How many abandoned works-in-progress (WIPs) do you have sitting in your drawer or digital folder?
I'm guessing a few.
It's so easy to begin new writing projects, isn't it?
When we start something new, we are full of energy and enthusiasm and the writing comes easy.
But soon after, fear wakes up. It manifests itself in perfectionist thinking, comparison, procrastination, and/or excuse making.
The writing becomes more difficult.
We begin to struggle, and we take this struggle as a sure sign that what we're writing was never meant to be.
And then we stop writing.
This start-and-stop cycle of writing plagues many writers and it won't stop until we stop it.
When one of them starts talking about wanting to give up on their writing, here is what I tell them:
You are not the only writer who struggles to finish what they begin. All writers struggle. (It took J.K. Rowling SIX years to write Harry Potter.) Knowing that what you're experiencing is very common can sometimes help you get out of your own head. The question to consider when you experience struggle is "What am I making this mean?" Are you making the struggle mean that you aren't a good writer or are you making it mean that good writing takes time and involves hard work? You get to decide.
You CAN choose how to respond to discomfort. I like to teach my teacher-writers about something I call 'productive discomfort.' Thinking that the purpose of the discomfort you're experiencing that is causing you to want to quit is just you moving out of your comfort zone. Plus, any discomfort that we feel often goes away about 90 seconds after you begin writing. (Work trumps discomfort every time.)
You never know who needs to read your writing. Have you ever been so moved or affected by something you read that you couldn't stop thinking about it? What if that author had never written this work? Think of all you would have missed out on. The same is true for your reader. If you are writing for a public audience, that's the reader who is waiting for you to press publish. Just think about how much this reader would miss out on if you gave up.
The middles are always messy. Getting to the Messy Middle of your writing project means that you've moved out of the preciseness and energy of a beginning and are now moving into 'the work' of writing. This is where your writing fears get louder than your writing faith. Your ideas and motivation may appear to have run dry. New projects may come along to try to tempt you into abandoning your current project. Don't give in. Just keep repeating "Moving forward is messy and that's okay" and keep your pen moving.
Think of your students. You have seen how your students struggle with writing. How they can sometimes sit for a whole writing session, just staring at the page. Ask yourself, "How can my experience with not giving up on my writing help me teach my student-writers?" This is one of the reasons why teachers who write make better writing teachers -- because they experience the same thing their student-writers do and can provide writer-to-writer advice to help their students move through it -- something that a boxed curriculum can't do!
If you have a work-in-progress (WIP) sitting in a drawer, maybe now is a good time to take it out and give it another go.
You'll grow as a writer and as a teacher of writers when you do.
Jen Laffin is the founder of Teach Write LLC and Jen Laffin Coaching. As a former teacher, Jen understands first-hand how much easier it is to teach writing when you are a writer yourself. She offers workshops for teacher-writers as well as life coaching for anyone looking to up-level their life. Connect with Jen on social media at @TeachWriteEDU and @JenLaffinCoaching.