T. A. Hernandez
How I Deal With Writing Setbacks
It's no secret that every writer has a different process, and I've always found it interesting to hear how others go about creating a story to see what I might be able to learn from them and potentially incorporate into my own work. So today, I'm starting a new series of blog posts laying out different parts of my writing process to give you all a peek behind the curtain and see how I go about putting a story together from start to finish. Hopefully it will be helpful (or at least interesting) to some of you.
I wanted to start with this particular topic - overcoming writing setbacks - because I think it's an especially important thing to talk about. The truth is that writing is hard. There are going to be setbacks and obstacles at pretty much every stage of the journey, and if you can't get yourself past them, you're never going to get to the parts that make you feel proud, happy, inspired, victorious, or all of those other good things that make writing fun and worthwhile. Here are a few of the things I do to overcome writing setbacks.
1. Write through writer's block
Ah, writer's block. Some people swear it swoops in and crushes their creativity when they least expect it, preventing them from writing so much as a single word. Others claim it doesn't exist and that writer's just need to get over themselves and write. While I wouldn't go so far as to say there's no such thing as writer's block, I do think it's too often used as an excuse not to write when we just don't feel like it or the words aren't coming as easily as we think they should. I've found that I can usually get myself past this if I just sit down and type out some words. Crappy words, maybe, but some words are better than none, and you can always come back to fix them later. If you feel like writer's block is holding you back, sometimes all you need to do is just force yourself to write anyway. After a little while, the words will start to flow more naturally.
2. Take a break
Sometimes just writing your way through a block isn't going to cut it, and pushing yourself harder might actually make things worse. If that's the case, remind yourself that it's okay to take a break. Maybe you just need to take a break from whatever story you're working on to write something else. Maybe you need to take a break from writing altogether, and that's okay, too. It's really easy to get caught up in this idea that if you're not writing consistently every single day, you're not a real writer or you're not doing enough. But at the end of the day, you have to do what's best for you, and for some of us, churning out thousands of words each week just isn't realistic. You're mental and emotional health is important, and if you find yourself in a place where the pressure to write is negatively impacting you, it's okay to take a step back. Besides, getting out in the world and doing other things you enjoy - even just exploring other stories in books, movies, video games, etc. - can help to refill your creative well so that when you are ready to come back to writing, you just might feel more inspired.
3. Stop comparing
This one's a little easier said than done, and for me, it often coincides with the above point. Social media is great for connecting writers with each other, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. It's easy to start feeling inadequate when you see how well other writers seem to be doing, especially when you feel like the book you're trying to write is going nowhere. But the comparison game just drags you down and doesn't get you any closer to accomplishing your goals. Instead, try to remind yourself that social media rarely provides the whole picture, and that other writer you think is doing so well has probably struggled or will struggle with the exact same things you're struggling with right now. There might even be something you can learn from them to help you be more successful, so take a look at what they're doing and maybe try some of that out yourself.
4. Make some writer friends and talk to them
Writing can be a lonely process, but you don't have to do it all in complete isolation. Writing friends can get you through the tough times and motivate or inspire you to keep going. If you're stuck on a plot point, a good writer friend can help you brainstorm ways to move forward. If you have a question and don't know where to find answers, chances are one of your writer friends will have some ideas. And if you're really struggling, sometimes it just helps to commiserate with someone else who knows exactly what you're going through.
5. Read a book or listen to a podcast on writing craft
Learning craft is essential for newer writers, and you don't have to stumbe through it without any guidance. There are plenty of books, podcasts, websites, YouTube channels, and other resources to guide you. Even if you've been writing for a long time, it can be helpful to pick up a book on craft once in a while or listen to a good podcast. Going over the basics again never hurt anyone, and you might even see things from a new perspective now that you're a little farther along in your writing journey. And for me, doing stuff like this always feels very proactive and empowering. I might feel stuck in my writing or frustrated with a lack of progress, but I can still do something about it in trying to learn new skills and improve myself as a writer.
6. Remind yourself of how far you've come
Sometimes we get so caught up in negative thinking about our writing that it's hard to see any good in what we're creating. We can feel stuck, like we're never going to make any progress or get any better or learn all the things we need to know to tell a good story. If this is you, take a few minutes to reflect on how far you've already come, because whether you've been at this for a few months or a few years, chances are, you're making more progress than you think. What have you learned in the last few weeks that you didn't know before? Where were you a year ago in terms of your writing, and how has that changed compared to now? It can even be helpful to pull out old writing and actually see the differences compared to something you've written more recently.
I hope that was helpful. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know how you've been able to overcome writing setbacks.