Here we continue our look at the main challenges writers face and what you can do to help yourself deal with them. This list is extracted from Living the Writer’s Life by Eric Maisel, and it isn’t exhaustive. You won’t experience all of these and you may have other challenges that aren’t on the list. I’ve broken it down into several chunks for easy reading – in this part: the letter C!
Career: Locate an honest writer who’s published a lot. Listen to her explanations. Consider them seriously. Take notes. Find a second writer. Are they saying the same things? Now you have something to go on.
Chaos: Make ‘to do’ lists on erasable boards. Pull the essentials out of the chaos. Lock onto your current writing idea and don’t let go until it has grown whole and beautiful.
Commercialism: Leave this culture or surrender to commercialism. Here, everything you write is a product with a target audience. Your publisher is selling. You are selling. Keep as much of your honour and dignity as you can, but recognise that here, words go to market.
Community: Form a writing group whose central goal is the support of its members. If the first one doesn’t work, start a second. Make some writing friends, meet at least once a month, taste a little community.
Completion: Don’t shrug away the fact that you’re not completing things. Say, “I’m anxious but I will finish.” Get to the last sentence of the last page of the last revision. Then launch your piece into the marketplace.
Compromises: Let go of the idea that an ethical person never compromises. Draw a line in the sand over which you won’t cross, but don’t draw it right at your feet.
Compulsions: Get very quiet, quieter than you’ve ever gotten before. Whisper to your compulsion, “You are the master right now, but I am charting a course of emancipation.” Then chart it.
Concentration: Block out some time. Find a quiet place. Go there. Do some work. Stay there for hours.
Conflict: Name the conflict out loud. “I want to write but I’m scared I’m untalented.” “I want to sell this story but I’m tired of rejection.” Always name the conflict; that helps it drain. Unnamed conflicts fester.
Craft: Write a lot. A lot. Don’t say that you’re unable to craft beautiful things until you’ve given yourself years of trying. Don’t say it even then! Your first piece may be grand; but what if the grand piece is destined to be your ninth, and you stop at eight? What then?
Criticism: Build a six-foot by six-foot concrete pad in your backyard** and when some criticism rocks you, go stand on your pad. Feel its solidity. Let the tremors subside and then ask yourself, “Is there something in this criticism I need to hear or should I just chuck it?”
**my note: or better still, go find some proper actual earth to stand on.
Cynicism: Be a cynic. But be careful. Cynicism is a greased pole on the way to nihilism. Are you sliding? Drop the cynicism and acknowledge the pain and anger underneath.
Next time: the letters D to I!
Read the whole list here