Both writers of fiction and nonfiction run into roadblocks with their writing, that’s not surprising. However, there is a very specific block that seems to especially plague fiction writers. Usually, it happens before the writer has even started writing their story, but it’s also very common for this to occur once the writer is about one third or halfway through the project.
This writing block is rooted in a lie that the writer tells themselves that they don’t even know is a lie—and they don’t know it’s a lie because so many mainstream writing guides and sources of writing advice online tell them that they have to do this same thing too. So, when they can’t do it, or they run into severe difficulties with it, they immediately blame themselves and go into creative shut-down.
I started a new novel last week. I had been thinking about the story for at least two months. The characters kept popping into my mind at all hours of the day. I could see them so clearly. I felt so connected to them. I thought about them while I was driving, while I was in the shower, effortlessly seeing them in vivid scenes, some of which even brought tears to my eyes.
Then I sat down and wrote the first chapter.
It was awful.
Why is learning how to write so hard?
If you want to be a writer, there are countless MFA programs, online courses, and more advice than one person could ever read on the internet. There are a bajillion writing guides on Amazon. And if you jump around on social media for even two minutes to see what writers are up to, you will quickly find more how-to guides, tips, tricks, hacks, and everything else an aspiring writer could ever want or need.
So, with all this information available, why is learning how to write still so hard?
There are a lot of tips and advice out there on what makes for a great writer. I’ve written on this topic many times before, myself. It takes persistence and determination, say the experts. Writers have to be brave, says Charles Bukowski. You have to be clear on your goals, ready to receive hard feedback, and have an organized daily schedule, says the internet.
However, I’ve actually met and befriended hundreds of real life writers and I can say with a good degree of certainty that not all of us are all of these things. Or, we’re only some of these things some of the time. The rest of the time we’re disorganized, self-doubting, afraid, and not at all ready to hear harsh criticism of our work.