Reader Friday: Books to help you overcome your greatest obstacle
by Dale Ivan Smith
Writers face many obstacles—time, the day job, family responsibilities, health challenges, etc. Then there are publishing challenges, be it the traditional path, small press, or self-publishing.
However, in my experience, the greatest obstacle we face as writers is ourselves. Whether you consider writer’s block real, there are mindset issues such as managing expectations, procrastination, fear of failure, and many others. Getting out of our own way can make all the difference in our own writing.
Fortunately, there are books to help you get past your greatest obstacle. This retired librarian still likes to provide multiple resources, so here are three:
The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. Pressfield spent decades struggling to write, and then toiled trying to break-in as a screenwriter, finally succeeding when he co-wrote the story for the 1986 film, King Kong Lives, the sequel to the 1976 reboot of the original. Unfortunately, King Kong Lives bombed at the box office. Pressfield came to recognize that the biggest obstacle to our succeeding as writers is what he names Resistance, that part of ourselves which holds us back from engaging in a new endeavor that might change our lives, especially creative endeavors like writing. Each brief chapter provides an insight patterned after Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. Pressfield breaks the book into three parts: Defining Resistance, Combating Resistance, and getting Beyond Resistance.
The Mental Game of Writing, by James Scott Bell. The Killzone’s very own James Scott Bell’s provides a tool chest of tips and strategies to help you with your mindset as a writer. He covers the gambit from the importance of deciding to become a writer and defining success for yourself, to creativity, production, joy, to not comparing yourself to others, dealing with stress, being inspired, and many more. Jim packed a terrific amount of very practical advice into this book. It’s a resource you can dip into repeatedly after you’ve read it, to look for help in any area that is an inner obstacle for you. Reading this book was like having Jim as a writing mentor, offering suggestions and tips to improve your mental game.
Breakthrough, by J. Dharma Kelleher. Thriller writer Kelleher looks at creative self-doubt (akin to Pressfield’s “Resistance”) and how it affects our writing. Right off the bat, she provides tools to get past it: meditation, affirmations, and the power of re-framing how you look at an issue you’ve encountered in your writing or publishing. She discusses the importance of your health, understanding your own creative process, focusing on the work rather than the results, dealing with feedback, understanding the “delusion” of paying attention to reviews, and much more. She provides helpful advice, tips, and an extensive list of additional resources.
Now it’s your turn. Do you believe we writers are our own greatest obstacle to our own writing? What books or resources have helped you get out of your own way as a writer?