I’ve worked with writers for over twenty-five years, and I’ve heard just about every reason a person has for not sitting down to write. Many of the hurdles that come up early in a writer’s journey are similar, if not the same, as the hurdles that arise well along the writer’s path.
There will always be hurdles along the way, you just need to know how to go around them. Here are five of the most common ones I hear and some suggestions on how to surmount them. I’ve included links to blogs that will give you additional insights, tips, and solutions to some of the most common hurdles to getting started and sustaining forward momentum with your writing.
1. I don’t have a writing practice.
You develop a writing practice by sitting down and writing—again and again.
It’s called a writing practice for a reason—the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. Yes, you may encounter resistance at first, but this will pass in time. Think of it as a habit; the more often you do it, the more you will want to do it.
Writing every day is ideal, and if you can do that, it will serve you well, but many of us find it challenging to achieve or sustain a daily writing practice. We all have busy lives, and it’s essential to be realistic about how much time you can consistently devote to your writing. Consistency is critical, so decide on a goal you can maintain—2 or 3 mornings a week or every Sunday afternoon.
Remember that you will feel much better about achieving a smaller goal than failing to meet a more ambitious one, and it’s easier to build on small successes than grand failures.
Once you’ve decided on how much time you can realistically devote to your writing practice, commit it to your calendar and give it the same respect you’d give any important appointment on your schedule.
Whatever writing schedule you set for yourself, make it a habit to think about your writing on your days off.
For more on establishing a writing practice, read the blog: How To Start A Writing Practice (that will last)
2. I can’t find the time to write.
This is about priorities. If you are busy with work and/or family, you might have to put something on the back burner to create time for your writing. It’s a matter of prioritizing what’s most important to you and then committing to it.
If you are a morning person, you could try setting your alarm 30 minutes early. There’s a lot to be said for writing first thing in the morning before your head becomes cluttered with the concerns of the day, the news, and family demands.
I have a friend who got up 15 minutes before her toddlers every day, and she wrote an entire first draft of a novel in those fifteen-minute increments. Did she keep working on it as the years went by? Yes. Did it ever get published? Yes!
There’s no easy answer. No one will create the time for you; you must do it yourself. Start with 30 minutes wherever you can fit it in, and build on that.
Look at your day. Are there times when you’re sitting in the car waiting to pick up children? Do you commute to work by train? Are you lucky enough to stop for a cup of coffee or tea during your day? Instead of scrolling through your phone and going down the rabbit hole—write. If you look, you’ll find some empty time.
No amount of time is too little!
3. I’m overwhelmed by all my ideas.
Begin by creating a list of all your ideas.
I’m a big believer in making lists, and it’s one of the first things I suggest to my coaching clients.
Making a list is an essential first step, so block off some time and find a calm, distraction-free writing space. Assign this task the same respect and focus as any writing session.
Begin the process by writing down all your ideas as a list. Write enough of a phrase to remember your vision when you return to this list in the future.
Simply download your brain onto the page.
Don’t worry if some ideas are for a magazine article, essay, or short story, while others might be for a larger project such as a story collection or a novel. You may have ideas about settings, characters, or themes that interest you, and some ideas may be general while others are more specific.
It doesn’t matter; just get your ideas down on the page.
Write as quickly as you can so you don’t have time to second-guess yourself or start listening to your inner critic. There will be plenty of time to edit later.
Cap your list at 30 ideas for now. If you are bursting with ideas, create an overflow list hidden from view and continue to put ideas there for future use.
Organize your list of writing ideas.
Now you can organize your list. If you have ideas for multiple projects, group them by genre – short stories, novels, poems, essays, articles, etc.
If, for example, your project is a novel and you have a list of scenes, it might make sense to put them in chronological order, or you could group them by character.
If you are working on a collection of short stories, you could list them by title or a brief reference to what the story is about—young girl meets unicorn and discovers the meaning of life—you get the idea.
Don’t forget to say “Yes” to your ideas regularly.
For more tips on how to organize your work, read this blog: How to Organize and Prioritize Your Writing Ideas
4. My writing isn’t good enough.
I go through phases of reading books on writing, and it’s always time well spent. Reading books on writing can give you a fresh perspective, remind you why you love writing, and provide much-needed, perhaps long-forgotten, tools while providing a pleasant respite from your work. There are hundreds of books on writing, so I’ve pared it down to my top 5 favorites, which have stood the test of time. In no particular order:
- On Writing by Stephen King,
- Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
- Bird By Bird by Annie Lamott
- Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway
- Writing From The Heart by Nancy Aronie
Take a class
Writing classes are the perfect place to hone your skills, receive feedback on your work, and they will have hard deadlines for homework assignments. Your local community school or college will most certainly have writing courses. If attending in person isn’t possible, there is a vast selection of short and long online courses, from beginner to advanced to genre-specific. Just google creative writing class, and you’ll be amazed at what’s offered. Keep in mind your level of experience. Taking an advanced-level course before you are ready for it can be defeating.
Attend a writing retreat.
Attending a writing retreat is an excellent way to engage in short-term accountability and is one of the best ways to supercharge your writing practice. If you are looking for inspiration, instruction, and support, look for a retreat that offers structured writing sessions that include discussion of the craft, provide writing prompts, and give feedback. This type of retreat https://awriterwithin.com/retreats-home/ is best for anyone who wants to start a writing project, jumpstart a stalled project, deepen an understanding of the craft, improve writing skills, and explore the creative process.
Work with a Writing Coach
If you are serious about sharpening your skills and getting your project or practice on track, working with a writing coach is the ultimate scenario for anyone looking for undivided guidance, support, and accountability. Not only is it one of the best ways to nurture and elevate your writing skills, but there is also no way to hide in the back of the class when your work is due.
Working with a writing coach can go a long way to improving your skills. A coach can help you develop a writing practice, define your goals, structure your projects, polish your prose, improve your mindset, and who will hold you accountable. Typically, this personalized one-on-one service is custom-tailored to your specific needs and goals.
Write as often as you can!
5. I want to give up.
Writing is a solitary endeavor, and you are the # 1 person who’s there to lend support, so be kind to yourself. Acknowledge your small successes, and speak to yourself with kindness and compassion, as you would talk to a dear friend.
Accept that you have an inner critic but not what it tells you. If you need some tips on quieting your inner critic, you’ll find them here.
Creating accountability is immensely helpful in meeting your writing goals, and writing with other people can provide this. You might:
- Join a writing group
- Find a writing partner
- Take a class
- Attend a workshop or writing retreat
- Work with a writing coach
If you can find a writing partner with similar goals, this is a great way to establish accountability. Make sure to find someone whose writing you admire and whom you trust to be honest and kind—and who will hold you accountable to your goals.
Joining a writing group with a regular presentation schedule is an excellent place to find accountability.
As I said in the section above, treating yourself to a writing retreat or working with a writing coach are great ways to improve your skills, but they both go a long way in keeping you engaged with your work.
Put these tips to work, and let me know how it goes.