Persistence, Perspective, and Fun: Working Through Writing Challenges


by Christine Hennebury

Writing can be a lot of fun but it also involves a lot of hard work. If you find ways to add fun while sticking to your project, you’ll be a lot more satisfied with your progress.  

When we first imagine ourselves as writers, we envision fun things like best-selling books, talk show circuits, and piles of cash. Or, at least, we imagine ourselves triumphantly writing the perfect scene.  We don’t envision the days that we sit in front of the computer struggling with a single sentence.  

When we do consider those days, the ones where writing is hard but we have to do it anyway, writing becomes a job instead of a hobby.  That can be helpful for taking ourselves seriously but it can take away some of the fun.

When our fun levels drop, we start to avoid writing.

 

Since the world needs our words,  we need to find ways to add more fun and to increase our persistence. Here are a few tips that can help:

 

1) Add Something Fun

When you reach a part of your writing process that doesn’t thrill you, see what you can do to make it more fun. For example, you may not enjoy editing but there may be ways to make it more fun.  Perhaps you could print your manuscript  in your favorite color, or by using a colored pen. Or  you could play special music,  or have a specific snack (or drink) while you do certain tasks.  You could even try doing  those tasks in a different place – my hammock makes an excellent revision spot.

Some writers even find it useful to have one specific spot for writing and another one for revising. And they have both decorated to match the ‘mood’ of the task.

The key here is to add a layer of enjoyment that helps bring you back to a challenge task. It doesn’t matter how weird that layer is, as long as you enjoy it!

2) Change Your Perspective

I’m not going to suggest that everything will become magically fun as long as you have the right attitude. However, if you consider certain aspects of writing to be dreadful, and you dwell on it, you will keep dreading them. So, you have to find a way to change your approach and make things easier on yourself.

When I need a change, I often find it useful to ‘reframe and rename’ my frustrating tasks. For example:  I like to think of reviewing my first drafts as part of my ‘montage’ – you know, the series of quick scenes in movies between the ‘before’ and ‘after’- it helps me keep that part of the work in perspective.

If you think of revising as ‘cutting through the jungle’ or editing as ‘polishing your brilliance’, it gives you a new way to look at it. If you call your plotting process ‘my evil plan’ or ‘drawing a treasure map’, it can help you have a bit more fun.

 

3)  Plan Lots of Rewards

When my coaching clients are struggling, I tell them to reverse their reward ratio.  So, instead of earning a 10 minute break after an hour of writing, they give themselves an hour off after 10 minutes of writing.  It seems counterproductive at first but it keeps you moving forward until you reach a part that you enjoy.  Just make sure to pack that hour full of things that make you happy.

If time off doesn’t motivate you, pick another reward that will draw you through the work process. Again, it doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it serves you well.

 

4) Alternate (Or Take A Day Off)

While there is a sort of virtue to be found in slogging through the hard stuff, you don’t have to do all the hard stuff at once. You can alternate between challenging work and the more enjoyable pieces on any given day. Or, you can just take a day off from whatever tasks you struggle with and only do the fun parts of your writing project that day.

Feel free to add unnecessary fun bits when you can, too. If you enjoy imagining what your characters would do in a restaurant, or, at a party, feel free to write that. Even if it doesn’t make it into your final manuscript, it still gives you information about your characters and moves you forward. Anything that keeps you writing is a good thing.

 

5) Accept That There Are Hard Parts (I Know, I Hate That, Too)

Good writing is work. There are lots of fun parts and there is victory at the end, but it is work. Even once you made it more fun, you still might not want to work on some parts. That’s when acceptance can come in.

This is the point where you say ‘This is boring and I am doing it anyway.’

Usually, once you get started, you will find it is not as awful as it seemed. I find the *idea* of some aspects of writing far harder than the actual task. Once I actually start working, the task is far less intimidating.

Another aspect of acceptance is to remember that this frustration just might be part of *your* writing process. To use an example from another context: I like to travel but all the preparatory work. Ensuring that I have all the details in place is stressful, no matter how fun the trip will be. There is a point in every travel plan in which I decide that it would be easier not to go at all.

I used to think that the feeling was a sign that I shouldn’t go but now I know –  it’s part of my preparation process. This is a feeling that surfaces for me when I am trying to work on something that has a lot of detailed parts. It doesn’t mean anything, it’s not a sign, it’s just part of the process. That means that when it arises, I can recognize it, take a deep breath (or seven) and keep working until it passes.

You can do the same thing with your reluctance to do certain types of writing work. If you don’t give the feeling any extra meaning, you can accept it and keep writing.

We all have parts of the writing process that are challenging for us. It’s completely normal. Once we make those challenging parts easier on ourselves, we will be able to get through them more quickly.

The next time you are staring down your writing nemesis, try some of the tips in this post and they should help you keep working, and, turn your nemesis into one of  your allies.


Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her  hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her writing & coaching at www.christinehennebury.com  or visit her on Facebook .

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