Oof: 6 Daily Struggles Writers and Creatives Face and How to Overcome Them
The ugly truth about being a writer—or indeed having any kind of creative vocation at all—is that practically every day brings you face to face with one or more ways you've failed to actually do the thing you’re supposed to love the most.
As any creative knows, these confrontations tend to present themselves as a gathering cloud of quiet self-talk that eventually spirals into complete inactivity. It starts with, “I’m exhausted. I’ll write tomorrow instead,” slides quickly into “I’ll finally submit this piece once I’ve edited it one more time,” before becoming the full-throttle “I’ll just watch this one last fifteen-minute YouTube video re: the Top Ten Cutest Celebrity Pregnancy Announcements and then I’ll get back to work.,” most often followed immediately by an inescapable bout of self-loathing as you watch yet another exposé on which Kardashian wore their bump best.
Whatever this looks like in your own life, it’s a struggle we all feel to some degree (no matter how highbrow our cultural tastes most of the time . . .). Even celebrated Irish novelist James Joyce had a troublesome creative process at times and, as un-relatable as he may be, his description of said struggle rings true: “My head is full of pebbles and rubbish and broken matches and bits of glass picked up ‘most everywhere.’”
If you, like our friend Joyce, have ever felt like your head is full of stuff you can find on the sidewalk; that your process isn’t processing; or you’re just having trouble doing any-damn-thing at all, here are six daily struggles you can probably relate to—and ways to overcome them.
Self-doubt is the kryptonite that prevents us writers from giving our own work a chance to flourish out in the world. First thing’s first: recognize that this is part of being creative. If Flannery O’Connor and Neil Gaiman have experienced bouts of self-doubt (yes, it’s true), then chances are so will you. It comes with the territory of pursuing a vocation with endless variations around a single craft; what you produce will be different from what anyone else has done, and while that’s a goal, it isn’t exactly comforting. Sometimes I look at my own work and can’t help but compare it to the Twilight fanfiction I wrote circa 2008, and the truth is some of it might be just as tragic and unapologetically horny . . . but what better way to improve one’s skill than to practice, practice, practice? And that goes for self-doubt, too: practice accepting it and letting it go, rather than allowing it to negatively affect what you create.
When we feel we aren’t producing our best work we can often be led down the bleak passage of complete avoidance. Rather than staying stagnant, switch tracks and work on something else. It could be as simple as doing a few online exercises to rid yourself of the writer’s block, tending to a side project, or becoming one of the committed people who actually write Amazon reviews. Just keep working and eventually you’ll re-find your flow.
Finding the Time
Like many people, though I would love to work as a writer full time, it’s just not in the cards at the moment, which means balancing the work I do to pay my bills with my creative pursuits. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to come home from a nine-to-five and plant yourself in front of another desk and a whole other world of work. The solution: schedule a few hours two or three times a week that are designated to pursuing your craft, whether that be writing, editing, or submitting. Treat this time like you would a shift at your other job or an obligatory holiday dinner with your extended family. At least you don’t have to wear a bra for this.
The world is designed to distract us and keep us from doing the thing we said we set out to do. Sure, you can download apps that block your access to certain social media sites, but I’m of the belief that we can curb these habits without such intervention. It begins with setting goals for those allotted weekly sessions and making productivity a game. Take breaks, but only after a certain amount of work has been done, a new word count has been achieved, or you’ve submitted to x amount of journals or competitions without