Many writers start off with a spurt of energy, and the best of intentions, but life seems to get in the way when it comes to finishing their books.
As a result, there are many, many more half finished, unpublished manuscripts languishing around on hard drives than there are books that end up being published. This is a real shame as there is probably some real masterpieces destined never to reach the eyes, heart and mind of a single reader.
Indeed, I have a complete 100,000 word novel that has been hanging around for me to finish it off for over three years. My problem? Well the one I admit to is that by the time I got to the end of writing it, I'd become a better writer than when I started so the beginning of the book needs a bit of editing.
If I really think about it though and I put my mind to it, I could sort it out over the course of about a month. While I am fortunate not to be as stuck when writing my non-fiction books, it's clear that baring my soul in a work of fiction presents itself as a bit of a barrier to me.
I expect what has left my novel in the doldrums plagues other writers too. Let me share the real reasons why it's not yet been published.
Apart from for a very lucky few, writing doesn't pay enough. As we all have to eat and have bills to pay, a writer often needs a day job. This first conflict simply limits the time available to work on your masterpiece.
My day job of helping writers work through their blocks came to me by accident. It has the great benefit of allowing me to work in the publishing industry while writing at the same time. As a result, I am self employed and can manage and control my hours. I have a simple discipline. I know I am most creative first thing in the morning so simply don't book any client sessions in before 10:30am.
I also work really hard to deliver excellent value for clients so I took the simple step of adjusting my hourly rate, such that 2 to 3 hours per day of billing provides me with the monthly income I need. Do the maths for yourself, it's very cathartic and very freeing.
If you are employed, a different challenge presents itself. You can of course get up an hour or so earlier or go to bed late. If you have a guilty pleasure like watching TV soaps or those seemingly endless 26 part thrillers, cutting them out will generate the spare hours you need. Why watch someone else’s ‘writing’ when you could be creating your own?
One more radical approach I know has worked for some people is simply to approach their boss and ask for a temporary, unpaid sabbatical. Either to take a whole month off or maybe just a half day a week for 3 months or so. When you do this you might be surprised by the reaction. Your boss may even see you in a new light and hold you in higher esteem. They may even change your job role when they find out you have a nascent writing talent.
The next big faux pas that ensures a book doesn't see the light of day is not having a plan.
One plan can just be to have a target date to finish your first draft and to get it published. This works well for non-fiction especially.
The essential plan every writer needs is a Mind Map of their chapter structure. [can provide graphic if you like]. When you pin this to your wall, it acts as a constant reminder of where you are. When you finish a chapter off, mark it off on the map and give yourself a treat as you do so. When you get to the milestone of firs draft, take your partner, a friend or even your boss our for a meal to celebrate.
It might surprise you that interruptions can be both good and bad for a writer. It's estimated that each time we divert from a task, it takes about five minutes extra to return to it. So we can easily lose many hours each day on top of the time itself consumed by taking that phone call, reading that email or logging to on Facebook or Twitter.
So when you're writing, switch off email, divert your phones and tell your family, colleagues and social media followers what time you write and that you mustn't be interrupted.
Before writing this section though, I broke off to meditate as my flow ran a bit dry. Somewhat ironically perhaps, this gave me the insight that mangaged interruptions can be beneficial. I often go for a dog walk for example if I get stuck and on that work invariably a real gem pops in.
If you ever find that you have become a ’busy fool’, perhaps serving others before writing your book, it is likely procrastination has come to visit. In virtually all cases, something more insidious is at work.
When we procrastinate we give into to our fears. We cannot be ridiculed for what we write and our book cannot fail if we never finish it. As a result, we use our amazing creativity to invent ways of doing everything but writing.
You can download my mp3 Becoming Fearless to help this.
What is more problematical still is when a writer’s creative juices run completely dry. In most cases, what has happened here is the Inner Critic has surfaced and is editing the life blood from your work such that you hit the brick wall at the end of the procrastination cul de sac. There are several ways to back your way out.
Firstly, you can simply jump to another project and complete that to your satisfaction and then return with fresh eyes to the abandoned project. My novel will get this treatment after not one but four non-fiction books have been published. My plan has always been that my new confidence, and indeed hopefully my standing, as a non-fiction writer will help me blast through any vestiges of self doubt.
If you don't already, the next best thing is to take up some form of meditative practice. This doesn't mean shutting yourself in a cave, sitting cross legged and chanting “Ommmm”. Taking up yoga, Tai Chi or just going for a walk each day counts in my book.
Lastly another fabulous enabler is to learn another artistic craft. Learn that musical instrument or go to an art class for example. This switches on new neurology in your brain and literally makes you ’think’ differently.
With the fresh eyes this gives you, you will see your book in a whole new light. You may even end up designing your own front covers or recording the music for the audio version of your book!!
For more advice on unblocking writers block you can contact Tom via his Greatvine profile.
You can view the full list of Greatvine experts who can give you advice on the writing process and getting published.
Tom Evans is an author of four and a half books and counting. He is a hypnotherapist specialising in regression techniques which clear the most stubborn of blocks permanently. He is known as the wizard of light bulb moments and is an entertaining and enlightening speaker on the subject of creativity, innovation and healing via the catharsis of writing.
His books include Blocks, Flavours of Thought and The Art and Science of Light Bulb Moments. His first ever book was a book of poetry called 100 Years of Ermintrude and a sample of his languishing novel Soulwave is now available on the Amazon Kindle. The full novel will be published in 2013!!