It happens to the best of us: We are artists, after all, and regardless of our personal temperment or traits, we may fall prey to writer’s block, or emotions, or life rudely getting in the way of our plans. So, one day you could be happily writing or editing along, and then that metaphorical wrench lodges itself firmly between you and your goals, laughing in evil pleasure as it does so.
And then our choice becomes more complex: How do we tackle this new interruption? Depending on the method we select, will the quality of our work suffer? Will our readers be offended if we take soooo much longer to publish that WIP we’ve already been teasing for ages? Are we just making a mountain out of a molehill by all our worrying?
Well, today I’m going to present some ideas on how to survive common tricky spots indie authors run into. Take notes! There will be a quiz at the end!
Kidding. There will not be a quiz. In fact, any of these approaches might work, depending on your circumstances and ultimate intentions. It comes down to not giving up.
Conundrum 1: Don’t know which writing idea to choose.
This is a frequent issue. After all, since we’re by nature creatives, and tend to have an imagination, and be inspired by absolutely anything we come across, before you know it, you have a stack (as high as a wombat) of potential story concepts, and they all sound amazing. And you can only work on one at a time.
Solution A: Throw a dart at a “map.” Seriously, this could work. Take a white board or a huge piece of paper, and write down in separate squares or circles (or get out markers and do some doodling!) each different idea. Then glue or tape them to the bigger space, and use actual darts, or a magnet or something (if you’re worried about putting holes in your walls). Whichever idea you hit, that’ll be your next WIP.
Note: If you own a real dartboard, why not employ it in this fashion?
Solution B: Post a poll on your social media. If you’re willing to let the masses dictate your next creative move, run a poll on your Twitter or Facebook page. Lots of people are happy to give their opinion in multiple choice format, and often will offer comments that actually does help make your decision easier.
Solution C: Stare at the ceiling/carpet until you make a choice. Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Assuming the snow angel/spread eagle/defeated author pose, either face up or facedown, and just letting the floor absorb all of your artistic concerns can, in fact, be quite liberating.
Conundrum 2: Having to push back a self-imposed deadline.
Yes, when we’re not employed by someone yelling at us, “FINISH THIS BY CHRISTMAS, GOSHDARN IT!”, we technically can take up to the year 2023 to complete our next project. But does this really benefit us? Procrastination can be deadly to one’s creative endeavors, regardless of whether we’re a New York Times bestseller, or just printing a dozen copies for friends. When you’ve said you’re going to have your next novel/novella/short story ready by whenever, you should do your best to stick to that. But if you’re super behind, what can you do to catch up?
Solution A: Quit your day job. You will have so much more time to write, and you can always find another way to grind the 9-5 routine. Important note: This suggestion is totally tongue in cheek, and if you completely cannot quit your day job, DON’T. But for short periods, for some of us, this may actually be what gets those manuscripts finished and into the world. (Especially if you have alternate forms of income that do manage your financial needs for a finite period.) In all seriousness, though, this would be a last resort (no matter how badly our passion for writing outweighs the obligation to drudgery that pays the bills).
Solution B: Come clean with your audience/support base. Just confess that you are stagnating in the mire of non-productive-ness, and apologize, but then agree to not keep apologizing. Just go easy on yourself; guilt-tripping doesn’t get these words down on paper, either. Most readers of self-published writers understand the struggle between the work-life balance, and won’t hold it against you if you can’t release a new book every quarter (or even every year).
Solution C: Rush to meet the deadline without any delays or rescheduling. Personally, I don’t recommend this one. It can be overwhelming, and temporarily turn you into a vampire aardvark. However, I’m very aware that for some of us, simply knocking off all the excuses and just plain knuckling down to work is what makes the writing happen.
Conundrum 3: That editing/proofreading/cover design is making your head explode.
Enough said on this one, am I right?
Solution A: Reach out to others in the profession, or friends who have mad skills. Most of them will be happy to help you out, either for free, or for a cost you can afford. And if you’re a little indecisive, or slightly whiny, or forget to check your email one day, they’re more likely to understand and empathize (rather than holler at you and demand you figure it out now).
I have benefitted so much from belonging to a community that gets all these challenges, and accepts that individuals work at their own paces. My work is better because of not just the support, but because of my willingness to reach out for help when I get stuck.
Solution B: Proceed to break your brain by forcing it to all correct (or else). Again, this may get the desired result…but it’s got a pretty high chance of backfiring spectacularly. So, take this notion with a grain of salt. I have yet to adopt this attitude and not shapeshift into a creature from an alternate dimension for a week.
Solution C: Take a break from attacking this project. In all honesty, while it may feel like you’re surrendering, it’s the opposite, and this approach comes highly recommended. Don’t open the document for a few days. Or a month. Read books you didn’t write. Watch movies you’ve never seen before. Walk the dog down new routes. You get the idea. A lot of the time, relieving the pressure is what’s necessary to allow the puzzle pieces to adjust, and then fit into the right places.
All joking aside, I hope this post was helpful!