By Javacia Harris Bowser
You’ve heard the saying before: To be a writer all you have to do is write.
But what should you do when you realize that you’re a writer who doesn’t write?
You know what I mean. You used to write all the time then life got in the way and now you can’t remember the last time you put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard (that wasn’t for your day job or to waste time on social media).
You still think about writing all the time. Characters whose stories you want to create keep you up at night. The memoir you want to write haunts you. Poetry prances through your head.
Or maybe you’re a blogger who doesn’t blog. When you first started your site you were so excited, but it didn’t seem as if anyone else was, so you quit. Or maybe you didn’t want to quit but you just couldn’t figure out how to stay consistent.
Now, this is the part where I’m supposed to inspire you.
Inspiring. People use this word often to describe me, my writing, and the community I’ve built through See Jane Write, a website and membership organization for women who write and blog. I am honored and humbled by this. I’ve embraced this and even made a decision to only post “inspirational” content on social media. But here’s something you should know: When I post inspirational quotes on Facebook or Instagram, especially quotes about believing in your dreams and not giving up, that’s me talking to myself and letting you eavesdrop on the conversation.
So the things I’m about to tell you on how to stop being a writer who doesn’t write are simply things I have told and still tell myself.
Write every day — even when you don’t feel “inspired.” Inspiration is overrated. Part of being a professional writer is being able to write even when you don’t feel like it. Writing is a practice. Many musicians practice every day. They don’t just wait to pick up their instrument when they’re before a crowd. Athletes train almost every day, too. They don’t just wait until the big game or the big race to get in gear. So writers need to practice, too. This is why I’m a big fan of blogging. My blog is my practice field. That said, I also know that not everything I write is meant to be read (which is why I also have a journal). A lot of what I write is trash. But then I dumpster dive into that garbage and find something worth salvaging. So even if you just write one line, write something every day.
But here’s where things get a bit complicated for me. Lately, I’ve been feeling like a writer who doesn’t write but in reality, I write all the time — blog posts, freelance articles, emails, etc. But I’m not pitching or writing the stories I’ve been thinking about for months. I’m not working on the book I’ve been trying to write for years. And most of my blog posts fall flat.
So how do I get to the good stuff?
Remember, good writers read good writing. When I’m being a writer who doesn’t write (or doesn’t write well) it’s usually because I’m also being a writer who doesn’t read. But when I am reading — books, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and even the Bible — I find myself overflowing with ideas. I find myself “inspired.”
Meet the deadline. Because of my training and work experience as a journalist, I am motivated by deadlines. In fact, I’m so deadline-oriented that if I don’t have a deadline for something it’s probably not going to get done. This is bad. Very bad. This is also why I have yet to self-publish a book. If you’re like me, figure out a way to set deadlines for your writing projects. An accountability partner would come in handy for this or perhaps you could publicly announce deadlines on your blog or social media channels.
Make time to write. Make time to read. The reason most aspiring writers don’t actually write is that they say they just don’t have the time to do so. They say they’re just too busy. But everybody’s busy! Your busy schedule does not make you special (I recently yelled to the mirror). So each day schedule time to write and schedule time to read. Don’t break these appointments. Treat them as you would a meeting with your boss or a check-up with your doctor. Soon these writing and reading sessions will become a habit. They’ll become as natural as brushing your teeth before bed. And remember that carving out time to write is not selfish, it is essential. It is your daily bread. And when you are well-fed then you then can go nurture the world.