This year I’m blogging my book De-Stress Your Writing Life. You can read it for free on Creativity’s Workshop every Friday. Today’s post is part of the chapter on Discovering Your Writing Fears and Barriers.
We’ve already covered many of the fears writers face here, here, here, here, here, and here. We’ve also looked at how you can create a rescue plan to overcome your personal writing fears and barriers. Now we’re going to look at a few beliefs that can cause barriers to writing.
Believing You’ll be Able to Please Everyone
Almost every writer wants to have happy readers – people who enjoy reading their work and are anxious to read whatever the writer is currently working on. This is a normal expectation. After all, if you like what you’re writing, chances are there will be others out there who share your likes.
However, at times that expectation can morph into the belief that we can somehow write something that everyone will like. Our thinking could become black and white, believing that if one of our readers doesn’t like our writing it therefore means our writing is a complete failure.
The result of this belief can be:
- Reluctance in sending our writing out into the world (either to beta readers, as submissions, or through self-publishing).
- Extreme disappointment when receiving negative feedback or reviews, leading to us giving up on writing altogether.
- Continual rewriting in the hope that we’ll somehow create the perfect story.
The truth is it is impossible to please everyone. People have different tastes. Some readers love period romance, while others can’t stand it. Some readers like nothing better to curl up with a fast-paced thriller, while others are looking for a meandering tale without the adrenaline.
This diversity means there will always be someone who does not like, or does not ‘get’ what you are writing about. However, it also means that if your story is strong enough and well-presented, there will be an audience of some size and description who will enjoy what you’ve written. These people are known as your ‘target audience.’
Understanding that you will not be able to please everyone can help you to relax. It means you don’t have to force your story and characters to appeal to a broader audience, you can allow them to form naturally as you, the writer, intended. It also means you don’t have to become overly upset at negative feedback. If it’s obvious that the reader doesn’t fit your target audience, then it was unlikely that the story was going to appeal to them in the first place.
If you relate to this belief, then you need to take some time to define your target audience. This will not only help you become more resilient when faced with negative feedback, but will also help you tailor your writing to appeal to your ideal readers.
Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers. You might even give your target reader a name if you feel that would help you come up with more specific answers.
- What genre/sub-genre does my target audience prefer? (Romance? Sci-fi? Fantasy? Steampunk?)
- How would my target audience describe their favorite book? (Action-packed? Character-driven? Unpredictable? Satisfying conclusion?)
- What does my target audience look for in a good book? (Is it set in an interesting world? Does it cover a specific topic?)
- How does my target audience discover new books? (Searching online? Word of mouth? Magazine articles?)
- How does my target audience decide whether they have enjoyed a book? (If they emotionally related to the characters? If they were surprised by the ending?)
Once you have created this profile, take a moment to imagine the people who would not fit that profile. If your work is properly targeted to your ideal readers, then there will naturally be people who will not enjoy your work.
This may take time to come to terms with, but it’s an important realization as it will help you to face the emotional ups and downs inherent in the writing life.
Once you have convinced yourself that you do not need to please everyone, you can focus on pleasing your audience.
Believing You Have to Fit a Type/Mold
As we mentioned in Chapter 1, many people have preconceptions of what makes a writer. But in reality, writers are an extremely diverse bunch. Some are introverts, some are extraverts. Some love the outdoors, some prefer a snug corner. Some function best in the early morning, some are night owls.
At times we may look at a fellow writer whom we admire, or who is experiencing success, and begin to think we should be more like him or her. We may believe we should change our writing schedule, chosen genre, storytelling method or all manner of things in an attempt to fit the type or mold of that writer.
While there is nothing wrong with trying new things in our writing and taking every opportunity to learn something new, the danger lies in losing ourselves while trying to better ourselves.
This belief may cause us to:
- Radically change aspects of ourselves and our writing because we are trying to replicate what another writer (or group of writers) have.
- Ignore our own personal experiences and feelings because they don’t match the ‘model writer’ we’re trying to emulate.
In the process of trying to become like another writer, we may lose what is unique and interesting about ourselves and our writing voice. This belief can be a major contributor to ‘writer’s block,’ because we are attempting to replace our words with someone else’s words – words that cannot, and will not, come naturally.
The world doesn’t need another Hemmingway or Tolstoy. It needs something different. Something fresh. It needs you in your truest form.
We can learn many things from our fellow writers, including great tips that can make our writing better. So where do we draw the line? At what point does learning from other writers, and using their writing methods as inspiration, start to impinge on our uniqueness as individuals?
The solution is to give your personal writing experience equal weight. Make sure you’re in touch with your needs and what works for your creative process.
For example, a writer may enjoy writing at 10 o’clock at night. The day is finished and they’re able to relax into the world they are creating on the page. The house is quiet and their mind is clear. But then they read a tip from a famous author saying writers should always start their day writing. What should our example writer do?
a) Completely change their writing schedule. Get up an hour earlier each morning and write.
b) Change their schedule for a week and see whether writing in the morning makes any difference.
c) Stick to their current schedule and have confidence they know what’s best for their writing routine.
Many writers, especially those who do not yet have confidence in themselves as writers, may choose option A in the belief that writing in the early morning is obviously what ‘real writers’ do. However, in the process they may sacrifice the writing routine that was working for them.
On the other hand, if the writer has never tried changing their writing time then option C may not be the best response either. They may be missing out on a change which could help them improve their output.
Option B allows the writer to test out the piece of advice and decide whether or not it works for them. It may not work, in which case they can simply revert back to their evening routine. If it does work, that does not mean that all ‘real writers’ write in the morning. It means that this writer writes well in the morning.
‘Real writers’ are such a diverse group that you could pick just about any fact (no matter how strange) and find a ‘real writer’ who does it. For example, ‘real writers’ own cats. ‘Real writers’ drink hot chocolate with chili. ‘Real writers’ write their stories backwards. ‘Real writers’ compose everything in iambic pentameter.
See what I mean?
So, approach your writing life asking these two questions:
- What can I learn from other writers?
- What works for me?
The answers to both these questions have equal weight.
Add your comment below. Who is your target audience? Who don’t ‘get’ your writing?
My writing is my living, and I’m currently working under some tight deadlines for upcoming fiction projects, but I take time out of my week to publish this because I made a promise to you, my readers, that I would post here every Friday.
If you’ve found the above helpful, please either send the information on to a fellow writer you feel would benefit or leave a little donation in the kitty to help things along.
Everyone who donates will receive a free electronic copy of the book once it has reached completion.
Thanks for dropping by.