Writing is a very personal thing.
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, you are drawing from your experiences, beliefs and knowledge and wrapping it in the trappings of the words you choose and the syntax you use.
Even if it is writing that has nothing to do with you personally, it nevertheless reflects your abilities as a writer.
Either way, you are putting your work, and therefore yourself, out there to be judged.
So it’s little wonder that so many aspiring writers don’t actually make it, or suffer from writer’s block, or spend years working on a novel that never sees the light of day.
When I was embarking on my fiction-writing career, I was coming from jobs in communications and copywriting.
In those roles, I was given a brief of what needed to be written and a date for when it needed to be done.
When you work on deadline and people depend on you to get your drafts in so they can do their jobs, you don’t have the luxury of tweaking your writing until you feel it’s perfect.
It was also the nature of the job that my writing would get changed or revised by editors, clients, stakeholders, etc. And since one doesn’t get a byline for writing communications, marketing or advertising copy, I felt very little ownership for the things I was writing.
Instead, I got faster at finishing pieces, and my bosses, project managers and the clients continued to be happy with my work.
Not being so attached to your writing, I’d like to argue, isn’t a bad thing when you want to be a productive writer.
Writing is already personal, and when it’s your “Great American Novel” or your first novel or your long-awaited follow-up novel or whatever, it carries a great personal weight.
This weight can be crushing — it can kill your motivation, your creativity, your passion.
But, what if it wasn’t “your” book or story? What if you were just the ghostwriter “hired” to write it? What if you were given a brief (your plot, synopsis or outline) and a deadline and it was simply your “job” to get it done? What if your name wasn’t on it at all?
When I was doubting my ability to be a self-published fiction writer, making these suggestions to myself really helped.
I told myself that I’d been hired to do a job. That I just needed to keep to a brief within the allotted timeframe. And the first draft certainly didn’t need to be perfect, it just needed to be complete. That if I didn’t love or wasn’t super proud of what I wrote, but felt there was an audience who would like it, I could just publish it under a pseudonym; I’ll still have learned a lot on the job and completed my assignment.
The main and crucial difference, I told myself, is that now I get to write fiction and what I want, instead of dull marketing copy for clients.
So the next time you find yourself getting stuck, it might be because you’re too attached to your work and the results. You need to take a step back. Trick yourself into believing you are you own ghostwriter and see if that helps you clear some of those rocks blocking the stream so your motivation and creative juices can flow freely and fluidly again.