This is post is a love letter to anyone who is:
Wrangling words from the ethers of the mind onto a blank page.
Striving to get their creative voice into the world.
Reading another book (or blog post) about writing instead of writing.
Wishing they were writing their own book.
Wondering…Am I a good writer?
Fearing…Who the hell am I to think I can write a book?
Hoping…To get unstuck and get back to writing.
There is something I want to share with you that helps mitigate writing anxiety.
It will help you write with minimal interference from the critical peanut gallery in your brain—whose sole function is to turn you away from writing.
Besides stopping writer’s block and the awful feelings that go with it, this uncommon approach will improve your writing, a nice two-for-one bonus.
Stay with me, I have a kind of radical proposition for your consideration:
Stop Thinking Like an Artist and Pretend You’re in Advertising (just for a minute)
What helped me overcome the terrible anxiety of writer’s block while writing my first book, The Creative Entrepreneur,
was something that I learned from my years in advertising,
not from any books or methods about writing.
Think of your audience.
Not the world-at-large audience of readers browsing your local bookstore or shopping for Kindle downloads on Amazon.
Think of the specific audience you are writing your book for. The more specific and small of a group, the better.
In advertising this is called a Niche, or a Target Market, but I don’t want you to get hung up on finding your niche.
That would only create writing procrastination.
Here’s a shortcut:
To get really specific about who you are writing for, start with yourself. You are probably inspired to write because you figured something out would be valuable for others to know.
Get in touch with how you felt and what you struggled with before you made your discovery. (This might give you an energetic boost, too – you’re not there anymore!)
When I was writing The Creative Entrepreneur, I first had in mind my own younger self.
The girl that picked the wrong major (two or three times),
struggled to succeed in a series not-quite-right career trajectories,
finally resorted to bartending and temporary secretarial work (ha! with a fancy diploma and expensive credentials)
while doing creative work for little or no pay.
Making a living as a self-employed artist?
That was always my heart’s desire, but there were no resources or books or tools that addressed the unique challenges of both being an artist and earning a viable income.
Hone in on The Pain
With your own struggle in mind, it’s easy to conjure the types of issues your Audience is wrestling with.
In advertising, we call this The Pain, or The Problem.
What pains people is what makes them buy.
I didn’t make that up. It’s just something people in advertising know and so that’s what they are always trying to find.
I’m sorry if that sounds crass, but you can apply it to your own work and use this knowledge for good.
What is The Pain?
I thought about people like me who were struggling with this dual dilemma:
As a self-employed creative, how do I figure out what I have to offer the world, and how do I get paid for it?
This is the Pain of the Audience I had in mind while writing.
Actually, I didn’t use the word “audience” – that still felt kinda too big and impersonal for me.
I simply thought about people…and the particular ways their struggle manifests.
Get Specific: How Does the Pain Show Up?
A Few of the Particular Struggles:
People who for whatever reason were still not making a living from their creativity.
People who were likely suffering from feelings of failure that go along with not “making it” yet.
People who were brought to tears by trying to make standard business tools work for them: not realizing those tools were designed for corporations, not artists.
People who lack confidence and courage to even put their creative work into the world…because now they’re embarrassed by all missteps along the way.
Taking time to map out the specific ways the struggle manifests, will focus your writing and make the content relevant to the reader.
This also helps mitigate that nagging fear: What if no one wants to read this?
Your people will want to read things that help them resolve their struggle, pain, problems.
What Writer’s Block?
Recall that I came up with this trick while I was struggling with massive amounts of self-doubt and writer’s block.
Nothing else regarding overcoming writing resistance really worked for me.
It was with the struggles of my people in mind, that I was emboldened to write.
Writing for my people gave a sense of mission and purpose that went beyond my old self-conscious fears of not being good enough.
Every single time I got hung up on the writing, I visualized the people I was writing for.
I wasn’t writing the book for me, I was writing the book for them.
Writing a book is a love letter to your people. click to tweet
If it helps to think of one single person and their pain when you write, instead of an audience, do that.
In advertising, we call this a Customer Persona. It’s a picture of your ideal customer.
You can make it visual by making a collage or finding photos that represent your ideal reader of your book.
Take it to the magical manifestation realms by imagining your ideal reader finding your book, and then imagine what she is telling you about it. How it helped her and how she used it. Imagine her thanking you. What does she say?
Write out what she says and pin it up with the photos.
In advertising there is no term for this, but I like to call it Conjuring.
It’s a way using your intuitive superpowers – which is where creativity likes to hang out.
Now it’s your turn.
Get out your pen and paper and quickly answer these prompts:
What of your own personal struggle deeply informs your writing?
What is the Pain or Problem that you figured out?
What specific sorts of ways does this Pain manifest for your people? Make a list.
Bonus: You if you answer the prompts…by writing, not just in your head…you are writing! The writer’s block has been removed…
When you go back to your writing, keep the struggles of your people in mind.
Notice how this affects your writing, both the process and the content.
This post came about because I happen to be writing a new book and got stuck in the mud. I did all of the above, and it’s like the heavens opened.
Not just my book writing is going better, but everything is flowing.