computers to do something — anything.
Because these writers have no deadlines, they tend not to finish projects.
They’re still trying to work on that block-buster screenplay they told you about ten years ago.
I’m not saying — “Hey, it’s swell to be broke.”
I’m not saying — “You’re an ass if you haven’t finished your screenplay.”
My point here is that cartons of cash won’t lessen writing avoidance.
It often increases it.
‘Okay,’ you say;
‘Fortunately, I’m not Pulitzer-prize-type-of-talented, or filthy rich.
So what’s stopping me from pounding out the pages?’
What’s The Real Reason We Don’t Write More?
We don’t write that post once a week or even once a month because we’re shaking in our boots with fear.
You and I may not be finishing that book because we’re afraid of being exposed and laughed at for our wildly different take on things.
We may get nauseous even thinking of being vulnerable on the page.
And whose to blame us?
Studies still say the most shared fear humans have is public speaking.
And as Ralph Keyes puts it: “Writing is merely public speaking on paper, but to a much larger audience.”
If you take nothing else from this post, please remember this:
Dreading writing is normal.
Therefore, you are normal.
But if everyone dreads it, what differentiates the person who sits down to eek out those first drafts from the person who doesn’t?
What Will Help You Write More Often
Keyes would says two things differentiate the consistent writer from the occasional writer; acceptance and courage.
Consistent writers have come to accept that writing is terrifying, and insanely revealing — and they do it anyway.
“The most understandable trap is to wait for fear to subside before starting one’s writing journey,” says Keyes.
“It doesn’t, won’t and shouldn’t.”
“Too much good writing comes from writers on the edge. Trying to portage around normal writing anxieties merely postpones the day when we confront our fears directly and find the courage to write.” — Ralph Keyes
So if you really want to write more do this:
Accept that writing is terrifying.
Accept that the fear never goes away.
Know all writers are feeling the same disemboweling terror you are. Every day, every imperfect paragraph.
Remember you’ll survive it.
You’ll even thrive as a result of living on the sexy thin line between fear and courage.
And finally, remind yourself that at heart you’re a psychological Wonder Woman who feels the fear and shows up anyway.
Give it a go.
Just keep a barf bucket by your desk just in case.
(And if you want someone to hold your hand while your barfing consider doing one on one coaching with me.)
Even if you never publish a thing you still win.
“Past their twenties, most people’s lives become rather predictable.
Writers’ lives don’t.
Taking chances is a lifelong occupation.
I often meet people who lament — sometimes bitterly — their choice of career.
I’ve rarely met any writers who feel this way.”
I don’t think I’ve ever met an artist who lamented their choice to become an artist either.
Does anything here ring true for you as an actor, artist, musician or photographer?
Let me know your thoughts in the COMMENTS. 🙂
This post is dedicated to artist and subscriber Kat Bergman. Thank you Kat for always laughing at my jokes. It helps me be brave and leave the humor in my writing.