Why Can’t I write my Book?
Developing a Writer’s Mindset It is not often that writers lack ideas or technical ability to ‘write the damn book’. Often the reasons are psychological and can be greatly assisted by putting some effort into creating your very own Writer-Friendly Mind.
Who needs this?
It is not only those writers driven with a desire to write a novel that they have burning inside of them who are struggling with their books – or those who, having achieved the success of publication are now under pressure to do it again. It can be the new writers or commercial or academic writers. If someone wants to be known as an expert in their field; the ‘go to’ person, everyone’s favourite on LinkedIn – then it helps to have written a book “ah, yes, I mention this in my book”. The room gasps. All eyes turn to look at her. She’s written a book!
Your Writing Mind
This is where it can help to consider the idea of mindset and what you can do about it. You may have heard of the theory of mindsets (Dweck, 2006) which focused on the possibility of growth through learning and struggle. This well-researched concept sees people as malleable – which is further supported by research evidencing that our brains remain plastic ‘neuroplasticity’ and that we continue to develop and grow and can put in place practices to assist this process.
What does all this mean for you and your book?
In his brilliant book, the Science of Storytelling, Will Storr begins
“We know how this ends. You’re going to die and so will everyone you love….”.
It sounds like a pessimistic note to start on but instead he is pointing out that rather than despair in the face of this possibility, we create a narrative for ourselves, for our own lives, filling them with hopeful goals.”Stories are everywhere. Stories are us”. Your book is the story within your story and it has the place you create for it. Writing is an act of hope.
Off the Page is where some of the ‘work’ happens
Hope is a future-based concept, it requires you to be able to imagine something that does not yet exist and work towards that. This is what you are doing when you are finally creating and putting your book together. Snyder’s model of hope as envisaging a desired outcome (or goal if you like goal-speak.) and having both the willpower and the waypower to get there. This is where you can do a bit of work to help yourself, to act in your own best interests.
Willpower is a topic for another day
Hint: try being kind to yourself, eating well, sleeping well and working in line with your values.
This is all about how to generate solutions to the things that get in your way. These may be practical, technical, anything but they will often be psychological.
It helps to give yourself time to acknowledge, notice and pay attention to your own thinking on what the ‘roadblocks’ are, it could be self-doubt, self-sabotage, a mean inner critic, a strong negativity bias. These are some of the psychological issues that can be addressed. It can take time and attention to notice what they are and where they come from and then to find a way around them, giving them their rightful place in your personal story.
You can generate ideas to overcome your roadblocks, just as you generate ideas for your story. This may require a degree of self-compassion. Now, self-compassion is not the same as being ‘soft’ on yourself or ‘letting yourself off the hook’; it’s actually working in your own very best interests moving towards what you value. A great way to do this is with a coach although there are methods you can self-coach or self-help, such as:
Famously, Julia Cameron’s ‘Morning Pages’ have been helping writers since the 1970s. This is a lovely practice of getting up in the morning and writing freely for 3 pages in your notebook for no one else to see but for you to just write whatever comes into your mind; you could start with a shopping list, the niggles that have woken you up in the night, what you might eat for dinner later – anything – and then just let your hand move freely over the page. This has the effect of ‘unblocking’ ideas that were lurking in there, refusing to come to the surface or connections that just were not happening. This practice allows you to stop planning and just engage with the moment and what your mind is exploring or experiencing.
Another simple and yet very effective practice is to go out for a walk or run; doing something physical and connecting in nature has some magic about it. Seriously, there is science behind this but you may have noticed already if you have been out walking during lockdown that ideas can just occur to you when outside. Capture them! Take your phone and just give yourself a voice note of the thought that has occurred or it risks being lost in the ether.
Read! This does not have to relate to what you are writing about, in fact, it is rather good if it does not. When you read and absorb yourself in other people’s ideas, you are reconstructing what someone else has created in your own mind, making your own sense and – once again – getting connections firing up!
Never read without a pen and notebook or your trusty voice memo available. Never be without a pen, notebook or voice recording device so that you can capture your ideas as and when they occur and use them in the time that you are able to allow yourself to write.
Finding your way around those roadblocks, finding your WAYPOWER is how to get there.
Read more about Nicola Morgan and her other articles HERE
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