You’re not writing?
Join the club. I’ve heard (and experienced) every reason to delay starting, finishing and sharing your writing.
So, whether you’re a blank-page daydreamer, a perfection-or-bust revisionist, or a share/send button avoider, I’m calling out your writing demons. Instead of self-doubt spirals and grammar cold sweats, here are got some productive, practical ideas to get out of your own way and get writing, already!
1. I’m not a writer.
Do you write emails? Social media posts? How about blogs? Do you ever have to produce reports or case studies?
Then you are a writer. Maybe not a professional writer. But you don’t have to be Seth Godin or Zadie Smith to count.
Writers write. Period.
2. I’m not creative.
I respectfully disagree. Creativity is an innate human trait. Some people are just more experienced at channelling it, such as artists, designers and other so-called “creatives” who make living turning ideas into products or services.
Despite the creative camps, there’s no real divide. When you make something, you are creating. And we are all creating all the time, from the personal narrative constantly running in our minds, to dinner, to a PowerPoint for work.
And this might be controversial, but I think creativity in writing is seriously overrated, especially for business or professional writing. The best writers have a worker-like approach to the job, treating it more as a craft than an art. So don’t worry if you’re not feeling inspired or original. Just get to work.
3. I don’t know where to start.
This is a tough one.
So just start anywhere.
Don’t worry about the perfect opener. You can always move things around later or delete the weak bits. Start in the middle. Start at the end. Start with a line, a word, or an idea. Then keep going.
4. I don’t have any good ideas.
Yes, you do.
You probably just haven’t developed a system to capture them. We have a near-constant stream of ideas all day, every day. But because they are trapped in our heads, where they seem banal and obvious, we assume they’re lame.
As a young journalist, I’d practically have a nervous breakdown before story pitch meetings. I felt that I needed an epic idea to dazzle my editors. Nope. Just a question worth exploring in 500 words.
You, too, can cultivate your story chops. Pay attention. Be curious. Ask, what does that mean? Or, why does everyone in my industry do this? Or, why does this thing bug me?
Then capture your questions or observations in a notebook, voice memo, or email to yourself – whatever works for you.
5. I don’t know the rules.
Good news: you don’t have to!
For starters, writing rules are made to be broken. Some of the most interesting, original writing pays scant heed to the laws of proper grammar. And if you’re writing’s strong, no one’s going to stress over your incorrect semicolon use.
So quiet your inner English teacher, and just … write!
(And if you want some grammar backup, Grammarly is a great tool for flagging problems).
6. I don’t like writing.
My 11-year-old son hates doing things he’s not good at, which, unfortunately, due to his relative youth and inexperience, are numerous.
Feeling green and unskilled is not fun, almost by definition. I think most people who hate writing dislike it because they don’t do it much. So they avoid it. And without practice, it never gets easier, which makes them dislike it more. And the cycle of not liking writing perpetuates.
But I’ve also noticed, from watching my son, that practice pays when it comes to new skills, and that the learning curve from noob to natural is quite steep.
So whether it’s learning to make an omelette, play tennis, or write something that doesn’t feel like torture, keep at it. It does get easier and, eventually, maybe even enjoyable.
7. I don’t have time.
Writing is important.
8. I don’t need to write.
Do you need to communicate ideas? Do you have to promote your products or services? Must you maintain relationships? Want to document events and ideas?
Then you need to write.
9. I’m not interesting.
That’s not for you to say.
Interest, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. And almost everyone dismisses the value of their lived experience and ability to share it in writing. They think they don’t have a story worth sharing because they don’t have anything epic to tell.
But stories are simply about change. That change can be internal or external. And it can be a seemingly little, everyday occurrence.
Your experiences and ideas have value. And there are people who want to hear them.
10. Everything’s been done.
This summer, in Charlottetown, I went to see Van Gogh 360º, an immersive art experience I found quite moving and poignant. I was struck by the contrast between the artist’s distress and despair and the and bold, singular beauty of how he depicted the world around him. Imagine if Van Gogh hadn’t painted The Starry Night or Sunflowers. What reproduction art poster would millions of college students hang on their walls then?
So why are you hiding your light?
I mean, sure, you and I aren’t likely to revolutionize the western art canon, but we all have a perspective, a unique view that is entirely ours. We can all share that. What you make will, by definition, be new because it’s never been done by you before. So get writing!
So there you have it, my roundup of the Top 10 barriers to writing.
Do you see yourself in there? Did my rebuttals help move you to consider getting writing? Let me know! And if you’re experiencing a barrier I didn’t name, I’d love to hear about it.