It’s 9:47 PM, and I have only written 1,172 words in the past 58 minutes. I feel like I am running at 100 mph with a two-ton weight chained to my leg. I feel like I am not getting anywhere, and I feel like I am going unbelievably slow. The funny thing is I know I am not going that slow. In fact, looking at my spreadsheet (which you can read more about here “tracking your progress,”) I know I am doing far better than I was three weeks ago. I used to write at about 500 – 600 words per hour, and now on a bad night, like tonight, I’m still hitting 1234 words per hour.
Maybe it is just because I had a few days where I was close to 2,000 words per hour. It felt like the words were flying off my fingers faster than I could type, except my hands somehow were keeping up with my mind, which was a great feeling. So when my hands are outpacing my thoughts I guess that makes things feel a bit slower. Well before writing this post, I told myself I should think positive, instead of thinking of the negative things which sometimes haunt my mind. Things like, I’m bad at this, or my manuscript must suck, or why even bother. Instead, I told myself to focus on the things I know I am good at, what my beta readers have told me I am good at, and as it turns out, UNC agrees with that idea.
“Writing anxiety” and “writer’s block” are informal terms for a wide variety of apprehensive and pessimistic feelings about writing. These feelings may not be pervasive in a person’s writing life. For example, you might feel perfectly fine writing a biology lab report but apprehensive about writing a paper on a novel.
You may struggle when you are:
- adjusting to a new form of writing—for example, first year college writing, papers in a new field of study, or longer forms than you are used to (a long research paper, a senior thesis, a master’s thesis, a dissertation) (Hjortshoj 56-76).
- writing for a reader or readers who have been overly critical or demanding in the past.
- remembering negative criticism received in the past—even if the reader who criticized your work won’t be reading your writing this time.
- working with limited time or with a lot of unstructured time.
- responding to an assignment that seems unrelated to academic or life goals.
- dealing with troubling events outside of school.
This is how I was feeling. I was fine working on my world building, I was making excel sheets left and right first the word count tracker, and then a fictional language creator/manager (more on that in the new few days) but when I sat down with my manuscript, working on a chapter that I had been excited to write, had plotted ou from beginning to end, it just seemed that nothing was going to come of it. I knew I needed to fix that.
Identify your strengths
What was I good at, well my beta readers, who I have begged and pleaded with to give me as brutal of feedback as they can, have told me many good things. Such as I can paint the scene for them where they feel like they are there. They can picture every detail and get sucked into the story. They love the descriptions I use, the way I link the plot together. So while I might have some work to do on characterization (I’m doing a lot better, I promise) I don’t need to focus on that right now. Not that I don’t need to improve, but if it makes me feel like crap and stops me in my tracks, I can focus on the positive for now, and tackle the hard stuff tomorrow.
So what are your strengths? UNC gives some great examples. Maybe you
- explain things well to people
- get people’s interest.
- have strong opinions.
- listen well.
- am critical of what I read.
- see connections.
Whatever it is you do well, focus on that when you feel like you’re up against at an emotional wall. Don’t let your inner editor and critic tell you that you suck, tonight, they suck.