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Mastering Your Mental Barriers About Writing
Your mind is your most powerful word processor. If it is not working clearly and efficiently, having a super-charged computer will not increase your work output at all. Your great technology will just enable you to produce bad writing more quickly--and in more fonts--than you could before. Effective writing depends on mindset, attitude, emotional state, expectations, and ability to cope with self-criticism. That is why we will begin with the issues that are usually the first ones to confront the writer: fear, loathing, and the overwhelming urge to do anything other than write.
The second part of this section addresses some broader issues that cause writers to stumble. These points appear here because they are part of the mindset that enables you to write more clearly.
Overcoming your fear of writing
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear.
If fear, unconsciousness, and a compulsive urge to return phone calls, water plants, or eat cookies are preventing you from sitting down to write, you are not alone. In fact, the only people who never feel apprehensive about writing seem to be the ones who've had frontal lobotomies. These suggestions will help you relieve your fear of writing--without having brain surgery.
1. Take a few deep breaths.
Fear and anxiety cause the abdominal muscles to tense up, forcing the breath to become fast and shallow. This is a throwback to the happy days when our ancestors fled from saber-tooth tigers instead of writing deadlines. Neither fight nor flight are viable options anymore. We must bypass our primitive instincts and get some oxygen into our brains where it might help us think of something to write. Take a few really deep breaths. Slowly. Exhale completely and then inhale completely. You will feel calmer--I promise.
2. Weigh the costs and benefits.
Ask yourself, "What is the worst thing that could happen to me as a result of writing this?" Sure, you could write the letter and then get fired or die, but how likely is that? As much as you may dread writing, odds are that the consequences of not writing will be far worse than the consequences of writing. That's a cheery thought, isn't it?
3. Reward yourself after you've reached a certain point in the work.
Take a break or call someone you love or read the next chapter of a trashy novel. (Just make sure that your "break" doesn't eat up the rest of the time you'd set aside for writing.) Don't wait until every last detail is done before you take a brief time-out. Interim incentives and interim rewards will help you nurse yourself through the project. You can still celebrate when the job is complete.
4. Try to allow yourself enough time.
Time pressure only adds to your anxiety. Whenever possible, create a schedule that will have you finishing your project several days before the deadline. Then if you hit an unavoidable delay, you won't lose your mind.
5. Schedule time for writing every day.
Professional writers know that if they wait for the writing urge to strike, they might spend the rest of their lives at Starbucks. You cannot wait until you "have time" to sit down and write. You and I both know that there are always other things you could do. If you must finish a writing task, then reserve an hour or so in each day's schedule during which time you will do nothing but write. Try to schedule your writing time at the time of day when you are most alert.
6. Just do it!