"A writer is someone who writes."
Psychologist Paul J. Silvia, in How to Write a Lot, a guide to academic writing, states that there is no such thing as writer's block. What people perceive as "writer's block" is caused by waiting for inspiration to hit before you start to write. The fact is that inspiration will happen while you write. Always. Therefore Silvia's one stop solution to all writing problems is to write.
I really recommend that helpful book. It was recommended to me by my psychology professor. A short summary is:
Set yourself a time for writing. It can be half an hour each week, or three hours each day, or whatever time you have available. It does not matter at all how much time you can invest, but it must be a fixed time, the same each week, and you must sit down and write during that time.
If you find adhering to some random schedule difficult, perceive that writing time as you perceive your job. A problem that many non-professional writers face is that they themselves don't take their writing serious enough. You wouldn't not go to your job because you didn't feel like it. Unless you are seriously ill, you get up, get dressed, drive to work, and work. It may not be your best day, but you get through it. Do the same with your writing. No matter if you didn't sleep well or have no ideas or would rather cuddle with your girl friend – get up, get dressed, go to wherever you can write without being disturbed, and write. And don't be late. (You may work overtime, but you cannot substract that from the next appointed time.)
The quality of you writing does not matter. Your first task is only to write. If you want, you can delete/throw away everything you wrote at the end of each session.
It does not matter what you write. Just write whatever comes to your head. With time this will sort itself out and you will get into what you really want to write.
Keep at it. No excuses. The idea behind this strategy is that you need to build a habit of writing. If you don't believe in this strategy, set yourself a date until which you will adhere to this schedule and then evaluate its usefulness. You must do this for at least 30 days, for it to become effective. Three months is better. Habits don't happen in one repetition, so give yourself some time, before you decide this is not for you.
If you cannot find the time to write, you should accept that writing is not important enough for you, and stop agonizing over it. Enjoy the things you do! One can be happy without writing.
Writer Steven Pressfield in his non-fiction instructional manual on how to "break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles", The War of Art, recommends the same strategy for "going pro". He lists ten principles you need to apply to your writing if you want to write professionally:
- Show up every day
- Show up no matter what
- Stay on the job all day
- Commit yourself over the long haul
- The stakes are high and real
- Accept remuneration for our labor
- Do not overidentify with your job
- Master the technique of your job
- Have a sense of humor about your job
- You receive praise or blame in the real world
I'd like to comment on a few of these principles, as they apply to the non-professional writer.
re 1. That's essentially the idea I already outlines above: Create a schedule that you as a hobbyist with a job other than writing can fulfill, and then stick to it.
re 2. Take your writing serious and don't make any excuses. If writing is something you want to do, you need to follow this decision with the necessary discipline.
re 3. Again, I already mentioned this: If you set yourself an hour to write, then write an hour. You can work longer, but you as your own boss should make sure you stay on the job for the time that you expect.
re 4. Don't see yourself as writing this story or for one lazy winter, but conceive of yourself as writing from now on. Make writing a habit like brushing your teeth. You want to be a writer (a person who writes) not an author (someone who once wrote a book).
re 5. and 6. If you can and dare, reduce your daytime job and earn money with your writing. Or find another way so that failing to write will seriously impact you and your life. This is one killer motivator, but not for everyone, certainly.
re 7. Steve Pressfield writes:
We may take pride in our work, we may stay late and come in on weekends, but we recognize that we are not our job descriptions. The amateur, on the other hand, overidentifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright. Resistance [Pressfield's concept for what makes you not create, the "writer's block" or procrastination] loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and overterrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyzes him.
Personally, I call amateur writing "masturbation". The amateur artist creates art to satisfy himself. He is not a lover, who communicates with his partner to please both himself and her, but a social incompetent loner. The professional creates art for a paying audience to earn a living. The real art in creating art, as in any job, is to find the right balance, where you have fun and your customers are happy with the product they buy from you.
If you are a hobby writer, you can still write from this same perspective, and I believe that you need to create art that someone else than yourself cares about, if you truly want to make yourself happy. Because the true "fun" in writing comes not from expressing your inner self in a way meaningful only to you, but in writing what someone else wants to read in a way that only you could have written it.
re 8. That's in fact part of learning the craft of writing: to find your own themes and style, yet tell your stories in a way that interests and excites a significant number of readers. Write socially, like a lover of your audience, not to pleasure only yourself.
re 9. Humor implies that you don't overidentify. If you are your writing, then any critique will feel like it devalues you. Distance yourself from your writing in the same way that a baker does not get a depression when a customer does not like his bread. Attempt to bake good bread, of course, but take it easy, if not everyone loves it. You are not your writing, you are a writer. Don't love your writing (i.e. your texts) in a way that makes it impossible for you to heed constructive criticism, but love writing (i.e. the creation of texts). Laugh at your bad writing of last year and learn to do better.
Apart from these ten principles, I didn't find Pressfield's The War of Art very useful. I not not recommend that book.