Amazing How Common This Is…
Basically put, writers, over time, develop a real and crippling investment in not writing. And, at the same time, often claim they want to write.
These writers cross the spectrum of types.
— Teachers who always wanted to write, teach writing, but now feel inside that they just flat don’t dare expose that they are still beginning writers at their core.
— Burnt out writers who have made writing so important (because they have had a few successes in the past) that they don’t dare write anything more. Failure is a very high platform that these writers in their minds don’t dare jump from.
— Beginning writers who talk a lot and talk a good game, but over time have become so afraid that their writing will not back up their talk, they feel that they don’t dare write. (I’ve had friends like this over the years. Sadly, they are long gone.)
— Writers (like I was for years in the 1970s) who buy into the myths of rewriting and perfection so much that after a time they don’t dare show their work because it’s not done yet, it needs one more draft, it needs one more reader, and so on. Kris talked about this writer in her Perfection book and blogs. Perfection is never attained and fear of having someone say that is crippling. (I was saved from this by Heinlein’s Rules.)
— Writers who think that they already know everything, that they don’t need to learn because it would destroy their perfect voice, flat don’t dare write much at all because for them, writing is too hard. And when writing gets hard, these type of writers back up and claim they are writing, but the book is taking years. And that magical book will never see the light of day because failure of not selling for these writers is much more damaging than the failure of not ever finishing.
— Writers who grew up afraid of what others would say. Not even writing under pen names can clear out this investment in the fear, so these writers flat don’t dare write. A single rejection, a single bad review, can turn their worlds upside down. So not writing is far, far safer.
In other words, personal history, choices, personalities, and so on often make a writer so invested in not writing, they don’t.
Can this investment in not writing be broken? For some, sure.
For most, sadly, no.
Path to Recovery for the Few…
Those that can break it must first realize what investment they have in not writing, not finishing, not putting work out into the public eye. That is the first key to getting back to writing. The writer must see clearly what is stopping them.
Second, writers in all the above categories must learn at a deep level that nothing is ever perfect. Any story, any novel, is only the best you can do at that moment. And that is good enough.
Third, a writer must, at their very core, in all of the above investments, realize that not one person cares about their writing. The writer is the only one who cares. That realization frees so many writers to just write. But so many writers want others to care, so this belief system at a deep level is difficult at best to attain. Impossible for most.
Fourth, writers must look at writing like they look at reading other writer’s works. They must go to story for the joy of reading, the fun of creation, the excitement of discovery.
It is the process that is important, not the finishing, not the publishing, but the writing process itself. If that is joyful, then everything else just falls into place given a little time.
So recovery is possible, but it takes work, courage, and the desire to make creating new worlds and characters fun.
But if you are not writing, or not writing as much as you want, or slowing down, or making writing a torture, figure out where you are invested in not writing.
You might be surprised at just spotting the investment will help you get on the right road again.