Writing Wednesdays: How to write under pressure

January 31, 2018
What do you do to help yourself when you're under pressure and trying to write? I share a few tips in this post.

Writing is as easy as breathing. Or the most difficult, strenuous task you've ever undertaken. Both, most of the time.

Writing can become difficult for a lot of reasons. Because of writers' block, because you want to start a new story, because you've fallen out of love with this one... And it becomes difficult when you put yourself under pressure.

That kind of pressure can come from the fear that this is your second book and it just won't be as good; from having shared novels before and now worrying that this one will disappoint your readers; from trying something new.

At the start of the year, I mentioned that I'd found it difficult to work on two novels over the last year, because I'd psyched myself out about them. I'd put myself under pressure trying to make them good to the point where I struggled to write them, even though I loved the stories and wanted to work on them. 

For me, a lot of the pressure around writing comes from wanting to publish the works. The Kissing Booth was so popular online after all, what if it just eclipses every other work I write, even if they're better, even if I like them more? And I want to publish these things: I want people to see them and they have to be good. They have to be fun and light and easy-reading with some romance, because that's what I'm telling myself they need to be - so I'm all to conscious when I'm writing that sort of thing. Is it enough? Is it enough?

That pressure can completely crush all the passion you have for your novel.

In the rest of this post, I'm going to talk about how to deal with that.

The first thing to do is to figure out where that pressure is coming from - and then try to block it out. Pep talks may be necessary.

Is it that you don't want to disappoint your readers when you post it online? Okay, so stop planning to share it for now. Stop thinking about your readers if they're causing you so much worry and stress. Focus on your novel instead: right now, it needs you more.

Worried that, because you're writing a sequel, it won't be as good as the first one? Well so what! Maybe it won't be! And maybe you're a terrible judge of your own writing because you've psyched yourself out too much over this, and it's actually way better! And if you're that into the storyline and characters that you wanted to work on a sequel, then it must be a good story, right? You must be passionate about it and enjoy writing it. (If you're not so great at the pep talks, you may need to enlist a friend to do them for you.)

Let's say it's a deadline. Look at it and look at where you are versus where you need to be. Make a plan. That might be 'Edit 100 pages a week', or 'Get to 55,000 words by Friday'. Break it down into smaller tasks that are more manageable and do what you need to help yourself stay on track - for instance, by setting yourself reminders in your phone, ditching a night out with mates to get through it, or ignoring that TV series you jut started binging on.

If, like me, it's because you want to put the book out into the big wide world in the hopes of getting it published, well... stop, for now. It's no good planning to publish a book you'll never finish because you're thinking about it too hard, right? Take a breather, and forget about publishing it. Stop asking yourself if it's good enough. Just get the damn thing out on paper first - then you can worry. That's what editing is for, right?

I know it's easier said than done (believe me, I know), which is why...

You have to remember what you love about this story.

It's a new genre you're trying out, or a new style of writing. You've just really wanted to explore this particular topic and theme. You were so inspired to write this story that you dropped everything to start working on it.

Remember what it was that drove you to start writing this story. Focus on that instead of why it's all falling to pieces under the pressure you've put on yourself.

You might also like this post on how to fall in love with your novel all over again.

Find someone to support and encourage you.

Twitter is a great space for this: it's so easy to connect with other writers! And whilst I rave about what a brilliant community Wattpad is and how supportive, sometimes it doesn't help to put yourself in whatever space you're using to share your work. If you just need to vent, or celebrate how many words you managed today, or ask for advice on this particular bit of the book that's causing you so much angst, Twitter is a great place for that.

Similarly - just chat to a friend about it! They might not even be a fellow writer, but just someone who supports you, that you can talk to about what's bothering you with your novel, and can encourage you, give you a little belief in yourself again. Like I mentioned earlier in the post, too - if you need a boost and a pep talk that you're not so great at giving yourself, this is where it's good to have someone who supports you and can help you do that.

And on that note: If that publishing-related pressure is from an external source, though, you need to speak to someone. 

This is most likely going to be your editor or your agent, or both, I'd have thought. If you're struggling with something like a deadline, talk to them. If you're conflicted about something someone suggest might work well in the book and it's just not working, talk to them. It's no good bottling it up in this kind of situation: people like an agent are there to help you out, after all. Don't forget that.

Finally - create a 'safe space'.

Work out what's conducive to your writing. This might be something as simple as a playlist, or it might be that you feel you really get kicked back into the writing mood and relax more when you're in a café. 

If you don't know where to start, create yourself a comfortable, relaxed environment, with minimal distractions. (I wrote more about that recently in this post.) If you're sat amongst piles of letters you haven't sorted through in weeks and can see dirty dishes and the pile of laundry you were meant to have hung up to dry, it's not going to help get rid of the pressure you're feeling.

What advice do you have for writing when you're under pressure? Share in the comments below!

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