I'm sure just about all of us have witnessed the Tortured Writer Syndrome. Perhaps we've even experienced it personally.
The syndrome begins with a bit of writer's block, some rubbish first draft material, a savage critique or just some good ol' white page fright.
It then grows into the expectation that writing is a difficult, thankless task that requires many hours of hard work with inevitable disappointment at the end.
Eventually this syndrome can even turn the best of writers into a martyr to their craft as they face weeks, months or even years of frustration, without ever feeling the wonder, excitement and exhilaration of what it truly means to be a writer.
Where Does It All Go Wrong?
The process starts getting all twisted when we do too much thinking and not enough actual writing.
Instead of starting our day with a freewrite to get the words flowing (and get the rusty first 300 or so out of our system before we get down to business), we worry about what we're going to produce today.
We start wondering: What am I going to write about? Will it be any good? Do I have anything worth writing about? Will anyone want to read what I'm writing anyway? Within three or four sentences we've completely lost our motivation, stopping up our natural flow with so much negativity that it takes a phenomenal effort every day to overcome it.
Then comes the inevitable writer's block and other woes of the writing life which become self-fulfilling prophecies. If you believe writing is hard, then it most certainly will become so. Words have power, especially the ones we use on ourselves.
So many writers are in this rut, that they are in the majority – posting, tweeting and talking about their difficulties – when the writers who are prolifically enjoying their writing life are too busy writing to respond.
How do I know?
I'm one of those prolific writers. When my words are in full flow, it's easy to write over 1,500 high-quality words in an hour. I sit down to my computer each morning with a relaxed but expectant attitude.
I feel like Sharon O'Brien who said, "Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say."
So what's the secret?
How Can You Loosen Yourself Up and Making Writing Fun Again?
Here are a few points to get you back on the road to an enjoyable writing life.
• Get the bilge out early. Start your day with a journal entry or a freewrite. If you're in any way nervous about what you're going to write, then set 15 minutes on a timer and pour your thoughts onto the page. Once you've got them out of your head, you'll be amazed at how much lighter and more confident you feel.
• Lower your expectations. You don't have to sit down at your computer and write a best-selling novel. Start writing something true – about yourself, or about life in general – and keep writing that truth until it turns into a narrative and that narrative finds a protagonist and then that protagonist goes on a journey. Allow the words to flow wherever they want to go. When you're finished, then go back and decide what to do with the end result.
• Enjoy the process. Putting words onto the page should be a cathartic experience. It's best done regularly, daily if possible, so that the words literally flow out of you. At the end of your writing day, look for one thing you especially liked about what you wrote, even if it was just a sentence or a word. Carry that positive feeling with you through to your next writing session.
• Ask for help. So many writers struggle with certain aspects of their writing. Don't let this hold you up. Get yourself a writing coach, a creativity coach, an editor or even just a good book on the subject. Invest in yourself. Show yourself that your writing is worth the extra time and effort. An outside perspective will usually pick up on where your problem lies – and you'll often be surprised at how easy the fix is.
• View your writing life as a journey. You're never going to know it all. Even the most experienced writers are still learning and honing their craft. Rather than looking at writing as something you will be graded on, view it as the narrative of your life. As you grow and change so will your writing. Get your story written now so the next story can appear and surprise you.
What about you? How do you keep your writing relaxed and fun? I'd love to read your comments!
Jessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity's Workshop where her Creativity writes in purple text. She offers creative coaching for writers. You can read her latest book De-Stress Your Writing Life for free as she blogs it over the coming months.