If you’re finding writing really hard right now, you might want to think about this:
What is your idea of a ‘proper,’ Capital-W Writer?
Because if your expectations of who a Writer is and how they behave differs significantly from who you are and how you behave, then you’ll be having problems sitting down to write. And standing up to write, and just with writing in general really.
To explain a bit more, it goes like this: if deep down in your unconscious where your stereotypes are kept you think that Writers are solitary, antisocial alcoholics who are mostly white men, and you’re a gregarious woman who is happily partnered, possibly with kids and a dog, then you’re going to have trouble writing, unless you’re aware of the stereotype that lives in your mind, and are able to work with that.
For me, when I did this, I realised that when I thought ‘Writer,’ I thought of Ernest Hemingway. And I thought: white, male, adulterous, alcoholic, mysogynist, spare, rugged, purist. Basically as far from me as it’s possible to get. (See: female, happily partnered, kids, dog above…)
It’s only when we understand and excavate the Stereotypical Writer we keep inside ourselves that we can understand where we’re coming from in terms of our own ideas of how we should be, and can then either work with them, or sweep them aside to knowingly work in a way that actually gets the writing done.
Because when we sit down to write we are accessing and understanding what we’re doing through the lens of the unconscious. That means that when I sat down to write – before I excavated and examined my beliefs about who my inner writer was – my subconscious believed that I was sitting down to become all of those things I listed before: antisocial, alcoholic, solitary, dysfunctional, male and all the rest. (Yes, my unconscious thought I was signing up for becoming male. No, it’s not a rational thing. )
The stereotype I carried of writers was so far from how I think of myself that it was easy for my subconscious belief to sabotage my writing efforts.
Mostly, I didn’t even start.
So what to do about it all?
Excavate your ideas of what a Writer is, and become aware of how they operate in your writing life.
Sit down with a pen and paper and write down a list of all the traits that you believe proper writers have. Describe them in detail: how they look, act, feel and work. Name them if they’re a real-life writer. Describe where they live, whether they have friends and family, and what they like doing. Get a really, really clear picture of what lives in your head as a stereotype of a ‘proper, capital-W’ Writer.
Compare that to yourself. Think about you: what do you like to do? How do you work best, and what family/friends/pets/loved ones do you like around you? Where do you live, and what are your habits?
If there is a significant difference between yourself-in-reality and your idea of Writers and how they are, then you’re getting close to a really big reason why your writing might not be working as easily as it could.
Becoming aware of the stereotype you carry is a great first step towards writing with ease.
Next week I’ll be going into how to side-step the Stereotypical Writer inside you so that you can write more easily. (Hooray!)
But right now, I’d love to hear all about your Stereotypical Writer in the comments. Who are they? What do they do? And biggest of all: how are they different from you?