We read a lot about writing rules. Plenty of pros have all kinds of lists for things you should or shouldn’t do, some of them technically founded, others not so much.When writing fiction, all the rules pretty much get tossed out the window.
But what about the rules we make for ourselves? Tell me if any of these sound familiar to you:
- I can’t write because I’m depressed
- I can’t write because I’m not depressed
- I can’t write because my house is always a mess
- I can’t write because my family takes up too much time
- I can’t write because none of my characters will speak to me
- I can’t write because all the good stories are taken
- I can’t write because I don’t know where to start
- I can’t write because the cat’s sleeping on the keyboard
- I can’t write because I can’t sleep
- I can’t write because I’m hungry
- I can’t write because I have other things to do
Granted, on the surface some of those things may look pretty silly. Some may be legitimate. Believe me, I’m the last one to make light of depression, having been there myself. If you think you’re suffering from clinical depression, do get some professional help. Not being able to write is the least of your problems.
However, if you’re not clinically depressed, that’s a different story. Feeling down and uninspired, finding distractions like cleaning the house or saying your characters won’t talk to you are excuses. Say an excuse enough times and it’ll turn into a belief. You go from saying you can’t to believing you can’t, when, in fact, you can.
Is This The Real Life? Is It Just Fantasy?
Scaramouch, Scaramouch, will you do the writing Fandango? First and foremost what we have to realize is all these rules are illusions. They’re not real, they don’t exist. Sometimes these rules aren’t even our own. You may have been told never write unless your house is clean, or that writing is selfish and you need to be taking care of your family instead.
Step back and take a look at what you’re telling yourself, is it really true? One very effective exercise we teach in our Journey to the Center of Your Heart coaching group is “Asking the Big Why”. Start with questioning the belief with a “why?” Write down the first thing that pops into your head. Then ask another why, and keep going deeper until you can’t go anymore. There’s your answer.
Let’s use the example of “my family takes up too much time”.
Because they need me.
Because I do everything for them. They’d be lost without me.
Because I do everything for them…oh, wait, I do everything for them. They expect me to do everything for them. They’re really capable of doing things for themselves but I’ve created their dependence and now I have something I want to do for myself, they don’t understand why I won’t wait on them hand and foot anymore.
See how that works? Go ahead, pick one of your beliefs and do The Big Why. You may be surprised (or horrified) at what you discover. Or perhaps this is something you knew in your heart all along?
I firmly believe that this is where writer’s block stems from. Writer’s block is just another belief we’ve been taught. That when inspiration doesn’t come, we tell ourselves it’s writer’s block, when in fact, we’re distracting ourselves from the root of the matter. It’s easy to stick a label on a problem and let it go. Hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
I say no, put that alarm clock on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get up and turn it off. Simply put, take action. Action, any action as long as it moves us forward, is the only way to pull yourself out of the barren wasteland of zero inspiration. Don’t feel like writing? Write crap. Just get something on the page. Stuck on the next chapter? Take a look at your story notes, or if you’re a pantser, do some brainstorming and get back to the root of your story, go back to the point where you feel the story got difficult for you. Look at the rules you’ve made for yourself. Give yourself permission to have fun.
Taking action gives you back your power. Once you start taking action you’ll find that you can write anywhere, anytime, and on any subject. It’s like magic, but it isn’t, because you’re the one fueling the creative fire.
I used to believe that if everything else around me wasn’t perfect, I couldn’t write. I couldn’t write if I had bills to pay, I couldn’t write if my housemate was breathing the same air in the office as I was, I couldn’t write unless I had the right music playing, I couldn’t write if my desk was cluttered…But you know what? That’s life. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. The conditions will never be right if we sit around waiting for them to be that way. Life happens and there will always be something we have to do.
Staying inspired means finding the inspiration between the cracks. It’s knowing that story you’re writing is in you already and you have to let it happen. By what? By taking action!
The only place that needs this kind of mental drama is inside your story. If your belief is you can’t write unless you’ve had enough sleep, then plan a nap or meditation session before sitting down to write. Look at what you need and make it happen in small steps. Don’t like a messy desk when you write? After each session do a little clean up and have the desk ready for the next session. Create an environment and habits that foster writing everyday.
What are your personal rules around writing? Share them here in the comments.