April’s Camp Nanowrimo is more than halfway over, but it’s never too late to increase productivity and overcome writer’s block. By the way, if your craft is painting, or another creative outlet, these steps will still work for you.
Without a doubt, writer’s block was one of the main obstacles that stopped me from producing work. I find that one of the main reasons for writer’s block is the pesky inner critic. Mine comes in the form of self-doubt. No matter what I did, when I sat down at the computer, or with a pen and paper in hand, I was unable to gain the results I wished for. Namely, to complete a novel.
One of my very good friends, who is an amazing painter, gave me some excellent advice that changed my life. I asked her, “How do you do this? Make such amazing art? Don’t you have an inner critic? How does it not stop you?”
My friend replied, “I do have one. I hear what it says and I ignore it. I know if I don’t ignore it, I won’t get anything done.”
But how do we do that?
I’m one of those people who loves practical solutions to everyday problems. And of course, I want to reach my dream of becoming a published author. I’m sure many of us have that dream, so let’s see what we can do!
Step One: Awareness
I call the inner critic The Troll, so from here on out, I will use that term. The first thing to do is to become aware of the Troll. We sense it in our feelings and our minds, but sometimes it’s not easy to pinpoint what it says. For me, becoming aware of its negative messages is key to finding a solution. Over time, I realized there are specific ideas that the Troll repeats.
Ways the Troll manifests itself: self-doubt; anxiety; having very high expectations of ourselves and being so perfectionist that we won’t allow ourselves a junky draft; comparing our self to other writers or artists; telling ourselves that no matter what we create, it’s not good enough, etc. The list goes on and on, like a vomit ruining the internal scenery.
Who’s doing the writing? Not me, you evil Troll! All that energy spent on criticizing and judging ourselves could be used to create.
How to become aware:
Some tips that have helped me: slowing down to hear my own voice and then listening to myself. Hearing and listening are similar but different. I can hear myself, but not pay attention to what I think or feel. Also, if I have to rush around out of necessity, I will search for moments when I can slow down.
I can also do a free write, without thinking too much, to put on paper what my attitudes are. I find it very helpful to write things down. (Big surprise, huh?) It may take time, but since paying attention, I have discovered a lot about myself and what holds me back.
Step Two: Acceptance
This is the hardest step in my opinion, because often times I don’t want to accept the fact that there’s a squeaky, annoying voice chattering away in my head, driving me crazy, and making it impossible to finish anything.
In my experience, if I don’t accept that the Troll is there and the attitudes it presents, I can’t move on to step three. Something about acceptance frees me to be able to change.
Notice something interesting: the way I talk about the Troll is almost as if it’s another person, even though it’s a part of me. I know that acceptance is easier for me this way. As I become aware of the thoughts, I realize they not my true essence, not my real creative self.
My logic is that if it’s not who I really am, it’s the Troll. As an example, I’m a visual person, so make up scenarios in my head, like having a broken arm. If I see the arm is broken, I need to acknowledge it in order to go to the doctor to receive the help. If I pretend it’s not there or refuse to accept it, I will continue to have a broken arm.
I very much doubt that I will ever completely rid my thoughts of the Troll. I accept it so I can move onto the best part: doing something about it.
Step Three: Action
Now that I’ve accepted that the Troll lurks around my mind, I come up with my tools. I have various:
I pretend the Troll is an annoying kid at school and ignore him.
I realize that 99% of what the Troll says is a pack of lies anyway, so I tell myself, “Not everything I think is true. Don’t believe the Troll,” and then I ignore him.
I focus on something else that is positive in front of me. I read a message from a beneficial book, think about something a friend told me that made me feel good, watch a video that makes me laugh, or take a walk in a beautiful place. The point is, I find a way to divert my attention in order to change the Troll’s pattern. By taking a positive action, not only do I alter my thoughts, but I replace it with something better.
One last excellent maneuver to outsmart the Troll, is to make a list with two written columns: what the Troll says and then write the opposite.
Example: Troll says, “I suck, and nothing I write is good.”
Rebuttal: “I’m a great writer. Things take time and practice, and a ton of editing, but I am a great!”
Part of gathering my tools against the Troll is listening to published authors. Like Hemingway, they say the first draft is junk. They say it takes a lot of work. So when I sit down to write, I remind myself of that fact: “Scarlett, this is might be crap, and if it is, don’t get too down, just re-write until it’s better!” Then I let my little fingers get to work.
And every time the Troll pops its head up, I play Whack A Troll, and tell it to take a flying leap! And then I ignore it.
Hope these tips help you to become a more productive writer. I have worked this process several times, and repeat as necessary, but I am very happy with the results. I’m writing a vampire romance series, and am well on my way to building it up.
Back to Camp NanoWrimo. If we don’t reach this month’s word goal, we can try again during Camp Nanowrimo in July or the session in November. A third option is to join the annual Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival in January and February. For more information, see links below.
No matter what, we can’t let the Troll win! These are our dreams. And believe me, if I didn’t whack the Troll in the head, I wouldn’t have increased my productivity.
Good luck with firing the Troll and completing more work.
As always, thanks for reading,
Featured Image Courtesy of none other than, The Oatmeal!
Nanowrimo Link: http://nanowrimo.org/
Ruby-Slippered Sisterhood Winter Writing Festival: http://www.rsswwf.com/