Do you ever have those days when you don't know what to write about? And worse, do those days turn into weeks and months, even years?
You're not alone. I know this for a fact because people email me and send me letters about it all the time.
According to most surveys, 80% of people feel they have a writer inside, someone who could - and thinks they should - write a book at some point in their lives. That's a huge statistic.
So huge that it's the kind of percentage that would have marketers foaming at the mouth! But experience shows that only around 5% actually get around to any kind of serious writing in their lifetimes - and only around 1% of that 5% end up getting paid to do it.
That's why, in marketing terms, writing remains a niche - one of those nebulous terms that means 'so specialized' as to be largely irrelevant to modern demographics.
Clearly that doesn't quash the urge to write for most of us. But this issue of "I want to write but I can't think what to write about" remains for many a point of frustration for much of their lives.
My feeling is that is usually caused by having too high expectations of ourselves.
We tend to think that our words and sentences should be good and wonderful the moment we put them down on paper. The beginner can feel immense distress after writing a paragraph and realizing it's either awful, or nothing like the thought they wanted to transfer.
We should take comfort in the fact that this phenomenon is as true for seasoned writers as it is for the beginner!
Removing the barrier between our thoughts and their expression is something a writer may take a lifetime to learn - and never quite thoroughly master.
I think it was Evelyn Waugh who said that he found writing in his old age much harder than in his youth because the more he tried to get down precisely what he meant, the more laborious the process seemed to become. A few throw away lines that may have sufficed as a younger man became pages of exposition that delved further and deeper into delicate nuances that seemed almost impossible for him to capture.
Churchill expressed the same concerns as he aged - and his works became longer and denser.
One of my intentions with The Easy Way to Write is to short circuit this dilemma.
Because I believe that our subconscious minds have a much better grasp on writing, story, theme, structure and style than our conscious, rational minds.
This is one of the reasons why thinking too much doesn't seem to help us write. Thinking is thinking.
But writing is writing. And the only way to solve a writing problem - a block or a lack of ideas - is to write.
I've noticed this over and again. That if you switch off your inner critic somehow - ignore it, or deliberately suppress it - and just write the first thing that comes into your head, then the subconscious somehow kicks in and takes over.
And this is not just the case for short pieces. I've also noticed that if you write every day, the subconscious can actually guide you through an entire novel. I used to marvel at how my brain could even begin to hold a 150,000 word opus in mind all at the same time - until I realized it can't, and doesn't.
It's the subconscious that does this job. It holds the novel in a hidden databank. And if you're true to yourself - and have an objective moral compass - then your storylines tend to surface naturally.
Writing professors will often tell you about their favorite novelists who've managed to weave profound themes into their work - and still created superb prose to house them.
But this is to misunderstand the process a writer uses.
I've yet to see a writer interviewed who will say they had all their themes - even subject matter - worked out before they started writing. This is not how it works. Themes, indeed stories, characters and plots are subconscious manifestations of the writer's mindset and attitudes that come through the work, rather than being deliberately planned and executed to any formula.
At best, writing is a mysterious process that defies explanation.
But this is good. It means that all of us can do it - if we let go of any preconceptions or expectations of our abilities.
Let go, and write.
Don't think, and write.
That is, to me, the easy way to write.
Thanks for reading.
Your Success is My Concern
The Easy Way to Write
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster.”