I was recently contacted by someone who had read my book How Stories Really Work (‘Absolutely amazing stuff,’ they said. ‘Eyeopening. It completely enriched my perspective on stories and fiction. Everywhere I look in storytelling I see it work.’ But this isn’t about my book.)
They had also read my free e-book Your Biggest Challenge as a Writer and it was to do with that that they wanted some advice.
Their problem was that they somehow had huge difficulty actually putting themselves in a chair to write. They had time, opportunity, ideas and even a starting point, with about 8 chapters already on paper — but they still felt a strong reluctance to get on with it. In the book, I write that lack of time is one of the biggest barriers for a writer, but even on completely free days this person felt a reluctance to write and would end up on Youtube or even just staring blankly out of the window.
For them, the hesitation felt like a sort of fear, a doubt or even hopelessness and was strong enough at times to form an almost physical barrier. It stopped them from writing despite a strong desire they cherished to become a bestselling author.
Because of this issue they were either easily distracted by life, or fell into the trap of constantly editing what they had already written.
They wanted my advice on how to feel eager to write instead of feeling repulsed. How could they actually achieve this? How could they beat this barrier?
This was my reply:
Many thanks for your compliments about my book, which seems to have been well-received all over the world.
On your difficulty, I can only make a light suggestion.
Instead of tackling the whole problem as one big thing, try this: set up your area to write as though you were going to sit down and write a novel — then walk away and do something else.
On the following day (or later that same day if you wish) repeat the action, but this time actually sit in the chair for one minute. Then go off and do something else.
Next time, do the same thing, but on this occasion pick up your pen (or start your computer or whatever you use) but then be sure to go off and do something else.
On the following occasion, do the above but make sure that you write one or two sentences of the most boring stuff you can imagine: a shopping list, or a list of the most boring things in the room, or something utterly dull. Then close the laptop or put away the pen or whatever and go and do something else.
Try this for a week and let me know what happens.
If you are facing a similar problem, try this for yourself and let me know how you go. (One day I'll tell you what this has to do with my encounter with Monty Roberts, famous as the Horse Whisperer.)