For many writers, the toughest part of the process is getting started. Factors such as procrastination, doubt and a lack of confidence can all stand in the way of creativity.  

Kansas author and Hutchinson College Community professor William Sheldon has some advice for writers of any genre. Sheldon states that writers have to “lower their standards and write anyway.”

Sheldon will offer a writing workshop at McPherson Public Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on April 9. The program, called “Lower Your Standards and Write On,” will address the factors — including fear, self-consciousness and inertia — that keep writers from writing. 

“We have a tendency to sort of self-censor when we write,” Sheldon said.

Experiencing writer’s block himself, Sheldon turned to one of his favorite authors, William Stafford, for inspiration. Stafford would get up at 4:30 a.m. every day and write, and when he was asked if he ever ran into writer’s block, he would reply, “when I feel that happening, I just lower my standards.”

“Once I started to really take that approach, I found that, not surprisingly, I was getting a lot more writing done,” Sheldon said.

The strategy is one he passes on to students in his creative writing and composition classes at Hutchinson Community College.

“Sometimes the epiphany doesn’t happen until you’re well into the writing,” Sheldon said.

In addition to the general discussion during “Lower Your Standards and Write On,” Sheldon will lead the group in techniques and exercises that will lead to increased writing opportunities.

“I’ll bring along some different approaches and things that I’ve found helpful over the years,” Sheldon said.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a pen and paper for notes and to take part in the exercises.

“A lot of the exercises would work, regardless of what you’re working on at the time,” Sheldon said.

While everyone has to find their own way to write, the motivation to get the words down can come from external stimuli.

“I think you’ve got to give people a diving board sometimes, but they’ve got to fill the pool and decide whether or not to swim,” Sheldon said.

Bringing together authors for a time to network and share ideas can also aid in priming the creative pump.

“I’m always as interested, too, in what people bring, not just in terms of questions, but also in terms of their own approaches or things they’ve found that work for them,” Sheldon said.

Sheldon’s poetry and prose have been published widely in journals such as Blue Mesa Review, Columbia, New Letters and Prairie Schooner. He is the author of two books of poetry, “Rain Comes Riding,” and “Retrieving Old Bones,” a Kansas City Star Noteworthy Book for 2002 and listed as one of the Great Plains Alliance’s Great Books of the Great Plains.

For additional information about “Lower Your Standards and Write On,” call the library at 620-245-2570 or email  

Contact Patricia Middleton by email at or follow her stories on Twitter at @MacSentinel.