Have you ever wanted to pick up your keyboard and smash it over your own head because you were just so irritated with the whole concept of writing? Ever stared with loathing at your laptop and seriously considered chucking the thing across the room and into a wall because the words weren’t coming out the way you wanted them to? Ever scribbled out, torn up, crumpled up, or otherwise destroyed your written work out of sheer frustration?
We’ve all been there. Even the best writers hit the occasional wall or stumbling block (we’ve talked about writer’s block on this site before) and it can be hard to know what to do when sitting down to write fills you with anger rather than joy. The important thing to remember is that the majority of feelings are temporary, not permanent. The thing that is bringing you frustration now isn’t always going to elicit that response from you. If you enjoyed writing in the past, the overwhelming likelihood is that you’re going to enjoy writing again. Sometimes it just takes a little work, a little time, and some perspective.
If writing is turning you into the Hulk, try the tips below to regain some much-needed calm.
- Walk away from the keyboard.
You’re not doing yourself or anyone a favor by sitting there fuming. Get up, yes, physically get up from where you are sitting down to write, and walk. away. Go to an entirely different space in your house, in your neighborhood, in your town. Take a stroll through a nearby park or go for a quick walk around the block – just put some physical distance between yourself and the act of trying to write. You’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel and you’ll know when you’re ready to come back and give it another try.
- Talk over your frustrations with friends/family.
Find someone you can trust and unburden yourself to them. Get angry and rant if you need to. Curse. Just let it all out. Get someone else’s perspective on your current or recent work if you’re experiencing frustration over a particular passage or section of your writing. Ask for constructive feedback, but don’t discount the massive good that a little simple commiseration can do for you. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that your feelings are valid, heard, and appreciated by someone else. Once again, you’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel and you’ll know when you’ve said enough and when you’re ready to come back to the writing and give it another try.
- Read over old work.
Now this tip can be a little dangerous. If you’re in a particularly self-critical mood, or you’re feeling frustrated because it feels like none of the stuff you’re writing is good enough, you might want to give this one a miss. You risk opening up a whole editing can of worms where you rip apart your old stuff as well as your new stuff and end up twice as disheartened as when you started. But, if you’re simply feeling frustrated because you feel like you can’t write, or you’re looking for some validation that you can write well, it might be a good idea to look over some of your older, completed works and remind yourself that yes, you can do this and yes, you can do it well.
- Try writing something different.
So your current work in progress leaves you feeling like you want to kick puppies into the sun. First, try tip number one and walk away for a little while until you feel calmer. Then, when you do feel ready to come back, try working on something different. Let your WIPs marinate and move on to other things, if you have that option. It’s important to try to prove to yourself that not all writing is rage inducing, just some of it is, temporarily.
- Don’t beat yourself up.
You may notice that I include this tip on a lot of lists. I’ve noticed that writers fall into two main categories: the self-congratulatory or the self-flagellatory. Far more of us fall into the second category than the first, in my experience. I’d like to change that if I can. Life is short and writers are amazing chroniclers of its fleeting beauty. We also have one of the hardest jobs in the world. Writing is HARD. It’s hard to do at all, let alone to do it well, and being hard on oneself isn’t going to make it any easier. So if you are finding yourself getting irked at your work, don’t take it upon yourself as sign of some inner failing or proof that you were never meant to be a real writer or any nonsense like that. It’s just a sign that hey, this writing stuff is hard. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.