How to Overcome The Frustrations Of Writing

    frustrations of writing - frustrated man at laptop

    Frustration can take all the joy out of writing. I know because it plagued my earlier writing career. I love to write and when the words are flowing, the moment feels magical. I never want to stop. This is a rare occurrence. Most days are filled with a stop and go rhythm. I’ve learned that this is a part my writing and blogging method.

    Expectations

    As a writer, you must remain aware of your expectations and emotions. When I used to hit a wall, the “old me” would stress out. I would get up from my chair and clench my fists or let out a loud grunt. I used to believe that this would help me release my frustrations, but when I look back on those days I realize that it only made me more upset. It wasn’t until I began to recognize these emotions as they bubbled to the surface (from many years of practice) that I was able to nip these feelings before they took over.

    A writer creates frustration when they focus too much on their expectation of what they want to achieve instead of enjoying the words that are actually coming out. It all comes down to a simple emotional process. The gap between what we want and what we have is what really frustrates us.

    Patterns

    Following your reoccurring emotional reactions, and working with them to help you stay focused is the key to reducing your frustrations. I write about working happy, but I had fooled myself into believing that I was enjoying the writing process, when in reality I was frustrated 75% of the time. I pushed through these feelings because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do. It wasn’t until I began to notice these patterns that I used them to my advantage.

    Let’s say I’m working on a book and the words aren’t coming out right. Instead of banging my big head (which my wife loves to poke fun at) against this project, I switch gears and write a blog post about dealing with this frustration (like this post) or a poem about my dog barking which scared the holy ‘you know what’ out of me. These enjoyable topics keep my brain writing, but with no expectations for trying to make a clear message. The positive emotions usually start to come back and I’ll give my book another try.

    That’s why I can write when it feels like trudging through mud. I’ve watched my habits surface over and over. By noticing these feelings when they first occur I can direct my emotions in a more positive direction. There are almost always some positive thoughts that need to get out even if it doesn’t help me further my book.

    If nothing seems to be working, which usually happens at least 1 day out of 7, I just throw in the white towel and go for a walk with my wife, play the Wii or do a little Yoga. I no longer get mad that the words won’t come out, because I know that tomorrow will most likely bring that little bit of magic that today just didn’t want to release.

    About the author

      Karl Staib

      Karl Staib can be found at Work Happy Now!

    • Matt says:

      Thanks, I too am banging my head against a wall. I really appreciate your advice because what I’m hearing is that I just need to chill out and enjoy writting regardless of the frustrations that will arise. Cheers

    • Cel says:

      I struggle with writer’s block more than I actually write and it has been this way for years! I feel so frustrated and intimidated by the thought of writing.

      I use to chew my finger nails until I was in Grade 5. Then one day I just decided to stop and I did. And I have never chewed my nails again. Do you think this could be like that? That one day I just decide and the problem would go away and never come back?

      I have read lots of advice but the ‘just sit there until it comes’ doesn’t work for me. Day after day of blank… What can I do?! I have the ideas in my head but they don’t come out easily. How can I get these things from roaring around in my brain to still on the page?

    • Dean Rieck says:

      “A writer creates frustration when they focus too much on their expectation of what they want to achieve instead of enjoying the words that are actually coming out.”

      Wow. There’s very little advice about writing I haven’t read before. But this little gem really hits home. I can see now that when I’m writing fluidly, I’m simply enjoying what I’m saying and not trying to capture some wisp of a thought.

      I used to think that when I hit a block it was because I didn’t have anything to say. But really, I have something to say anytime I’m writing. It’s just that what I’m saying may not be what I intended.

      This is sort of the equivalent of “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” for writers.

    • I read a book called “On Writing Well.” The author stressed the importance of clear thinking because it produces clear writing.

      If your emotions are giving you trouble, address those feelings and see how that changes the writing process for you. Stumbled, Tweeted and so on. Thanks for sharing useful and practical tips. 🙂

      Mig

    • Interesting post, Karl.

      I try to take a break and do something else that I love or find fun. Then, after a set time return to the computer or piece of paper to continue writing. I also use free writing. Instead of getting everything perfect…just write whatever comes to mind on the topic then edit.

    • Thanks for this post. I have found that when I’m frustrated with writing either a blog post or an article, or trying to work on my book, it’s best for me to just walk away from it for a while instead of fighting it. I can come back an hour or a day later, and lo and behold, the words are there!

      I used to journal every morning and unfortunately got out of the habit. I intend to start again (in fact as soon as I hit the Submit button here) because I have found that regular journaling helps keep my creative flow going, even if what I’m thinking/writing about has nothing to do with any of my projects.

    • There are some great comments. I’ve never really thought about taking care of my anger like a mother does her baby, but that’s exactly what I do. I meet myself halfway – give myself some compassion then have a heart to heart. I’m much more relaxed and free to be creative.

      Hi S. Dudra, sometimes we need to remind ourselves to enjoy the writing process and stop reaching for an imaginary state.

      Thanks for all the excellent thoughts. I hope to come back and guest post again.

    • This may be a bit off topic, but in your second paragraph you describe what Thich Nhat Hanh calls “practicing your anger.” I really love that concept. In his book Anger, he talks about more productive ways to deal with it and says you need to take care of your anger like a mother does her baby. Highly recommend it!

    • Hey Karl,

      “Let’s say I’m working on a book and the words aren’t coming out right. Instead of banging my big head (which my wife loves to poke fun at) against this project, I switch gears and write a blog post about dealing with this frustration (like this post) or a poem about my dog barking which scared the holy ‘you know what’ out of me.”

      It’s like you took the words out of my mouth. That’s exactly what I do as well to keep my writing momentum going. Great post! 🙂

    • Zoe says:

      @ Iain – I actually just stumbled across your new blog, and I’m definitely looking forward to that next post!

      I carry at least one notebook with me when I leave the house, but that doesn’t always solve the problem…

    • …then I have to scramble to write them down when I can!

      @ Zoe – This is a common problem for me too. I’ve just blogged about the need for writers to abandon their muses and I’m writing a post that gives you 10 things to write on in an emergency!

      Actually, it’s a real skill to transfer your ideas to paper (or whatever’s handy) when the ideas are coming thick and fast. Just as you should learn to walk away if the frustration takes hold, we also need to make the most of those times when the ideas come thick and fast.

      Why do we do this again?

    • Zoe says:

      It’s important to accept that writing is hard work — hard work that can be enormously satisfying, but sometimes just tough.

      As many commenters have pointed out, sometimes removing yourself from the laptop or the notebook can work wonders. The only problem is when ideas start flooding into my mind as I’m vacuuming or driving my motorbike…then I have to scramble to write them down when I can!

      J.D. Meier’s advice to write an e-mail to yourself or to a friend works so well too.

    • It’s been my experience — and I think it’s really reflected in the comments here — that the fastest way to break writer’s block is to break the pattern. Just doing something different, like taking a walk, can bring back creativity in a rush.

    • When I get frustrated when I’m writing, I just go for a walk, play a video game and then when I get bored, i’ll go back to writing!

    • joylene says:

      Great post. And good timing. I’ve begun a new book and I’m stuck on chapter five. Maybe I need to go shopping.

      Merry Christmas, Karl. Cute pic.

    • S Dudra says:

      My frustration seems to remain locked in the starting position….getting started~

      My expectations can be so high that it keeps the gates down. Rather than jumping in and treading water I often want to do a half gainer with a twist…too much pressure. When I can just let the associations flow without the demand that it be perfect on the first take the write stuff happens.

      As writers we all know that every piece will not be a Noble nomination but yet we set the bar so high – we need to allow some fun to be built into the process. Isn’t that why we do what we do?

      Happy Holidays
      http://www.everlastingdesigns.net

    • Whenever I get frustrated while writing, I take a break to read. It takes my mind off my work, and I find the words of others to be inspiring.

    • J.D. Meier says:

      So true.

      It’s all about the mindset.

      It’s like when you can’t sleep, and then you think about how you can’t sleep, and then you can’t sleep. Then you just do it.

      Here’s a few tricks that have worked for me:
      1. Ask a different question. Switching questions changes focus. Changing focus, changes feelings. Feelings are the cornerstone of state. It’s all about state. The right state makes things happen. It’s how you get your groove on.
      2. Write an email to a friend or to myself. It gets me out of “must write like writer” mode to, “hey, just make your point” mode.
      3. Wear a different hat. Metaphorically speaking. Switching hats, switches gears and can get me from stuck mode to prolific in short order. I have a special hat for “kicking arse and taking names.”
      4. Get myself back to the “why” am I doing this? If the why is right, it starts to flow from there.
      5. Remind myself who I’m doing it for. Just switching to that perspective can help me get into the right part of my brain to unleash my prose.

      My longest book was 1200 pages so I got lots of practice finding ways to get in the flow 😉

    • ‘A writer creates frustration when they focus too much on their expectation of what they want to achieve instead of enjoying the words that are actually coming out.’

      I couldn’t agree more and will be blogging about this subject in the near future. Sometimes, we put ourselves under so much pressure to write, whether it’s a specific daily word count or a certain ‘quality of writing’ we’re chasing.

      It’s so easy to let frustration take hold, but it rarely achieves anything. If the words don’t arrive, I’ve learned to just walk away and return to them another day.

      Hey, that rhymes. Where’s my notebook?


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