Our Inner Critic – always on the job. Painting by Wayne White

My house is straightened and the sinks wiped clean. I’ve been out for breakfast and played several games of solitaire. Now I’m writing here, instead of writing what I would consider “my work.” To be fair, I’m really excited to write this post and explore:

What does it take to overcome resistance and write?

It’s like the old question – how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie PopThe world may never know. (Use the link to watch the 1970 commercial, if you’re feeling nostalgic – especially if you have something important you should be writing. Go on. It’s only 1:01 minute. ) What does it take to sit down and write? I asked six writers what it takes for them to get down to what they consider their “real work.” And many of their responses could have come right out of my mouth! See if you have similar inner resistance to writing the important stuff.

Are you a writer who isn’t writing?

The people I interviewed raised their hands and said YES to that question. Are you a writer who isn’t writing? For starters – let me describe my five women ages 42 – 64 and one man, aged 53. Four are married, one divorced and engaged to be remarried, one single. Three have kids, one has new step-kids, and two have no kids. Income ranges from less than $50K a year (1 person) to $50-100K (3 people) and above $100 K (2 people). Their collective writing experience ranged from someone who feels strongly like she should write a memoir (but hasn’t started) to people who write all day, write for a living, but aren’t letting themselves write what they think they must write, to one published short story author, who’s shopping a finished novel. You may see yourself in these demographics, and as you can tell, this is a totally unscientific poll – just a tiny look at some persevering souls, who willingly answered my request to talk about what it takes for them to sit down and WRITE. I agreed to keep their answers anonymous so they could speak freely. I asked 6 people 5 questions, so there are plenty of insights ahead.

Writers want to write

  1. What would you give anything to have or be in relation to your writing. What is the dream come true? 
  • “… to have one of my books published; to be a writer with a capital ‘W'”
  • “I’d just like to have the time. I’m actually confident I can write.”
  • “I would like to form a writers’ group and schedule time daily for serious writing.”
  • “… to write a book that is really inspiring, a bestseller, with wide appeal, that changes the way people think.”
  • “… to be highly followed.”
  • “… to have more time to focus on writing”

2. What are the three biggest challenges you face when you try to write?

  • “Being chicken shit!”
  • “Focus – not time. Too many ideas, too many distractions”
  • “I wish I could just silence my inner critic – lock her under the stairs. She’s constantly nagging me – too much competition out there. I’m not good enough. I never could write like that.”
  • “Far too many ideas – it’s too hard. I can’t choose just one.”
  • “Spread too thin.”
  • ” I have low stakes writing and high stakes writing. I can publish a blog post without a thought.  My own memoir, however, is blocked because of my beliefs: I have to get it right. Can I properly honor the path? It’s all or nothing.”
  • “…not having a clear idea of what my work is and a fear of having nothing worthwhile to say.”
  • “Anxiety. Focus. Choosing just one idea. Too many ideas.”
  • “…finding time and ignoring distractions. Getting over the hump – getting started.”
  • “… lack of confidence and possibly lack of training about plotting, characters and storytelling.”
  • “Once I have a first draft, I don’t want to do anything else but work on it. I have trouble with on or off. I only want to work on the draft – ignoring my other responsibilities.”
  • “I don’t want to disappear and be lost.”

Not writing wreaks havoc on your life.

3. What are the symptoms of these challenges? How do they show up in your life and writing?

  • “Cluttered environment, cluttered brain.”
  • “Dithering … looking on the Internet.”
  • “Feeling overwhelmed”
  • “Avoidance and procrastination”
  • “Countering anxiety with Facebook instead of getting into flow state”
  • “Beating up on myself.”
  • “…guilty. Just sitting there.”
  • “Feeling sad, worried, asking myself ‘is this real?'”
  • “Not writing anything”
  • “…feels icky in my stomach”
  • “…disconnected from myself”
  • “My heart races, right through my chest.”
  • “I have a sense of uncertainty. I dread looking at the work and have to force myself to climb the mountain again (of resistance) and reengage.”
  • “Sometimes, I’m stuck. I need to sleep on it.”

4. How would you describe these feelings and challenges to a friend?

  • “I lie. I tell them I’m writing.”
  • “I have trouble knowing if I’m being realistic about when I’m actually being lazy, and when I’m constructively resting.”
  • “FB – and really interesting essays – are my drug of choice right now.”
  • ” I don’t talk to anyone about it. It’s my problem to solve.”
  • “I jump from hyper focus to poor focus for any task I don’t want to do or am afraid to do.”
  • “I wish I didn’t have to work.”
  • “I wish I knew what I wanted to be when I grow up.”
  • “I’m not patient with myself or my writing.”
  • “What if I let myself down?”
  • “I’m frustrated, unmotivated, lost interest in my creativity.”
  • “I’ve tried so many times, I’ve given up talking to friends about it.”
  • “What sucks is: How I feel about my writing is how I feel about my life.”
  • “For me to write my memoir, I’d need a pseudonym and a witness protection program.”

Even though it’s painful, costly and an enduring problem, most writers don’t even know they can get help – not with their writing, but with their writers’ block!

5. Have you gotten professional help? And if not, why not?

  • “Not for the emotional side of writing. I’ve signed up for writing courses at the local college.”
  • “I’m already trying to do too many things.”
  • “I have help – a reliable first reader and an accountability buddy.”
  • “I don’t want help until I’m committed to writing.”
  • “Never sought help for writer’s block.”
  • “I’ve had lots of (life) coaching, so I feel like I should be able to figure it out myself.”
  • “I don’t really have time for help. I should just be writing.”
  • “I should try something free first, like a meetup group or a writing group at the library.”
  • “I have no idea where I’d turn. Who could even help me with something like this?”

These are the questions and the verbatim answers. Writers need to write. We worry about whether we write well – craft – instead of how to overcome resistance and just write! We seek help from writing groups and other writers who might just lie, and say they’re writing or not share how they’re feeling or what’s standing in their way.

We feel it is our sole responsibility to overcome resistance and sit down and write. And it is. No one can do that for you. But there’s help!

And yet, you write better when you feel better about your writing. You live better when you’re writing. And in order to write better, there’s help. Not just help in your craft, but help for your internal challenges as well. Ask yourself: Why do we all have resistance? Why do we gravitate to slightly different scripts? When does our writing habit fail? Which part of the process? Writers need a lot of time alone, to write. This is not the same as having to do everything and figure out everything alone and without help.

I’m a writing & creativity coach and I am 100% focused on your internal landscape, your creative personality, pressures, and process. Email me at julia[at]decodingcreativity.com and let’s see if I can help you write with more confidence, joy and presence.