I Wanted to Improve my Writing so I Talked to a Veteran Writer

If I see myself as a writer, therefore I write.

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After a series of scheduled Zoom calls, I was able to land a schedule with one of my favorite writers on Medium — Megan Holstein. I was really nervous knowing that a veteran writer would take a few minutes to have a chat with me online. Furthermore, I see myself as completely inadequate compared to the likes of her. However, the desire that really started me to book a Zoom call with her is because of my desire to learn how I could write better.

Writing Anxiety

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I felt like I was talking to a counselor. Confronted with the truth about my anxiety in writing, it felt like I was looking at the mirror. This short chat led me to discover more of myself. I realized that I have the desire to put my stories out here on the internet, however, my fear of publishing something cripples me to do just that. What am I really afraid of? My own inadequacy. Yes, that was my lame excuse. Yet, I soon found out that my fears about publishing my stories on the internet are nearly non-existent since I am not publishing my stories.

How could I have missed out on that? I was afraid of criticisms with my grammar and writing but how can people give their feedback if they haven’t seen my work? Furthermore, how could I even assess my work, if I have not worked at all? It’s not even possible that I would receive criticisms or comments at all because I am not publishing much at all. After addressing my worries, our chat led me to have more confidence in writing. My fear of publishing articles is somewhat similar to what my sister told me when I was younger. I used to be afraid of dogs because they bite. However, my sister used to tell me that “dogs are afraid of humans, that’s why they bark.”

The way to fully overcome my anxiety is to just put myself out there and keep on writing. I won’t be able to improve my writing skills if I don’t keep on writing.

Writing Goals

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One of the things I have learned in our conversation is to have my personal writing goals. At first, I thought my goal for writing is to have fun. While most people can earn a fortune with their blog or on platforms such as Medium, I started writing just because I wanted to experience writing so that other people may find my thoughts beneficial for their life. Earning through writing is indeed a great way for me to earn extra for what I love to do. However, the joy of putting my thoughts out on the internet is much more satisfying than what monetary compensation would provide.

During our conversation, I noticed that this is one thing I lack. I don’t write enough because I don’t make my writing goals clear enough for me. I know I would also want to make it a goal to increase traffic on my website, or maybe start earning through writing. Yet, as of the moment, I think my writing goal is to make sure I publish something on the internet. This goal would be much better considering that my writing anxiety comes from the fear of publishing my work on the internet.

Clear goals are helpful especially in discovering why I am doing what I am doing. I guess, this starting point to set my goal to publish a story or two per week would be a big help as I start to learn more about writing.

Writing Habit

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“The goal is to get to the point where you try without trying — where your movement becomes smooth, natural, and instinctive.” 

Effortless: Greg Mckeown

I see writing as a project and not as a part of my lifestyle. If writing is just one more task on my to-do list, then I won’t be able to get my inspiration and motivation to write. My mind should shift from seeing writing as a chore to writing as a part of my identity. One thing that I have learned from my conversation with Megan is that I have to start building a writing habit. Stephen King writes six pages a day and that is the system he has established for himself. As James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, put it this way:

“You don’t rise to the level of your goals, but you fall to the level of your systems.”

Atomic Habits: James Clear

I never thought that one of the reasons why I fail to get my stuff published is because I don’t have a writing habit. After my conversation with Megan, I made sure to start working on developing a writing habit if I really want to improve my writing skills. Moreover, to overcome my anxiety towards publishing my work. Here’s what I would be trying out to develop my writing habit:

Protecting my time

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I love time-blocking for my tasks. Being a productivity junky, I have read a lot about this method. Unfortunately, with the bulk of tasks (or my own laziness) with my work and side-hustles, I always can’t seem to get my stuff together when it comes to writing. My solution? I need to protect my time. Without dedicating a proper time to write, I won’t be able to publish anything. Dedicating a specific time to write is what I need. The tasks for my regular day job won’t change on their own. However, if I really want to write, then I should protect my time in doing that.

So here’s what I will be trying for the next few days: I will write for 25 minutes in the morning. I know I won’t be able to write anything worth reading in the given amount of time, but I want to develop a habit. If my goal is to publish a story or two in a week, then I have to at least start small. Accumulating all the 25-minuted deep work in writing would probably be a good start in developing my writing habit.

Protecting my mental well-being

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My mental health is one of the things I truly value in my personal life. I know to myself that I cannot engage in creative work if I am not able to maintain my personal well-being. Oftentimes, my creative juice works best in the morning. I know that if I have slept late at night, I won’t be able to get my focus in the morning. Moreover, proper headspace is also helpful for me so I have to make sure that I didn’t stress myself too much.

I have resolved to set boundaries with people especially with regards to my work that I have to shut off my world to them after 5 pm. Spending time with my family is also of great value since working for the whole day wears me out, and I know that I need to replenish my lost energy by talking things out. Creating a dedicated workspace that would allow me to focus is also helpful in my mental state.

After talking with Megan, I felt excited to get started with writing once again. I just want to show up each day, in front of my computer (or notebook), and start writing. I guess talking to a veteran writer like her is like a “jumpstart” that increased my desire for writing.