As a writer, don’t consider yourself to be above needing a push or a helping hand now and then. Writing may be a solitary act, but few successful writers make it alone. And sometimes, that help comes in the form of telling you what not to do. With this in mind, here are four pieces of advice on what to avoid in order to get that book finished!
Waiting for inspiration: Jack London once wrote that “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” As writers, we are often deluded into thinking that writing is totally different from other kinds of work, in that genius is just supposed to come to us. In reality, writing requires searching and lots of trial-and-error, just as a job in sales, marketing, or even medicine. There is nothing sacred or elegant about formulating a great sentence. Don’t let the stories about the Romantic poets like Byron and Shelley fool you: they worked hard too.
Waiting for ideal writing conditions: “A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper,” said author E.B. White. Doubtless, White was thinking of the scores of writers who say that their own environments or schedules are not conducive to writing, and who constantly wait for that “perfect” scenario to start typing. The hard truth is that successful writers tend to “ritualize” their writing process – arising at 5am while the world is quiet, and getting two to three hours of uninterrupted composition. You don’t have to move to a log cabin in the forest to write – just get up before everyone else does.
Over-researching: This is particularly dangerous for people who are writing a book that takes place in a foreign locale or time period. Generally, writers fall into this trap for two reasons: getting carried away with their passion for the place or period, or simply putting off composing their story. Keep in mind that the place and time are not the priority. The story itself takes precedence.
Over-outlining: Stephen King makes a sharp attack on outlining in his book On Writing, saying he doesn’t do it because it makes the plot seem artificial. However, we are not all born with King’s genius to weave a story together. The main thing to avoid with outlining is to use it as procrastination. Allow yourself one half-hour of outlining a week, at most. This should become less and less with time.
What strategies do YOU use to combat stalling? Share your comments with us!