Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

6 more causes for writer’s block and what you can do to help yourself

(I love this picture. I don’t know who is the author but they are a genius.)

One of the first posts that I’ve written on Always Inspired Writing was 10 root causes for writer’s block and lessons you must learn. Today, I’m back with 6 more causes – and steps that you can take to help yourself. If you haven’t read the first article yet, please do it now – it might be that the cause for your writer’s block was already described in the first article.

  1. You feel discouraged after receiving several negative reviews
  2. You are giving the editor too much power over your writing
  3. You’ve learned to rely too much on your ghost writer
  4. Your marketing attempts keep failing and you keep losing money, time, patience and inspiration.
  5. You are tired of writing about the same things over and over again.
  6. Your vocabulary isn’t inspiring you, yet you don’t have time to read novels and fish for new words

Now, let’s get into these causes in detail.

CAUSE #1 – You feel discouraged after receiving several negative reviews

It sucks, doesn’t it? You’ve been toiling over that one novel for months, maybe even years, and an ungrateful reader comes and writes a one star review, which affects your sales, your opinion and your self-esteem. One bad review can make one feel moderately annoyed, but what if you get one negative review after another, even though your book is really perfect? You start looking at your target audience and wondering, what do these people actually want?

You feel unappreciated and don’t want to write. And that, my friend, is super normal. If you had a friend who was an actor, and they got booed each time they got on stage, and one day just called you and said they wanted to throw the towel, would you consider it strange? Probably not.

To be honest, I’m starting to think that the negative reviews which plague indie authors are some sort of baptism of fire. Nowadays, everyone who’s 18 years old and has a computer connected to the internet can publish their own story. Readers know about it. They don’t trust the newbie writer, and if they don’t like something in your book, they aren’t going to give it a second thought. “I didn’t like it, you’re a nobody anyways so people can’t tell me I’m wrong about you. One star, ciao.” The reader has no idea that you’ve been working on your craft for 10 or more years and that your hard drive has more than 1GB text files. For them, you are living somewhere in cloud cuckoo land and now nothing about writing.

I’ve noticed that the game changes when you publish more books. Authors who are swimming for a longer time in a sea of books are doing much better. They have more reviews, more fans and are easier to Google.

My advice:

Give yourself time. Let your books hang online, offer free copies to everyone that’s interested, sign up for different review sites (even the ones that have free spots in 8 months, like Hidden Gems), and be patient. While you work on your newest books, the older books will gradually get more and more reviews, also positive ones. Sometimes, it might take years. But late is better than never.

CAUSE #2 – You are giving the editor too much power over your writing

The longer I’m in the writing world, the more I notice something that alarms me: writers, especially the ones who are just starting out, tend to give their editors too much power over their writing. Examples of this behavior include:

  • Allowing the editor to rewrite the majority of your sentences;
  • Allowing the editor to make you rewrite the majority of your sentences;
  • Allowing the editor to choose which scenes will and won’t be deleted;
  • Allowing the editor to restructure your story according to their ideas;
  • Allowing the editor to change the main message of your novel;
  • Allowing the editor to alter your characters’ personalities;

etc. In general, if your writing doesn’t feel yours after it returns from an editor, or you feel like the editor is interfering too much with your text, then you’re probably giving them too much power. Which will make you feel upset with yourself and your writing, and get writer’s block.

My advice:

  1. Take a step back and ask yourself, if you really need developmental editing. If you don’t know how to answer this question, find another editor that you can trust and ask them to take a look at your text. It might turn out that your writing really is ok and all it needs are small grammar changes or interpunction corrections. Once you know what you need, reconsider working with your first editor.
  2. If you choose to quit, ask  yourself what impact they had on your writing and whether you still want to write according to all their rules. Keep in mind that those rules are probably the things that is causing writer’s block – and letting yourself become free of them might help you out of it.
  3. If you choose to keep working with your editor, set clear boundaries on what they can, and can’t do with your text – and when you’re writing, try to forget about what they will say, instead, focus on what you have to say.

CAUSE #3 – You’ve learned to rely too much on your ghost writer

I personally think that all authors should have a trusted ghost writer, just like they have a trusted editor. Sometimes, you just run out of steam, and the novel has to be finished, or there are marketing materials you need to prepare, yet don’t have time for that. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a ghost writer’s help – the problem starts, when you become ready to pay any sum of money to get the text written, because you just can’t write anything yourself. Such acute writer’s block is often a mix of several causes, and relying on the ghost writer is only amplifying the feeling that you can’t write.

My Advice:

I’ve heard that baby elephants tied to tree trunks become so used to being weaker than the tree, that even when they become adult elephants, they still don’t try to get free. Subconsciousness is stronger than consciousness and if you’ve been repeating to yourself I can’t, I can’t, I can’t for weeks, or maybe even months, you know where you are. The truth isn’t, you can’t. The truth is, you think you can’t. And what if you think you can? Talking yourself into being able to do something when the thought I can’t is so strong that it seems to be the ultimate truth, is not easy. I know. But there are ways to change that, and the best one is writing affirmations. Affirmations work wonders. It’s not about attracting things through the Law Of Attraction, it’s about reprogramming your subconsciousness so that it works in favor of you.

Here are three affirmations for you to start:

  • I can easily write down everything that’s in my head.
  • I love every single sentence I write.
  • I enjoy sitting down and writing my novels.

CAUSE #4 – Your marketing attempts keep failing and you keep losing money, time, patience and inspiration.

When you’ve been putting your time, effort and money into growing your author brand for years (it usually takes years before reaching this type of burnout), and the results aren’t satisfactory, you start asking yourself, what’s the point?

My Advice:

You know now, that writing isn’t the fastest way of gaining popularity or learning tons of money. Which is the reason why so many authors decide to leave writing as their side hobby. You can either do that, or embark on learning new marketing strategies that will give you better results. Hopefully, when you rest – or see better results – it will motivate you to push further.

CAUSE #5 – You are tired of writing about the same things over and over again.

If someone asks me to describe a Sunday afternoon with two best friends at the ice cream parlor, I’ll scream. I’ve written it so many times already, and yet, I find myself needing this type scene over and over again in all my stories. So, I force myself to write it, then I get writer’s block, because it’s boring, and then I get angry and frustrated because it’s such a simple task, yet I can’t complete it.

If this situation rings a bell, then you are in the right place cause the solution is below:

My Advice:

  1. Identify the reason why you keep writing that scene over and over again. What do you need it for? In my own case, the ice-cream parlor represents a perfect place to let the characters quietly discuss everything that’s bothering them and think about the future. When I focus on this goal, I can suddenly find tons of places that can easily replace the ice-cream parlor. And using those places instead is making everything more interesting, as it gives you room to complete the goal of the scene, yet it also allows you to be creative!
  2. If it’s about a certain character type that that keeps coming back to you, check out this article: The phenomenon of the reincarnating character: when your characters are all the same. If you are decided to get rid of all reincarnating characters, read this: How to remove characters from plot (without killing them)
  3. Write a huge list of things that you’d like to write about, yet you never tried it. Try to make this list have at least 50 or even 100 ideas. Writing about something new will definitely spark up your creativity!

CAUSE #6 – Your vocabulary isn’t inspiring you, yet you don’t have time to read novels and fish for new words.

This can happen especially when you write in another language, and although annoying, it can be fixed rather fast.

My Advice:

  1. Start using a random word generator. This one is my favorite so far. It allows you to discover words you didn’t even know existed. I recommend writing them down for later. When you feel particularly uninspired, just open the list and try to use the new words in your text. It will work wonders!
  2. Switch to reading poetry. Poems are short and you can read tons of them in one sitting – and, most importantly, they are all about beautiful language, unlike prose, which focuses on plot mostly. My favorite place to read poetry for free is PoemHunter.com.

I hope this helps!

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Dealing with haters, Writer's problems

What to do when your readers and reviewers discourage you from writing?

If you follow Always Inspired Writing regularly, you surely know that I’m rather for writing for audience rather than against it. The reason for it is, I believe that if we want to make it as full time authors or bestselling authors (which I guess is everyone’s dream), we need to adhere to readers’ expectations.

Yet, if you have published more than just one work, you will quickly notice that pleasing readers is nearly impossible. There is always going to be one, or two, or even more readers who aren’t going to be pleased with what you wrote. Of course, as Andrea Schulman pointed out in one of her Law Of Attraction videos, seeking problems is going to make people find them.

In general, reviewers enjoy “being brutally honest”. The review is not about you or about your work, but about them. The reviewer is usually not a popular person. Shitting on you and your work is often the only way to make them shine. Reviewers are selfish and think about themselves; they seldom think about what the consequences of their “brutally honest” reviews have on the author, their feelings, reputation and sales.

Because reviewers don’t care about the author, we authors also shouldn’t care about the feedback that they leave either. Yet, we do. And this makes us:

  • hate ourselves,
  • hate what we write,
  • look down on our skills,
  • invalidate our progress,
  • invalidate our writing journey,
  • undermine our writing career,
  • get severe writer’s block or give up writing alltogether (in worst cases).

Taking this into consideration, you might ask me, Maria, do you still believe that we should be writing for the audience?

My answer is, yes and no.

Yes, because we need to adhere to some rules if we want to make sales. These rules are e.g. writing according to our chosen genre or writing with our target audience in mind.

No, because writing is about us. We haven’t become writers to read someone’s demeaning comments and get depressed. We have become writers to tell our stories. To whom? To ourselves.

“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really — I was alive,” said Walter White at the end of season 5 of Breaking Bad. And if you think about it, it’s what every writer could say as well.

When you focus too much on what readers think about your writing, you need to take a step away. Think about a story that you have yet to write, and are excited about. Feel the passion. Let your characters speak to you. I like thinking about my characters as of real people that are sitting in the waiting room, waiting to play on the stage of your novel. Your characters are your team – and not your reviewers.

When the outside world drags you down by saying this story shouldn’t be like this, or that, find the power to say no.

You are the creator of the story and you are the only one to decide if it is or isn’t perfect. Sometimes, negative feedback might make you reconsider and fix some things. That’s ok. But it’s also ok to reject negative feedback when it brings nothing.

If your perpetually unhappy readers and their highly critical comments bring you down, give yourself the permission to tell them fuck you in your thoughts. I know that the negative feedback affects your sales and your reputation, but you can still prevent it from damaging your self esteem. And you need your self esteem to get up and become victorious in the end.

I would like to leave you with a song at the end of this post, it’s “Save Rock and Roll” by Fall Out Boy. If you interpret the lyrics in the context of being a discouraged author, this song can make you feel better.

I hope this helps.

Stay inspired!

Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

Why is there so much secrecy among authors, especially successful ones?

Have you ever wondered why there is so much secrecy among authors? Are you upset you can’t break the “glass ceiling”? Are you dying to know the true ways which will make your book an instant bestseller?

When we keep doing things suggested by other authors, and can’t succeed, we start to get angry…

We wonder why the successful authors out there aren’t willing to share their secret know-how which brought them massive success. We ask ourselves if they considered themselves better from us, indies at the end of the literary food chain. We want to know if there is an unwritten rule of not sharing anything so that the caste of the chosen “lucky ones” can remain priviledged forever…

Don’t we all love the idea of magical formulas, ancient rituals, ways proven by everyone, no risk / sure-fire gain scenarios?

We do.

But if we look closer at the community of the successful authors, they are not keeping anything secret.

Almost every popular author I know has told the media everything about their writing journey. Or if they didn’t tell the media, they revealed everything in their blog, their podcast, their youtube channel, their book, etc.

Just that, we don’t want to listen.

We don’t want to read.

We don’t want to learn, test different ways, try, fail, try again, fail again and try again. We try one thing, it doesn’t work, we get discouraged and say, “that’s scam, he couldn’t have used this method to succeed”.

The problem is, not everything will work for everyone.

I always spit on Facebook ads, book tours, leaving free copies in the libraries and contacting book bloggers. I tried all of these ways to make my book popular and got nothing. Yet, some authors will point out that those 4 ways worked miracles for them. Maybe they did.

I am somebody who is constantly researching new ways to make my (or my pen name’s) books more popular. And I sometimes get freaking frustrated, you know? I’m tired of listening that I need an author website, that I need to be present of social media, that I need to give out freebies, create a mailing list… blah, blah.

I know it, you know it, they know it, we all know it.

These are basics.

Most authors are going to teach basics because they can’t know that authors who are a little more ahead in their writing journeys are following their blogs as well. They are speaking mostly to writers who are only starting out, trying to write their first book, etc.

The thing is, the writing community is tired of hearing about the basics.

We want concrete techniques that work for everyone… now, not 10 years ago when book bloggers had nothing to read and were grateful for every free book, or when you could message Amazon reviewers directly through Amazon.

However, when everyone in the community follows the same advice, then the target audience becomes immune to it. We install ad blockers, ignore newsletters in our inbox and don’t click on ads for fear of being tricked into buying something we don’t want to buy.

What was supposed to bring success doesn’t bring success anymore, we bump into the glass ceiling, start believing in secrecy among authors, and get angry.

I think that the best solution to this is learning to think outside the box.

  • What can I do that other authors usually don’t do, that will give me an advantage?

This is a tough questions, let’s break it into other questions that are easier to digest:

  • What unique skills and talents do I have that put me ahead of my competitors in the chosen genre?
  • What unique assets and contacts do I have the I haven’t used yet, and that may give me an advantage?
  • If I couldn’t use the standard ways of promoting my book, how would I promote it?

I’m going to tell you something shocking now. Not about book publishing. About St. Valentine’s Day in China. Recently, it’s trendy to give bouquets of red roses wrapped in black tulle. I was shocked when I saw it, as in the western world, black is the funeral color. Not in China, however. Here, the funeral color is white. Black tulle is seen as something sexy, because it reminds people of black lingerie and erotica. Suddenly, everyone’s buying red roses decorated with black. It’s the most popular option this year.

Let’s think outside the box and become creative, rather than relaying on other people’s insight all the time.

Posted in All Articles, Writer's life, Writer's problems

The downsides of being a full time writer

Who doesn’t want to be a full time writer? To get up whenever you please, prepare breakfast for yourself, and just write?

Becoming a full time writer was a lifelong dream for me, and then – I was suddenly dragged into it by life circumstances that didn’t go as planned.

Although I really love being a full time writer, there are downsides about which nobody speaks. The main downside is, society seldom accepts lifestyles that vary from the norm.

Here are some challenges that I am facing as a full time writer.

Working long hours in a “phantom job”

On my writing journey, I used to work on writing from as little as 1 hour a day to as much as 15 hours a day. It all depended on how much time I had available.

Now, I’m a college graduate, but because of some visa complications I know I won’t be able to be employed on place for the next 20 months.

It’s a difficult situation that kind of forced me to try to earn an income online; and since writing is what I do best, I started a publishing house company.

Even though lots of people know my situation, and I often work in my company for 10-15 hours a day, I don’t earn a real wage yet. And when you aren’t earning a real wage, people tend to invalidate what you do, as money is the physical proof of success. If you aren’t earning money, then you are just not successful.

What is more, to most people, only the lucky ones can make it as writers, and I’ve totally  lost the touch with reality. In their eyes, I’m just another nini (from Spanish ni trabaja ni estudia someone who doesn’t work and doesn’t study). Because what value could my work have if it’s not bringing money (yet?).

I know that most people don’t believe in me and think that I’m crazy. And I’m ok with that. I know what I am doing. I trust in what I am doing and I know I will succeed. I don’t need others to acknowledge me ’cause I am acknowledging myself.

Yet, it’s not only about comments. Some people in my life will go as far as disrupting my writing routine on purpose. I know that they have mostly good intentions, but it truly bothers me.

Declining invitations most of the time

The main reason why I am declining invitations are my depressive moods. Most often, I am just too depressed to go out. I often use the writing work as an excuse, yet, I do writing work even when I am really depressed, as it helps me pick myself up and gives me energy and optimism. To me, writing is a strong antidepressant that helps so much more than pasting asmile on my face and chit chatter with party people.

Yet often, if I am dragged away from my writing work, which drives me crazy. I’m really frustrated when I can’t complete my everyday duties. People can’t understand this frustration, as they hate their everyday jobs.

We have two different situations, two different perspectives, and suddenly, I just don’t know what to talk to people about.

Being a one-track minded bore

When I was younger, I was interested pretty much in everything (I wrote about it in here). I knew that scattering my attention on too many things at once wasn’t a habit of successful people. So, I narrowed my interests to writing and new age spirituality. Let’s put the new age spirituality aside for a moment, and focus on writing. Writing is tied to mastering your skills, publishing, doing marketing, interacting with readers, reading… It’s all fascinating to me, but to somebody who isn’t into it, I’m probably an incredible bore.

Losing (or gaining) too much weight

I know that slouching all the time in front of your laptop (or phone, or notebook) isn’t healthy, and promotes weight gain. For this reason, I was tweaking my diet for years, until I found the perfect spot: intermittent fasting. I’ve been doing it for 7 months already, yet, I constantly hear people protesting: skipping breakfast is unhealthy, you aren’t eating normally, I could never live like that. The rational arguments that IF’s benefits have been proven scientifically, that I feel better, that I’m not even losing weight anymore – don’t work. Eat more. You aren’t eating enough. 

Not enough time to train sports professionally

My bucket list is full of sports I’d like to try one day, when I don’t have to work so hard on my writing. These sports are mostly martial arts, oriental dances and street sports. I know that being in your 20s is the best time to do these things, however, I’m so busy writing, being a writing coach and running a publishing house, that I just lack time to dedicate myself seriously to anything else. I am trying to be active when I can, yet… You should work out more, why don’t you go out to take a run, it’s unhealthy to sit in front of a screen for so long… etc. Like I didn’t know it. I have only 24 hours, like every single person on this planet. I dedicate them to what matters the most to me at the current moment, and becoming a sports pro isn’t my priority.

Being constantly asked Why can’t you live normally?

You have only one flaw, darling: you can’t live like a normal person. Why can’t you be a normal person, with a normal lifestyle? Why can’t you pay more attention to the mudane things? I always have to put up with your strange choices.

I had actually heard all these words, and yes, they hurt.

So why can’t I live normally?

Well, let’s start from the beginning. I was lonely, isolated and unheard child. My caregivers were very stern. I was expected to excel in everything, and if I didn’t, love was taken away. When I turned 16, I was so disciplined already that I didn’t need any external motivators.

When I turned 22, I went through a deep personal crisis. One of the outcomes was a  realization that I wanted to be free from the system: I didn’t want to work from 9 am to 5 pm for a perpetually unhappy boss and beg to be able to take a free day when I needed it. I didn’t want to be the slave of a minimum wage for 30 years, and then live off a minimum pension.

In the new age spirituality, we believe that thougths lead to actions and actions create the reality. I knew I would never be able to create a different reality for myself if I follow the flock. I wanted to be a writer because that’s what I’m most passionate about. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we all had jobs that we were passionate about? What’s the benefit from having an employee who hates what he’s doing?

Of course, creating a job for yourself isn’t easy. It requires much effort. But I’m great at putting effort into things that I care about. I’m programmed this way. Even if I decided to turn back, and follow the flock, I certainly wouldn’t be happy.

And this is why I can’t live normally.

Because I am willing to sacrifice lots of things now in order to get my dream life later. This is called the delayed gratification. I don’t feel like I’m missing out; rather, I’m postponing the fun life for later (although writing is really much fun as well). But you know what I mean.

So yeah, this was my perspective on the downsides of being a fulltime writer. Sometimes it’s hard. But, most of the time, it really makes me happy.

I hope this was interesting for you.

Stay inspired.

Posted in All Articles, Writer's problems

How to cope when your friend writes better than you?

Ever felt jealous of your friend who seems to be much more talented at writing then you? Ever questioned your own skills after reading what they had written? Ever wondered if you can ever get to their level, and how? If yes, then this article is for you.

Being in this situation might not feel so great, but it is a blessing in disguise. Here is why:

  • You see area for improvement.
  • You know what exactly work on.
  • You can observe that person’s techniques.
  • You can ask that person for help directly.
  • It’s a great way to motivate yourself to level up.

If you feel envious about your friend writing better than you, it’s probably because you don’t believe that you can achieve that level of skill.

If this is the case, ask yourself why you doubt yourself right now.

Maybe they are older than you, or more experienced, or have been writing in your chosen language since ever. If yes, then you can’t blame yourself for the fact that they are ahead of you.

You have assets that they don’t have, even if you aren’t aware of it. Maybe your travels are allowing you to set your story in several different places, or maybe your everyday job as a teacher is helping you meet many potential readers for your book. Who knows?

If they are your age and in a similar situation, and you think that they are better because they have more talent, then maybe you should read this free article: Where does talent come from? Why isn’t it a prerequisite for success?

It is also possible that they are working in a different way that you do. Ask yourself, what are they doing that I am not doing?

I will give you an example from Rachel’s life. Rachel had a friend with whom they both did digital anime-style art, just that the friend was way more popular. What that friend did differently than Rachel, was:

  • drawing free art for everyone who asked for it;
  • going to anime conventions to meet more people in the niche;
  • asking the newly met people in the niche to like her page on social media;
  • organizing a national drawing contest;
  • signing up to new anime-style art groups to meet even more people;

Are you surprised now that she was more popular than everyone else? Because I’m not! She had a strategy, unlike everyone else. And what strategy does your friend have? In writing, in publishing, in marketing? 

A person who is doing better than us, is a gift for us, so that we can learn from them how to move forwards. 

If we stay envious, we are wasting a great gift given to us by the universe.

When I was in college, I’ve met two people who were exactly what I wanted to be at the time. I looked at their lifestyles and made a choice to live their way, and even though we parted later, I am happy that we met, because they helped me reach an inner truth about whom I wanted to become.

So – if your friend is better than you, observe, and learn from them. And always, always be respectful. There is nothing sadder than taking out your frustration on someone who never did anything bad to you, just because you can’t deal with your own envy. I wrote more about the importance of fair play in this free article.

I hope this helps!

Stay inspired.