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  • Writer's pictureCarol Alwood

Identify Writing Obstacles

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

Photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

Keep on writing!

Easier said than done, isn’t it? I want to write everyday. I don’t want days, weeks, or months to pass without words on the page, but sometimes it happens. I stop writing, and guilt simmers. When I stop writing, the world seems bleak, and things I love can feel meaningless. Maybe that’s a sign I’m a writer. Can you identify?

This past summer, I spent a lot of time on the couch because I broke my leg. This resulted in some writing success. I decided I could no longer allow a busy schedule, and the wrong perspective, to highjack my novel writing.

After brainstorming, I’ve decided what hinders writing can be boiled down to four stumbling blocks. I’ve listed tips to help combat these interferences. I’m hoping these tips will keep me writing this year, and I hope it will work for you, too.

Can you name four obstacles that interfere with daily writing success?

Keep reading to see if you agree with my list.

1. You’re afraid.

When fear gets in the way of productivity, your brain can feel like a knot. “I can’t do it,” might be the reigning mantra in your head. Fear can sneak in when you compare your success with others. Fear can also come from people’s voices in your head. Even positive voices can hinder if you’re worried you can’t live up to the greatness others see in you.

Not only can fear bind your brain, it can also kill the creative process. Fear demands instant success, which is opposite the creative cycle. When using the creative cycle, you need to be allowed multiple attempts to get it right. In the end, if you keep going, you’ll end up with a great product, but if fear stops you before you begin then you’re stuck.

Today I saw the best teeshirt. It was from @EvanAndKatelyn, a couple who specialize in DIY projects. The saying on Evan’s teeshirt was, “MAKE FAIL MAKE FAIL MAKE.” I love that MAKE is the final word on the teeshirt. We’re going to fail. We’re going to write sentences, paragraphs, and even chapters that don’t work. What matters is that we keep putting words on the page.

To stop fear, try these tips.

Ask yourself this question: No matter what my success, am I willing to keep trying? Writing is such hard work that it’s important to ask yourself this question. If the answer is, “Yes,” then don’t spend another minute letting fear stop you. You’re going to keep pursuing this no matter what the outcome, so there’s no reason to worry. In this day and age you have so many options for getting your writing out there. All that matters is you do your best. You’ll gain an audience if you keep going, so get out there and do your thing.

Combat fear with hope. Any time there’s a negative mantra in your head it’s crucial you replace it with something positive. My favorite way to do this is to replace negative thoughts with Bible verses. Where do you find your hope? That’s where you need to go when you find yourself filled with fear.

2. You’re stuck.

Sometimes the reason you’re not getting words on the page is you’re stuck. Maybe a plot point isn’t working, or a you lack depth for one of your characters. If you think the reason you’re not writing is because you’re stuck, then you may need some outside help before the words can pour out again.

Here are a few tips if you’re stuck.

Find a resource. There are so many resources out there to help you with your fiction writing. Try browsing through a great writer’s website such as… or

Or choose a book written by Les Edgerton, James Scott Bell, Randy Ingermanson, or K.M. Weiland. I’ve found these authors have written some incredible books to help you write your novel. The reason I have listed these authors is because I rely on their material a lot. Maybe you’ll find them useful, too.

Brainstorm. Don’t underestimate the value of brainstorming. Sometimes the ideas you’ve been musing over for so long have created a rut in your brain and all you need is to find a new way through. If you haven’t gotten many words down on the page recently, maybe a brainstorming session will provide a missing piece so you can get going again. If brainstorming on your own doesn’t seem to work, call a friend and ask for help.

Try something different. There are times when I can’t seem to write a scene because it’s not working. If this is your challenge, try changing something. Add or remove a character. Change the setting. Make your character say something different. Maybe this will get you writing again.

3. Your brain is tired.

Sometimes the reason you’re not writing is because your brain is tired from all the other things you're doing, and there’s no space left to imagine and dream. If you think this might be your problem, maybe these tips will help.

Start saying, “No.” Given my personality type, the peacemaker, I often find myself submerged in tasks other people have given me. Since I know this about myself, if my writing suffers, I start saying, “No.” If you have a goal to complete a novel, then you’re going to have to say, “Yes,” to yourself more often. Sometimes it feels wrong to say, “No,” but it’s okay. You’re allowed to have a life, too.

Write a little bit. If your brain is tired, you still might be able to eek out a few words. Just don’t push yourself too hard. Try spending thirty minutes on your writing, and see where it gets you. If you really can’t write, maybe a nap is in order.

Seek out something fresh. If your brain is tired, you might try waking your senses. Cut an orange, and breathe in the oils that burst from the skin. Open a window. Do a few jumping jacks. Basically, do something to wake your senses in a new way. Maybe then your imagination will open to new possibilities, and you’ll be motivated to write.

4. You’re distracted.

A distracted writer may have a lot of trouble meeting word count goals. There are times I wish there was a harness around my office chair to keep me in my seat, but even if there was on my distracted days I’d find a way not to write. I’d go on Instagram, or online shop. If you’re easily distracted, there are some easy ways to help yourself.

Set a goal. Setting goals has been the number one help, for me, in staving off distraction. Write one blog post a week. Write for thirty minutes straight. Write one thousand words a day. These are goals that have helped me in the past. It’s also fun to have a writing partner willing to write at the same time as you. Whatever goal you think will help you, set it. As you complete goals, you’ll have a better sense of success, and it’s more likely you’ll keep writing.

Change your environment. Coffee shops are most likely funded by the distracted masses who can’t seem to get anything done when that stupid basket of laundry taunts them from across the room. If you’re distracted, go to a coffee shop. If it’s the coffee shop that’s distracting you, you might want to write in a dim room or with noise cancelling head phones. I prefer writing at night, because my family doesn’t interrupt me, and it’s dark.

Rearrange your schedule. If it’s your schedule that distracts you, it’s okay to look at everything you’re doing and reprioritize writing. Consider your writing time a scheduled appointment, and you might be more likely to do it.

What do you think? What’s keeping you from writing as much as you want to? Is it fear? Are you stuck? Is your brain tired? Are you distracted? If so, try one of these tips. I wish you the best in all your writing adventures!

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