Ever since I started this blog, I’ve touched on this subject a bit.
What makes you a writer? Writing.
But then, last year, right before summer, something happened to me that really challenged me being able to achieve either of those things. And I think it’s high time that I put out a post on the subject. This blog is about my journey as a writer, and I’ve talked a lot on tough subjects based on what I’ve gone through before.
Buckle up. I’m here to talk today about what happens to a writer when the world creeps in on them and then completely stifles their creative process.
aka: the reason I went for so long without writing my own original story ideas.
I’ll spare you the all the details of my tragic backstory, but I think this post needs a bit of an explanation along with it.
In May of last year, someone asked where the book I’d published was. They wanted to buy it for their daughter to read. For context, this is the book I’d thrown up on Amazon in January of 2018, and then upon taking a look at it a few months later, was horrified that I’d put that up. The book was horribly written. I’d been working on trying to fix the thing ever since, and I took it off of amazon sometime in 2020.
After explaining that I was working on rewriting it, I kind of walked away feeling like cool, someone wants to buy my book!
But then the pressure starting creeping in.
Picturing someone I know reading my book – someone who wasn’t really even the target audience of my book – and judging it and judging me… it freaked me out.
I run a whole blog on writing and talk about my writing, but I effectively avoided the topic by just talking about how I was working on random writing projects. Which was true. They weren’t my ‘big’ story ideas, because I wanted to take the pressure off myself as I tried to figure out my writing process. Which was also true. But, in reality, there was also a third thing: I was avoiding my own stories like the plague.
When I even so much as thought about my writing, my brain suddenly started throwing doubts and stress at me. It sucked the joy out of my writing. Writing had always been the place I could go without any outside pressure, where I could do whatever the heck I wanted and not have to worry about it. Not to mention, corona virus was in full swing, and that was stressful enough as it was.
Even now, it feels strange to talk about this. But if it happened to me, I’m sure it could happen to someone else. So, this post is for you.
Because what does a writer do when the world manages to worm its way into their writing and infringe on one of the only places they thought it wouldn’t get to touch?
How to Block out the World
Step 1: Write.
In no way do I mean to go and start writing your books nonetheless. Rather, I recommend journaling your thoughts. I know that not everyone keeps a journal, but at least try and write out your thoughts on a piece of paper.
I’ve discovered that, as a writer, I need to write out my thoughts on paper. Humans have the same thoughts running on repeat in our heads all day. To get myself to stop running in circles and stressing about the same thing constantly with no solution, I need to see, once and for all, what’s going on in my head.
This step for me was on and off through the months that I stayed away from my writing – which was about 2 months. I would ignore it, mostly, trying to run away from these thoughts and block them out. But when my random stories that I was working on were finished, and I had no new creative projects to work on, my fear reared its ugly head again. When that happened, I would usually end up writing a lot in my journal about it as it happened, just to get the emotions out of me.
Step 2: Walk away.
A general rule for life: try and stay away from things that are toxic to you. A lot of the time, something toxic to you might take the shape of a place, situation, or a person.
For me, it was my thoughts, and the trigger was my own original stories.
So, I pushed them away. I had realized by the end of January that trying to write The Storm Inside was making me miserable, and so I’d been on break from it for a bit by that point. I had only just started to come back to my writing. But with this new blow, I found myself running away from my writing again.
A lot of the time, space is all you need. Give it some time, and these things can sort themselves out.
Step 3: Forge your weapons.
There came a point for me where I literally had to write. I’m a writer, and staying away from my stories for so long was making me utterly miserable on a whole other level. I hate being without a creative project, and when summer came, I suddenly found myself with a lot more time on my hands than I had before to work on my own projects. But without a specific one to focus on, I felt like I was wasting time.
I needed something to work on.
For a while, I still ran away. I tried to see it as an opportunity: I’ll just work on drawing instead! I’ll learn how to do that better! But when that too became a source of overwhelm, I knew I had to do something about it. I couldn’t spend all day just drawing. It would cause me to burn out if I did, which would just make a bad situation even worse.
I found my thoughts running on repeat a lot. I eventually began to notice the same things popping up whenever I tried to think about writing:
What’s the theme of this book?
What would those people think of it?
What would people around me think if I published this as my first book? What image would that convey of me as a writer?
There were others, of course, but the main point is that I noticed some of the same ones always coming back. I had no answers for myself to them, and it felt much too early on in the writing process to figure out some of them.
So, I had to learn how to battle and fight back against them.
I came up with my own mental reassurances. Any time these thoughts would pop up, I’d throw up my shield of protection. The lines that I threw back in the face of my fears gave me permission to ignore my fears. It took time, of course, for me to get used to that being so, or to even truly believe the things I said back in retaliation. But with time, I was able to always just use them and know that it was okay to write despite those things hanging around.
Q: What’s the theme? A: I’m going to come up with more ideas for the book first. Yay for aesthetic Pinterest boards!
Q: What would those people think of it? A: I’m not publishing this right now. This is my first draft. I might not even ever publish it! I could just use this to grow as a writer. I want to write this right now, so I will. It doesn’t matter what they think. I’ll just enjoy the story.
Q: What would people think if I published this as my first book? What image would that convey of me as a writer? A: This is not the first book I’m publishing! I know, I’m writing it first, but that doesn’t automatically mean I have to publish it first as well. I need to give myself more time, anyway, before I work on The Storm Inside again.
Bonus Step: Find what inspires you!
Something that really helped me to begin pushing through my fears was just how inspired I felt thanks to my Pinterest boards. I am a sucker for aesthetics, and the pins I was finding for my story were just *chefs kiss* beautiful. I felt excited by the idea of finding more pins for the board. It wasn’t writing, but it really helped me to find the motivation to start fighting back against my fears.
Even when I felt them overwhelming me again, I found motivation again by watching some videos on writing. It had been a while since I’d gotten to watch some, since I’d been focusing on school, so it was nice to catch up. Videos from one writer in particular always inspired and pumped me up, so they really helped me to want to write again.
I will not tell you that putting on blinders to try and block out the world is easy. But I think it’s something worth fighting for. The world needs your story, but first, you need it, which can mean completely blocking out the world you’re even writing it for for a while. Write that story for yourself, and throw up your defences whenever the need arises to block out the world around you. Eventually, they will stop feeling like something you just throw back and more like something you truly believe – and yours fears will stop tormenting you.
I mean, just being completely honest here, I’ve been editing this post on and off since the beginning of summer 2020. It always brought back those feelings of stress and overwhelm, but writing the first draft of it was also what really helped me get past my own mental blocks. By the end of the summer, I was working on my new novel idea, which I began working on writing during NaNoWriMo. If I could do it, then you can, too. 😊
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Have you ever had this problem?
Did the post make sense at all? 😅
And what was the last thing you wrote that was your own original idea? 😃 I’d love to hear about it in the comments below! *hint hint wink wink*