I have been writing actively since May 2017 and it has been quite a journey. There have been some ups and some downs, but whichever way the rollercoaster went, I kept on learning along the way. In this article, I will share with you the four key challenges which inhibit our development as creative writers alongside tips on how to overcome them.
The Initial Inertia
Remember when you flip open your laptop/notepad to write? Depending on where you write, you could be staring at a blank Microsoft Word document, an empty Google Doc page, a wordless Medium draft or even a blank page in your notepad. Remember staring at the blinking cursor or the lines on your book, not knowing where to begin? When you’re thinking that you’re not good enough to write?
That pause right there just before you type the first word marks the first peak of self-doubt. That is the initial inertia. Overcoming that is the hardest part of writing, but once you do, you will find yourself going with the flow. Now, how do you overcome it and start writing? It’s simple. You start writing. Type anything. Even if it is your name. Sometimes what I do is I type the title of what I want to write then, for the body, I write about my surrounding. I try to describe the things closest to me in as much detail as possible. By the time I do that for ten minutes, I will find that I have already overcome the initial inertia. I am now ready to begin writing.
The Scramble for Perfection
So now you’re ready to write. You’ve probably written down a few sentences or a few paragraphs. But when you read through what you’ve written, you can’t help but feel like everything is completely substandard. So you delete, start all over again. You stop halfway, edit a bit, then delete everything again. You’re thinking that your work needs to be zero-default. You’re scrambling for perfection. But how realistic is perfection? What does ‘perfect’ even mean?
Who gets to define what perfect is? Don’t get me wrong though, striving for perfection is not a bad thing. In fact, it is highly recommended so long as it doesn’t stop you dead in your tracks until you’re unable to write another word. Perfectionism is fuelled by fear: fear of failure, fear of ridicule, fear of irrelevance. Let go of all that baggage and immerse yourself in the creative process. Creativity is messy. Get used to it. Don’t expect every article you write to be a hit. It won’t. Face that truth, but never stop writing. If you’re afraid of making mistakes, then you’re not ready to become a writer.
The Final Inertia
Now, you’re done writing. You’ve gone through your work. You’ve edited. You’re done writing, at least that’s what you thought until you faced the second hardest part of the writing process. The final inertia: the pause right before you hit the “publish” button. This marks the second peak of self doubt. Is this even good enough? Will anyone even read this? Are there still more typos? All these questions and more keep running through your mind. You’re staring at the blinking cursor again. But guess what? All you need to do is hit ‘Publish’. Why?
The only way you will learn from your writing is if you share it with others. Some people will comment on your work, others won’t. Some will support you, some others won’t. Some will see your link on social media but will never click on it, and that’s fine. Some will read your work and send you detailed feedback, which is great! But whichever way the pendulum swings, you can only get feedback on your work if it is shared. Write. Edit. Publish. Receive feedback. Learn. Improve. Write again. That is the process of writing. But if you never overcome the final inertia, and never hit ‘Publish,’ you will never get past the editing phase. Now wouldn’t that just be so sad?
The Illusion of Success
So you’ve finally published your work, and you’re psyched! The feedback has been crazy! People love it! The comments are longer than your entire the amount of text you have to read for class tomorrow. You’re thrilled! Your dream to someday be confident enough to call yourself a writer no longer seems so far away, but then the question emerges: “What next?” After those 15 seconds of fame, what is your next line of action?
You may not know this, but what you choose to do next will determine how great a writer you would become. It is easy to rest on your laurels because a few renowned people shared your work, but should it end there? Don’t stop writing. Ego is the enemy. Nothing kills creativity like a big ego that is driven by an illusion of success. To improve your writing, you’ve got to keep writing. Inconsistency may just be what stands between you and your development as a writer. For me, It took losing my ‘Top Writer’ status on Medium to teach me the value of consistency in the writing process.
Writing is not a destination or a status to aspire to. It is a continuous journey of self discovery, self development, and self expression. But to stay on that journey and improve your creative writing, you need to:
- Start writing. Just start. Stop doubting yourself, put those words in your mind on paper.
- Stop scrambling for perfection. Be comfortable failing and be open to learn from it.
- Share your work with the world. Don’t be scared about what others will think.
- Keep on writing. Don’t rest on your laurels. Never.