How to get unstuck while writing a novel?

For the past 8 years, I’ve been trying to finish my novel. It would be reasonable to spend that much time working if I were writing my first novel, but the fact is that I can’t finish the second one.

If it was the first, it could simply be justified with me not knowing how to write a novel. But I ‌know ‌I know how to write it. I have the evidence. It’s right there, on the damn shelf. And it mocks me every day. I can’t spend the day without thinking about what happened? How come that suddenly I forgot how to finish a novel?

If I knew the answer to this question, I wouldn’t have to ask it in the first place. Instead, I would be sitting there finishing the damn thing. But, unfortunately, I’m not. 

Even though I don’t have a clear answer, I think I’m close to figuring things out, so bare with me.

Years ago, when my first novel was still a work in progress, I expected big things from it, as anyone else does. I expected it to be a bestseller, and I also wanted it to be an award-winning piece of art, you know, that thing which is going to shake the world. I put the bar high. Way too high, but that’s a good thing, isn’t it?

Not always.

None of these things happened, as they rarely do, so I began to doubt my skill. I began to doubt my identity. Am I truly a writer, I wondered. But I didn’t want to quit. I was not a quitter. Even when it seems that I’m playing against all odds, I’m not quitting. Never! Not in this lifetime! Even though it’s not always a particularly good thing.

I began learning about writing. I put my hands on every book on writing I could grab. I set my eyes on every YouTube video, and every Master course on writing, and I listened to every damn podcast on the craft. 

And I tried, I tried so hard to study, to hone my craft, to become the writer who wins prizes and the writer who shakes the world, and whenever I set down to write, I wasn’t sure if that’s gonna work. It didn’t work last time? Why the hell should it work now? But I wrote anyway. And I still do. And I’ll still be writing in the future. And’ll I still worry, because why the hell not? And the closer I get to an end, the more I worry, and the more I worry, the harder it is  to finish the thing, because once I finish it, I will find out the truth.

So, instead of finishing it and finding out the sad truth, when I sit down to read what I’d previously written, I feel horrible because I think my writing is horrible. It isn’t even close to a thing that could get me the attention I want to get. At least that’s how it feels, and while I am reading it I’m not aware of the fact that I can’t possibly know whether people are going to like it, while reading it I can only think of myself as a failure, because I wasn’t blown away by my own creation. Strange, right? But common thing among us writers.

When that happens, I study more and more… and I write more and more… and delete more and more and I never show it to anyone, because I don’t want the truth, because the truth might be that it still sucks, at least to some degree, but instead I want to hope for the best and wait for it to become so good that even I can’t ignore it.

During these years I tried writing like Hemingway, Steven Pressfield, Stephen King, Randy Ingermanson, Neil Gaiman, Aaron Sorkin, David Mamet, Dan Brown, Shawn Coyne, and god knows who else I tried to be, but nothing worked, as it never does. Not with this craft.

Why the hell not, you might wonder?

This craft is special. The only tools you have and need are the words, and we all have them, and we all use them, and we all use the same words day in and day out, so what can I do to distinguish myself and make the words as if they’re only mine?

Well, I’m not sure. But at least I know what you shouldn’t do.

My writing fails because I fail to realize that my creative problems are MY creative problems, and I am the only person who can solve them. Not Hemingway, not Steven King, not my wife, not my barber, if I had one, not anyone else, but myself.

All these people who I listen to and I learned from had THEIR problems, and they offered solutions for THEIR problems, and all these methods are extremely insightful and practical, but none of these people had MY problems and therefore none of THEIR methods could have solved MY problems.

Nobody can help you find a solution for your novel, your video, your blog post, your anything… In order to claim that novel, that video or that blog post as your own you must be the one behind the solution of the creative problem. Otherwise it’s not yours, it’s THEIRS, because THEY solved it.

They could teach you how the damn thing should look like, it needs a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it should be entertaining and interesting, but nobody can teach you how to get there, because none of them know either. If they tell you they know, they are lying and they want to sell you a course or something close to that.

It’s about time that you grow up and start trusting your own judgment and your own creative choice. The fact that someone else did it differently doesn’t make their choice better or worse; it only makes it THIERS. For god’s sake, pick your own solutions for your own problems and be proud of them.

So what if they fail? At least they are yours. And that might be the biggest problem. If they fail, you’ve got nobody else to blame but yourself. It’s not Hemingway’s fault, not Gaiman’s, not King’. It’s YOURS! 

Own it!

When you sit down to write, don’t ask yourself what would THEY do? Ask yourself what would you do, as if nothing is at stake, because it’s not. If you fail, and everybody labels you as a bad writer, you can still get to do it again and prove everybody wrong. So, what’s the big deal?

Learn to feel good in your own skin. Stop trying to be someone else. Someone you are sure will succeed. Stop betting on a winning horse, if you want to become one. Which I’m sure you want. Otherwise, you would be writing a diary not a damn novel!

How come you never tried thinking like your neighbor, or the bus driver, or the delivery guy, but you always try to think like a bestseller, the most popular youtuber or anyone else extremely successful and well liked?

You must know that these successful people are what they are, not because they were thinking like someone else, but because they were thinking like themselves. Stop thinking that anyone else could know what the best for you is. Only you can know what best for you is and deal with it!

You have one life and you don’t know when it’s going to end. What if that day is tomorrow? Would you still waste more of your precious time doing things the way others would do it and would you still be thinking like others would think, and would you still try to please everyone? 

If yes, why? 

If not, what are you waiting for then? Do something about it!