We are all stuck at home. Life is slower and smaller. Is this not the place all writers want to find? A quiet, empty place to allow the stories in your head to finally pour onto paper? But so many of you are telling me it is so hard to write in this listless, confusing time. Many of you have joined our online writing sessions and shared how hard it is to do ANYTHING right now.
Here are some reasons why...
1 You don’t have an end date
Writing with no promise of ever being published is a HUGE leap of faith for anyone.
Picture this… Penguin NY emails you today and says, "we have a gap this year for a cracking new author, can you get an 80,000-word book written in eight months? We want the first 30,000 words in three months’ time."
What would happen?
You would do it!
In 12 weeks, you would email off a nerve-wracking 30,000 words – with your heart in your throat. You would move heaven and earth to get that book written. I did that with my first and second books. I was commissioned to write them both and given 8 months to deliver a completed manuscript. Now, it's hard to complete a book in 8 months, particularly when you have a full-time job. But come 5pm on the promised day, off went the book. Now, as a professional ghostwriter, I always set myself a non-negotiable deadline. I actually put it into the book contract with a penalty clause. I can’t tell you how often I have barely pulled it off. Harrowing. But that feeling when you send it off, well it is just pure magic.
That’s why I set deadlines for all of you on my mentorships. Give a writer a deadline and they deliver a book.
2. You are great at starting things, but not at finishing.
Perhaps you wrote a first draft. You may have taken it to the next step and added some polish and flair in 2nd draft. That was a few months back. Or was it a few years back? Now, to restart it all feels like such a chore. Should you just start another book? Or write some poetry rather? Short stories seem easier than a whole LONG book. Or a children's book?
During my December desk clear out I found inside a feature-length movie script I wrote back in 2010. I started flicking through the pages to remind myself of it, ready to chuckle at the audacity of thinking I could write a movie script when I realised - it was actually GOOD. It had great characters, a lot of heart, a good plot, a strong premise and a winding story that was unexpected and rewarding.
It was polished and professional. But it had gone nowhere at the end of all that work. What had gone wrong?
I had sat with a co-author and we had had written it over a full year, done four solid rewrites and then sent it off to four agents in LA (ballsy right?). The one even had called a meeting with us, said we ‘had real talent’ and it 'had potential’. Rare words. She offered really good direction for a rewrite, which involved changing the location of the entire setting from the desert to a trance party. She told us to fix it and send it back. So, what went wrong? What happened?
I guess we ran out of steam. We felt we had done enough, or we were just ready to move on. My writing partner took a job and a year became a decade. The trance party idea put me off.
I have learned - over time - that if you want to ever get published, or nab a deal, it is better to keep working a book / script or project than to start a new one.
How many half-dreams are sitting in your writing drawer that may benefit from a fresh look this year?
3. You don’t have time.
It is not the right time. There are other pressing things to do….. cooking, shopping, work, exercise, kids, pitching a client, vision boards, Netflix, a new online course you just signed up for. The list is full and long. Next year…..then you will have more time on your hands, you will feel more motivated and you will really do this properly.
It is seldom the ‘right time’
You make time.
Books do take time. They take time to dream up, they take time to plan and design, and they take time to write. It often takes months to just THINK about the story, construct it in your mind, scribble it onto paper and finally drive it into a table of contents. There is a lot of dreaming and thinking involved in writing a book.
Don’t stop your life to write. Make it a part of your life.
When you see the book publishing journey as a two-year process, you start to see that it has to fit into the spaces you make in your life.
4. You are stuck in the Covid malaise
January is the month you are supposed to make things happen, but Covid has stripped so many layers away from all our lives. It all feels very random to have deadlines, dreams and goals. Who knows what is going to happen? Where will your book end up anyway? Who would even want to read it? What do you really have to share? Why did it ever seem so important?
Life feels hard, unsure and unstable. I find myself looking at my 2021 calendar, filled with dreams, doodles, goals and plans and thinking… what is the point? Why try? Why plan? Why shoot for the stars? Will they still be there?
First gear is just hard to find in these times. It feels impossible to start something new. The year looks long and bleak and meaningless. February may feel better.
I like to honour those times. Feel the slump. Take a break. Pour some words into poetry, listen to beautiful music that moves your soul. Keep The Arts in your house and in your heart.
The time will come again when you are ready to crack open your book - or your writing coach will nudge you that it is time to ‘finish that book’.
5. You are alone
In theory, this should be good for writers. Writing is solitary. You sit alone at your desk for a year. But too much alone is not good for anyone. I have started to crave the company of other crazy writers for connection and support, feedback, a giggle or a moan. That's why we have started to write together in weekly 'bum time' sessions online. It is powerful and productive. I invite you to join in those sessions and just write with a global family. Mail me on how to join.