Overcoming Psychological Issues of Being A Novelist

Update: Added an extra “ask for help section” to this post as something extra in the Daily Prompt. I was planning to do this a long time ago, but it’s only now I’ve decided to actually do it. Hope it helps out writers! 🙂

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So you’re writing a novel. That’s fantastic. You are ripping your heart out, placing it on your sleeve, ready for everyone to step and crush it. And perhaps, during that procedure of utmost pain, somebody will mend that bandaged heart until you see sunlight again.

Basically, that’s your journey. If you aren’t willing to walk on that path, I suggest writing only for yourself or close family members. Because something I will not lie to you about, is that writing is hard work with little reward (in comparison to the adversity faced). And if you are not willing to face it headfirst, I recommend, again, you take up something else.

Writing is not simple. 

It feels like it, though. Writing since you were 5, adding varieties of strange and quirky characters and watching your vocabulary expand. Your English teacher loves your work, people ask you for advice in English and you have an extensive knowledge of grammar and spelling. But that’s barely where your journey starts.

Anybody can start a novel. Throw in words, stir up sentences and completing that manuscript. It takes that-times-ten to finish that novel because, sometimes, it’s not the actual finishing of the novel which is difficult, but your insecurities bouncing out and about until you lose hope altogether.

It isn’t writer’s block (the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard) which stops you.

It is your mind.

This post focuses on the psychological side of writing. It is undoubtedly the most important part of writing, providing the writer doesn’t have any physical conditions which stops them from writing. Writing relies heavily on discipline, of sitting at a desk when you’re tired, miserable, just wanting to rest but typing away at your novel, one word at a time, towards the end. It seems simple, right?

But there always other problems. Writer problems. And they are the ones addressed below.

P: I feel so lousy when I’m writing a novel. Like there’s no sense of direction. Why haven’t I felt this before? 

The problem with novels is, they take longer than any other sort of writing type. Therefore, they are the most common source of feeling low self-esteem throughout a long period of time. With poems, you can trash it immediately. Same with stories with a low word-count.

But novels, you are heistant. And it’s this hesitancy which makes you think: should I continue?

P: The starting is kinda lacking, the characters don’t work and there’s something… wrong. I think I should give up this novel.

This is where you have a choice. Don’t give up. Never give up on your work. You won’t achieve perfection until you edit. You can’t edit until you write. And you definitely, absolutely and positively, can’t publish an unfinished manuscript.

It’s all a train of concepts, one leading to the other, and the message is simple: write. Write horribly, write untl the words make absolutely no sense and you cry because your written “craft” is worse than the worst book in the world.

And then edit. Edit it until it’s perfect. Edit until your characters bounce off your page, the dialogue sparkles and your prose is flawless.

P. I should probably switch to another project. 

Perhaps that project is better. But you know what? You won’t finish that one either if you rely on perfection. And if you rely on perfection, you will be one of those writers who start the beginning of a million stories but never finish them.

Over the course of my years, I’ve met many people who’ve started writing novels but haven’t finished them. Only three people —three– of them have actually finished one. And basically everyone I know has attempted, so that’s approximately 3 against 500.

My point is, you are never quite a novelist until you finish a novel. I don’t mean to be harsh, but the chances of publishing an unfinished manuscript is zero. And it’s until you finish that novel, become the absolute minority of the people who’ve finished a novel, that’s when you will find the confidence needed to drive forward.

P: I don’t feel inspired to write. I used to, but now, it feels as if I’m forcing myself.

Here’s the thing: writing is forcing yourself. You may disagree with this statement, scowling at the computer screen. Which is fine. But there will come a time where you aren’t inspired anymore. That doesn’t mean you stop writing; it means you use discipline to force yourself on the seat.

All that talk about inspiration is overrated. That “urge to write” is valued, but not always needed. Sometimes, you just need to write for the sake of writing.

And under those circumstances, I haven’t been inspired for years. And writer’s block? I believe it’s a myth for slouchers. 😉 Rather, writing about looking for inspiration by yourself and using whatever’s thrown at you.

But if you are still stuck:

http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

See that “Dare Machine”? Lifesaver. Helps me out in all kinds of situations.

P. I just don’t want to write.

Don’t worry. And don’t be ashamed, because everyone’s been there. Here are some tips to overcome this obstacle:

Use the pomorado technique. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Write. Take a break for 5 minutes. Let the cycle continue until you’ve reached your forth pomorado, where you are enabled to take a 15 minute break. Most effective technique, in my opinion.

Listen to instrumental music. There’s something soothing about wordless melodies. In fact, I have a whole instrumental playlist which I simply couldn’t live without. Click here to be led to my YouTube playlist. 

Outline what you’re going to write. Part of writing something is being excited about it. Whenever I am in a slouch, just don’t want to write, or have a million other things I’d rather be doing, I sit down and jot down key events of what’s going to happen in that chapter. Sometimes, it leads me to think of the rest of the novel; and suddenly, I have “created” inspiration.

And lastly,

Mutitask. Yes, I have said it. But please keep this to a bare minimum, as the work you produce here won’t be the “best” of a first draft. You may have to disregard more writing if you aren’t concentrating solely on your manuscript. However, this is perfect on those I-want-to-write-but-also-something-else occasions. Watch television, have the radio in the background, watch YouTube videos… it’s all up to you. It gets rid of that haunting silence, and may just be what you need to walk a step further.

P. I just don’t feel like I can do it alone. Writing is a very lonely process, you know?

Yes, I do know. Writing is extremely uplifting and relaxing, but simultaneously, it can lower spirits when you recognise the amount of time you spend typing, rewriting, imagining characters… and then finding reality hit you again. Suddenly, you feel exhausted. Doubtful. And extremely, utterly lonely.

One of the best advice I can offer you is to socialise with other writers. Don’t try and burden it all on yourself. Discuss your characters, problems and little things with somebody else. It will boost your confidence, help you find new like-minded friends and develop your story with increasing optimism. Places I recommend include Wattpad (if you are a teenager), Authonomy (for adults), Absolute Write Forums (forums for all writers), Figment (for teens who are serious about writing).

I understand that most people fear submitting work online. That’s fine; don’t submit anything if you’re not comfortable with it. All the sites I’ve mentioned above do not require you to upload a story. If you are stuck on a title for your book, a specific word, ways of developing characters and general things, I recommend social networking as a brilliant resource.

Also, getting assigned in a “cabin” at Camp NaNoWriMo is also a positive (it’s where the site randomly puts you in groups and you can “chat” to each other. All the people I’ve met with are supportive, friendly and absolutely lovely). I’ve met so many wonderful people from there; definitely a recommendation. Along with NaNoWriMo and YWP NaNoWriMo (other branches).

*

If you have any issues that I haven’t addressed, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And I wrote this post for the Daily Prompt, because my “Helping Hand” was little schoolwork, amazing critiques on the internet, libraries, writing guides and inspiration as the “odd” way of helping me out. Because all these factors, had even one not been available, would result in me being a completely different person.

Note: Just realised I submitted to the Daily Prompt twice. Oops! 😛

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