I love writing these posts for The Write Practice, and normally, when I sit down to write them, ideas come instantly and unbidden. Today was not one of those days. Today I had no idea what to write.
When I get into these situations, there's a secret trick I use that has a 100 percent success rate. This trick isn't easy, and it's very uncomfortable, but when you're desperate to write but can't, it always works.
It's not going on Facebook to watch puppy videos or read all the self-congratulating posts (trust me, I've tried that). It's not going on Twitter to be distracted by the endless stream of articles and promotions. It's something much darker.
Ready for the secret?
Write About Your Insecurities
“The only requirement,” to be a writer, said Stephen King, “is the ability to remember every scar.”
The secret is to write about your insecurities, your fears, what you're embarrassed about, the things you wouldn't tell your mother.
When you're stuck, when your characters aren't behaving, when the story isn't flowing, write about what you're afraid of. Put your secrets into your character's mouths. Put your greatest fears into the story.
I love this quote from Batman Begins:
Why bats, Master Wayne?
Bats frighten me. It's time my enemies shared my dread.
To write with passion and energy, don't bury your fears. Use them. (Share that on Twitter?)
Why Does This Work?
“When you run out of ideas,” I tell our contributors, “write about running out of ideas. When you have writer's block, write about what it's like to be blocked.”
Because here's the truth: There are millions of stories happening around you. As of this moment, 64,341 people have died today, 12,543 of those from starvation, a little less than 1,000 from suicide. Can you imagine all of the stories you could be telling? Lack of stories isn't the problem.
We get blocked when we start to reject our own story, when we subconsciously say, “You don't have anything interesting to say. You're not a very good writer. You'll never make it.”
What happens when you write about your insecurities is that you're telling your subconscious, “You know, you're probably right. I am worried I don't have anything interesting to say. But I'm going to write anyway.”
Free yourself from perfectionism and just admit you aren't a great writer. That's fine. All of us feel like that sometimes, even the best of us. After you admit you're insecure, use your insecurities as material, as fuel to drive your writing further.
So What Are Your Insecurities?
Here are mine:
- I'm afraid I won't get all my writing projects done.
- I'm afraid when I write my story, no one will want to read it.
- I'm afraid I'll never make it as a writer.
- I'm afraid I'll be stuck writing non-fiction, commercial writing all my life and never write any fiction I'm proud of.
- I'm afraid I won't be taken seriously by the literary establishment.
- I'm afraid readers will be bored.
- I'm afraid that after giving all this writing advice, people are going to think I'm a poser and a hack.
Today, I won't let my insecurities stop me from writing.
Today, I will write humbly, vulnerably, realizing my readers are struggling with the same fears.
Today, I reject rejection.
Today, I make peace with myself, proclaiming, “My whole story is valuable, even the worst parts.”
What about you? What are your insecurities?
First, create a list of your darkest insecurities. You don't have to share these, but write them down and put them somewhere safe. Then, write about a character struggling with those same insecurities. Your character might not be anything like you—the opposite gender, a different age, a thicker beard—but give them similar fears and see how they deal with them.
Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished post your practice in the comments section. And if you post, be sure to leave a few pieces of feedback on the practices of other writers.
Today, may you embrace your story and write with joy!
Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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