Overcoming Overwhelm in Your Writing
Written by: Mary Yamin-Garone, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise
Let’s face it. At one time or another, every writer hits the overwhelming wall. I know I have more than once. You can’t fight it. It’s a natural part of the writing process. Whatever topic you’re writing about may feel like a towering mountain stopping you dead in your tracks. Your internal chatter is deafening as it builds layer upon layer of limiting thoughts.
“What was I thinking? I can’t do this. I’m not a writer. Who wants to read another suspense thriller, business story or one that talks about overcoming one of many challenges?”
Truth be told, it’s all been done before. It’s been that way forever. But take heart. Nobody will tell the suspense thriller the same way you will. Nobody will tell the business story the same way you will. Nobody will write about your work or expertise quite like you will. Here are some ways to overcome the overwhelm.
When you begin exploring what it takes to get published, you may start feeling the expectation's crushing weight. You walk through bookstores and see all the newly published books, and you start feeling defeated. That “why bother” monster rears his ugly head.
What do you do? Exhale. Self-educate and create your platform. Find ways to incorporate your writing into your life. If you’re petrified, take a class or join a writing community. If you’re swimming in a sea of expectation, just do one thing until you’ve mastered it.
Fear of Success
Believe it or not, the fear of success is a bigger roadblock for most writers than fear of failure. You may think you’re not good enough or smart enough, don’t have what it takes to rise to the challenge, or have continued success. You’re not alone. Sometimes, writers fear success because it tests their limits. They become vulnerable to new situations. Success can also expose your weaknesses and force you to not only face your flaws but also deal with them.
It’s important to understand your fear and grab ahold of it before the part of you that’s frozen in fear can allow you to grow into your full and amazing potential.
Fear of Failure
Does this sound like you?
I can't finish writing my book. I'm a failure before I've even started.
I finished my book, but it doesn't live up to my expectations.
I can't get an agent or a publisher.
What if nobody buys my book?
What if my it gets bad reviews?
What if my friends and family don't like it?
What if it doesn't make any money and I've wasted all this time and energy for nothing?
If you’re never afraid as a writer, you’re never challenging yourself. No one will die because you received a scathing review or the only one who reads your book is your mother or you speak at an event and no one shows up.
I get it. It takes a lot of willpower to start writing. It requires even more to overcome the fear associated with writing.
Here are some ways to combat that fear and give your willpower a workout.
Don’t wait to write. Jump in with both feet.
If you finish writing it, publish it.
Ask for feedback from those you know will be honest.
Remember, people are likely to forget bad writing.
Write about a new, random topic.
Don't be afraid to push the publish button. Instead, think about the reward beyond the fear. In the words of Stephen King, "I'm afraid of failing at whatever story I'm writing—that it won't come up for me, or that I won't be able to finish it." I'd say that if Stephen King still suffers from fear of failure, then it will never go away, and we're all in good company!
In today’s world, it takes more than simply writing a book. You’re expected to publish your written works, create a social media empire, get media exposure and secure advanced praise for your yet-to-be-written book! Figuring it all out and while being pulled in a hundred different directions makes focusing difficult.
In case you didn’t know it, you’re suffering from what’s known as Writer’s ADD. Symptoms include your brain jumping to other ideas and to-do’s while working on your writing project.
To manage Writer’s ADD, you have to turn it off. If you’re juggling multiple projects, pick one.
Employ a content strategy. Find a coach who can help you define your goals, timelines and priorities. If you don’t know what to do first, your attention will constantly be split. You’ll be swimming in a sea of unfinished projects without a completion strategy.
Create a Will-Do List
Creating a will-do list for your writing can give you an immediate sense of control and productivity. Start by picking several tasks from your to-do list that you will do the next day: not the ones you want to do or think you might do — but those you’ll commit to doing. Replace your long list of intentions with a short list of commitments.
Here are two important principles to keep in mind about your list:
1. It’s a list of commitments.
Your goal should be to complete 100% of your daily will-do list every day. Remember that these tasks are commitments. If you’re not serious about crossing off all the items, don’t bother creating one.
2. Once set, don’t add more items.
Once you create it, don’t add anything to it during the day. That means the only thing that can happen to your list is that it will get smaller. That’s the idea. Your list isn’t a moving target. It’s a finite and measurable workload you can actually finish. That’s much better for your motivation than the sight of endless to-do lists.
Things that may help:
Set three priorities for each day. Then tackle them as early in the day as you can—or when you typically have the most energy.
Limit your decisions. Plan out your day, so you have fewer decisions to make. That helps avoid “decision fatigue” and keeps your willpower stronger for your writing-related tasks.
Take the long view. Writing is a lifelong pursuit. Focus on building a little bit each day so you can enjoy the process rather than stressing over the outcome.
You can talk about your writing project for years and never get any closer to finishing it if ALL you do is talk. So, if you're feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, decide on one small action you can take toward your biggest goal.
If your dream is to write a book, start on an outline or begin the first chapter. If it's to create a newsletter for people who regularly visit your blog or website, then determine what topics you should cover. Then transfer that plan from your head to paper. If you want to write for magazines, start writing that query letter.
Regardless of what project you've been dreaming about, don't think about the entire project. Instead, decide on one small ACTION and then take it. That way, you won't get overwhelmed.
For more writing tips, visit my website.
Mary Yamin-Garone, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Mary Yamin-Garone is an award-winning writer, editor and book/writing coach. In her 36 years, she has seen most every facet of the writing world as the featured guest writing expert on a weekly radio talk show; the recipient of numerous writing awards and accolades; and the coach and editor for several best-selling authors. One of her proudest moments came after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Mary received the Communication Concept 2002 APEX Award for Publication Excellence for Magazine and Newspaper Writing for her work after 9/11. She recently launched her signature coaching program, Bring Your Words to Life. Mary will help you improve your writing and turn your most important life experiences and knowledge into your best-selling book.