Today I’ve got a guest post from Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur on common writing problems. He is one of my favorite people to learn from and I’m so happy to have him here!
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Have you ever faced a truly frustrating writing problem?
Sometimes, we face challenges in our writing which can leave us stuck, frustrated and unsure of the best way forward.
The type of problems we face depend upon our chosen project and the stage of the writing process we are at.
Even though it might not always feel like it, there is always someone who has been through the same challenge as you, found a way to overcome it, and is now ready and willing to share their wisdom to help you through your own situation.
But how do we find these people and tap into their ideas?
One of my personal favorite ways of learning solutions to writing problems is by listening to podcasts.
Podcasts are great because –
- You can enjoy them on the go, meaning a session at the gym, drive to work or time spent waiting in line is an opportunity to learn
- Podcasts let you enjoy the personality of the teacher in a way which isn’t always possible with written content
- You can use time spent listening to podcasts as a way to get away from the screen and enjoy information in a different format
I’ll now share with you three of the best podcasts for writers as well as a quote from each. I’ve expanded upon the advice to help you find solutions to common but infuriating challenges.
How to Solve Three Common Writing Problems
Beating Writer’s Block – Create If Writing Podcast, Episode 14
What Is Writer’s Block?
The issue of writer’s block is a controversial topic within the self-publishing world. On the one hand, some people firmly feel it exists and it holds back their work. On the other, some writers feel there is no such thing, and it’s actually a collection of problems.
Regardless of the writer’s block debate, there is no denying that there are times when writing feels about as easy as drawing blood from a stone.
Some of the symptoms of the writer’s block sickness include –
- Feeling unable to get words down on the page
- Judging our own writing in our mind
- Self-editing to the point of unproductivity
- A feeling of creative sluggishness and self-doubt
Overcoming Writer’s Block
So what can Create If Writing teach us about overcoming writer’s block?
Podcast Quote – “It’s basically just to take away the white space on the paper and put words on there. Editing is where I go back and make everything polished and beautiful. Getting it on the page gives me something to work with and brings out some things that I may not have known were there.”
The above quote is Kirsten outlining what she calls her “vomit version”!
Rather than trying to write something careful and crafted on your first attempt, allow your brain to “vomit” all over the page! Take away that white space with whatever is on your mind and you can come back and make it better later.
Some of Kirsten’s tips for this include –
- Not writing in full. You can make brief notes for some sections, and add a reminder to yourself to come back later and make changes
- No judgement! Just get the words down without any expectation of quality and use it as a foundation to build upon.
If you’re anything like me, often the hardest part of writing is getting started. By following the vomit version tactic explained above, you can start with freedom and confidence and build upon it later.
Other ways of overcoming writer’s block include –
- Changing your writing environment. Sometimes, a new environment leads to new ideas.
- Setting a simple writing goal like ‘write for 5 minutes’ or ‘write 50 words’. The low pressure nature of the goal will often trick you into continuing and writing far more than your minimum target.
- Writing in a different way. Writing by hand uses different parts of the brain than typing and is a way to kickstart your creativity.
If you’ve had success overcoming writer’s block, please feel free to share your tips in the comments!
Finding Inspiration – Writing Excuses, 10.1
Have You Ever Felt Uninspired?
Inspiration can be thought of as the fuel on which our writing runs.
Sometimes, we feel overwhelmed with inspiration, and have a huge variety of topics and ideas in mind to write about.
Other times, we might feel totally devoid of ideas. It can feel like everything worth reading has already been written, and we have nothing to contribute.
Thankfully, we live in a world abundant with sources of inspiration.
How To Feel Inspired
The Writing Excuses Podcast puts forward the following tip for injecting inspiration into your work.
Podcast Quote – “I’ll be working on a piece, and I’ll consume some piece of media, I’ll read a book, watch a movie, or just be thinking about some of my favorites and I’ll think Wow, I wish I could do something like that.”
It might sound obvious, but when we’re stuck in the depths of uninspiration, it’s always worth remembering our fellow artists and creative souls might be able to spark something in us.
It sounds counterintuitive, but often turning towards a type of media different from what you’re working on can really help. For example, if you’re having trouble writing dialogue within a particular genre, consider watching a film or TV show of that same genre, rather than reading an example of it. The very act of hearing the rhythm and tone of the speech can inject life and zest into your written dialogue.
Some other ways of finding inspiration include –
- Reading your past work. Sometimes, the very act of remembering you are capable of producing awesome writing kickstarts your present efforts
- Try a writing exercise. Treating writing like a fun game can put you in a flow state and let you experience the freedom to then write what you want.
- Call upon your heroes. If there is a piece of music, or poem, that puts you in a state of awe, spending some time enjoying it can reawaken your own inspiration
If you have a go-to tip for times where you feel uninspired, I’d love to hear it!
Balancing Writing and Editing – The Creative Penn Podcast
Do You Edit Your Own Work?
In the words of Stephen King, ‘to write is human, to edit is divine’.
Perhaps more than anything else, the difference between quality and low-quality writing comes down to the editing. I always urge authors to see editing as a worthwhile investment, and one of the most effective uses of money for their work.
However, the next best thing to hiring a pro editor is editing your own work after writing. In fact, even if you do make use of a separate editor, it’s likely you’ll edit your own work to improve upon your initial draft.
It can be difficult to find the right balance between writing and editing when you are working on your own projects.
The Right Way To Balance Editing and Writing
The following quote is taken from Joanna Penn’s ‘Creative Penn’ podcast interview with Steve Parolini.
Podcast Quote – “A lot of people just say write your book without your editorial hat on, and I agree, just write it, that’s the best approach, just write it out, everything you say is gold. The second time through, everything is suspect. Everything is subject to change. Be tough on the writer.”
This advice is more than just practical. It offers an appropriate state of mind for each stage of the writing and editing process. The usual advice is to not judge your initial writing. This takes it a step further and instead forces you to see your initial work in a positive light. Then, when it’s time to edit, the mentality is flipped, and you must harshly consider the suitability of each and every word.
Some other ways to balance writing and editing include –
- Writing and editing in a different software environment. Making this change can cause you to see your work in a different way than if you simply reopen the same document in the same app.
- Leaving a period of time between writing and editing. Stephen King suggests letting your work sit in a draw (or in a computer file) for a period of time before reading it again. He suggests this allows your subconscious to work on the story on your behalf in the meantime.
- Having a strict schedule for when to write and when to edit. If you have a defined number of drafts, or steps in the process, it’s as simple as executing the program. You won’t waste energy and creativity deciding whether it’s time to write or edit.
What kind of struggles do you have with writing and editing, and what approaches have you found to cope with them? Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know!
Writing Podcast Wrap Up
Hopefully you now have three awesome podcasts to delve deep into and three workable solutions to three common writing problems you’re likely to face.
In summary –
- Beat writer’s block by employing the ‘vomit version’ and battling the enemy of too much white space on the page
- Turn to inspiring art when you are lacking creativity. Consider types of media different from what you are working on.
- See writing and editing as important but distinct tasks which must be approached separately and with the right mindset for each.
There you have it, three of my favorite podcasts and a golden nugget of writing wisdom from each.
I’d absolutely love to hear from you in the comments with any of your favorite podcasts or solutions to the problems discussed in this article!
Dave Chesson is the creator of Kindlepreneur, where he helps writers with their Kindle e-book marketing. He is also the host of the Book Marketing Podcast, where authors can learn practical tips to sell more books. I love this episode on Keywords for Nonfiction and Fiction Authors! He also has a great free course on AMS Ads for Amazon that I can personally tell you is GREAT!