What are the biggest challenges writers face?
As someone who has written almost every day for the past four years, kept a roof over my head through freelance writing, and written and published five books; I’ve faced most of the challenges a writer will inevitably face in their career.
And having spoken to other writers, as well as clients I’ve coached, there are some common challenges that continue to plague writers.
These obstacles often hold us back from writing, or even daring to call ourselves a writer.
But once you put a name to these challenges, and understand how they effect you, you can begin to find a way through them to the other side.
This is where you want to be as a writer.
This is where freelance writing jobs are won, manuscripts are written, and books are completed and published.
Here are what I believe to be the biggest challenges writers face, and how to overcome them
1. Not enough time
This is an excuse so many of us tell ourselves when it comes to doing anything. And writing is no exception.
I don’t have time to work out.
I don’t have time to start that business.
And, I don’t have time to write a book.
Here’s the truth – these are lies we tell ourselves over and over again until we believe them.
If you really want to do something, you will make time for it, no matter how chaotic your life currently is.
I started writing in my spare time while I still had a 9-5 job.
That meant I was waking up at 5AM most days to write before work. Jotting down ideas for new articles while I was at work. And saying no to happy hour after work so I could head home and write some more.
I created time to write because I had to. There was a burning desire in me to write. I needed it.
So if time is something you struggle with, think about what you can do to create more space for your writing.
Can you wake up earlier? Or devote some of your lunch break to writing?
Can you spend less time watching TV or socialising with friends?
If writing is important to you, then you will create time for it.
One of the biggest challenges writers face is dealing with their own fear.
Fear of not being good enough. Fear of criticism or rejection. A fear of not having anything worth saying. Or fear of being unoriginal.
Maybe your greatest fear is that you’re actually a rockstar writer, and if you put your heart and soul into it you’ll get everything you ever wanted. But you’re not sure you deserve a beautiful life like that.
The thing about writing is it’s a creative process, and creating anything requires you to be open and vulnerable.
“Fear is always triggered by creativity, because creativity asks you to enter into realms of uncertain outcome. This is nothing to be ashamed of. It is, however, something to be dealt with.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic.
Regardless of what your fear is rooted in, if you don’t find the courage to face it, it will hold power over you.
When you confront what lurks in the shadows, and expose it to the light, it will begin to shrink.
Things are scarier when we don’t face them. When we give them permission to linger and fester.
So whatever your fears are around writing, I invite you to be bold, and find the courage to face them.
The truth is, our fear will never completely disappear. But what’s important is that we don’t allow it to rule our heart, or our life.
3. Feeling uninspired
There have been many mornings in my writing life where I’ve noticed a lack of inspiration.
I haven’t been excited to write, and I haven’t felled compelled to write about anything.
We all have days like this. I don’t trust anyone who says they don’t.
But what’s important in these moments is that you still show up at your desk, and choose to write.
That you write through your lack of inspiration. Because this is how you find your way back to feeling inspired again. Momentum fuels the writing process.
And the practice of consistently showing up each day and devoting time to your craft is where the magic lives. This is what’s sacred about writing. And this is how you become a great writer.
Many of us are too attached to the outcome, and we end up missing out on this magic.
It’s a good idea to have a list of article ideas or journal prompts ready to go for moments like this when you don’t feel inspired to write about anything. This removes the choice from it, and allows you to concentrate on the writing.
4. Creatively blocked
For most of 2019, I felt creatively blocked.
Everything I wrote felt forced. I didn’t feel like I was in flow with anything. And I struggled to sit down and write.
I wrote 40,000 words of a new book, and didn’t end up publishing it. Because when I read it back, I just wasn’t happy. I knew I could do better, and I wasn’t prepared to settle for something mediocre.
Reflecting back on that time, I can think of a few reasons why I was creatively blocked.
Firstly, my finances were rocky, which meant I didn’t have a stable foundation to create from.
Secondly, I was travelling the world with my partner Sam, and that meant I didn’t have a sense of home. And I thought that was the life I wanted to live, but looking back, it wasn’t allowing me to feel steady or supported. I needed a base.
In addition to that, during our six months in Sri Lanka the energy and vibration of the country just didn’t feel aligned with my soul. It was a huge contrast to the year before that we spent in Bali, which seemed to make my soul sing.
Those were my challenges. But for other people, it can be different things showing up.
Some women struggle with being creative, because they’ve learned not to value or prioritise it.
Others don’t know how or where to begin allowing that river to flow through them.
And some people aren’t giving themselves enough time to play and nourish their well, which leads to burnout.
A woman must be careful to not allow over-responsibility (or over-respectabilty) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only.
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
So if you do find yourself creatively blocked, ask yourself if any of the issues above are effecting you. Think about what the root cause might be, and begin addressing it.
5. Lack of focus
Another of the common challenges writers face is a lack of focus.
And having too many ideas is one of the causes of this.
You’re being pulled in so many directions, and you don’t know which way to go.
Being someone with lots of ideas is a great thing. But that alone is not enough. You have to do something with those ideas.
Tune in to your intuition, and make a choice on which direction you want to head in. Make a choice, and stand by it. Sometimes it won’t work out, and other times it will. But if you avoid making a choice, you can’t make any progress.
Another possible explanation for lacking in focus is you might have an imbalance of inner feminine and masculine energy.
Focus is a masculine energy, so if you’re running on too much feminine energy, this can show up in being scattered, and all over the place. It’s like you have the water, but you have no container to hold and support that water in.
Invite the masculine in, and allow him to bring structure, focus, and discipline to your life, and work in harmony with your inner feminine.
I have both feminine and masculine energy inside me. Both are so equally powerful.
― Juansen Dizon, Confessions of a Wallflower
6. Challenges writers face: Being easily distracted
Distractions will come and go.
Distractions like the internet, your kids screaming from the other room, or email notifications popping up on your phone.
And as humans, it’s easy to allow ourselves to become distracted from what we’re currently doing. That’s why it’s important to limit those distractions as much as possible, and give ourselves the best chance of success.
So use an internet blocker on your computer if you need to. Switch your phone off before you writer, or put it on airplane mode. Go and work in a library or cafe if there are too many distractions at home. Avoid checking your emails until you’ve completed your writing for the day.
You’ll slip up along the way – we all do.
Sometimes I have an urge to check my social media or email while I’m in the middle of writing an article. And I know this is just me trying to distract myself, and avoid writing because it’s challenging, or I I’ve got loads of other things I need to do today.
But once you’re in the habit of doing nothing but write, and minimising external distractions, it’ll become easier to do it tomorrow and the day after that.
7. Staying motivated
When the no’s keep flying in, and your bank balance isn’t going up, it can be difficult to stay positive and remain motivated.
When you don’t have success or accomplishments to fuel your momentum, the most powerful thing you can do is remember why you started.
Why are you writing? Why do you want to be a writer? And who are you writing for?
Reconnecting with your purpose will remind you of the bigger picture in play. It will be the gentle push of motivation you need to work a little harder, and keep going – even in the darkest of moments.
8. Being authentic
Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.
― Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Many of us struggle with the idea of being open and vulnerable – with strangers, with the people we love, and even with ourselves.
And it’s not our fault. Because we live in a world that teaches us not to.
We’re taught (especially men) that it’s weak to show our true emotions, and if we do, we leave ourselves open to be exploited or trampled over.
But our vulnerability – our decision to be authentic – is one of our greatest strengths as human beings.
It’s how we create trust and connection with others. It’s how we help people find meaning in their own experiences, and feel less alone.
When you write authentically; when you write from your soul, your readers will feel it. And this is how you write something that not only speaks to people, but has the power to transform their lives.
9. Being original
This is different from, and not be confused with, authenticity. But one of the greatest challenges writers (all artists) face is striving to maintain originality.
How on earth do you do that when everything has already been done?
The answer is, you don’t. Nothing is original.
So don’t feel guilty using other books, films, music, paintings, poems, adverts, scenery, or conversations as your source of inspiration. That’s exactly what they’re there for.
It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.
― Jean-Luc Godard
Your writing may never be original, but you are.
The way you string sentences together, colour verses in a poem, and the stories you have to share will be unique. And how you’re inspired by what’s around you, and how you turn that into a new piece of art is what sets your work apart.
Be sure to stay true to your soul along the way, and what lights you up.
10. Lack of support from the people around you
Some of the challenges writers face can be solved easier than others. And a lack of support from the people in your life is one of the trickier challenges.
Around the same time I started writing, I also started dating my partner Sam. It was something I shared with him early on, and – lucky for me – he was always supportive and encouraging of my writing.
If he hadn’t been supportive, I’m pretty certain we wouldn’t still be together, because writing has become a huge part of my life.
Or, he would still be in my life, but my dreams of writing would’ve shrivelled up and died out. Because they wouldn’t have been nourished or nurtured the way they need to be.
If you’re surrounded by people and opinions that devalue, question, or belittle the work you’re doing; eventually that doubt and negative energy is going to seep into you and your work. You’ll begin to doubt and question yourself, and start to believe those voices.
And this is one of the ways we become creatively blocked, or riddled with fear.
So take a good look around you, and the people who are there.
Are they supporting you on your writing journey, or are they stifling your growth, and holding you back?
The only way to do this is to be completely honest with yourself.
11. Challenges writers face: Making money
When I first started freelancing, I was earning pennies. And I didn’t think I had much of a choice because I had little experience, and I didn’t know how to find more writing gigs.
Most freelance writers end up in this boat at the start of their career, and gradually work their way up. Eventually, I binned the low-paying gigs, and increased my rates.
And when it comes to writing and publishing books, the reality is, there’s not a huge amount of money it.
Not unless you write the next Harry Potter, or you’ve got a large enough audience that someone will offer you a million dollar publishing deal.
Most writers make most of their money from freelancing, or selling other products or services off the back of their book. That’s true for me, too.
This why it’s important not to quit your day-job unless you have another way to support yourself financially. Because this lack of security will only hinder your creativity, and make the process a struggle.
And it’s also vital that you genuinely love writing. That you love the process of writing, and you’re not just attached to the potential success or outcome of it. Because this is what will keep you going during the times when money doesn’t seem to be flowing to you.
12. Dealing with criticism
As a writer, you can’t escape from publishing your art. And when you do, it’s out there for millions of strangers to not only read, but also comment on.
I remember the first few times my articles were shit on by internet trolls, who seemed to delight in passing obnoxiously vile judgement on my work.
At first, it really got to me. It made me doubt myself, and question if what I was writing was total garbage.
But then I realised something.
I realised that how people respond to what I’ve created is totally out of my hands. I’ve shown up and done my part. I’ve created art from nothing, and put myself out there. And that’s all I can do. That’s all any of us can do.
It’s a case of creation versus criticism. Do you want to be the person who creates things, or the person who sits back and spends their time criticising?
Because I know what I want. I don’t have to think twice about it.
There will always be people who have something to say about your writing. Whether it’s praise or criticism, try not to allow it to have a great impact on. Just keep showing up and writing.
Each day you’ll grow stronger as a writer, and soon enough you’ll be so damn good, that the critics voices are drowned out.
13. Dealing with rejection
It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default… Often, you have to fail as a writer before you write that bestselling novel or ground-breaking memoir. If you’re failing as a writer – which it definitely feels like when you’re struggling to write regularly or can’t seem to earn a living as a freelance writer – maybe you need to take a long-term perspective.
— J.K. Rowling
Of all the challenges writers face, I’ve saved this one for last. Because it tends to be the one that holds so many writers back, yet it’s something every writer must face on their journey.
If you spend your whole life avoiding rejection, you’ll prevent yourself from experiencing success, too. Because these two go hand in hand.
Rejection is what happens when you show up and try. It’s what happens when you’re pursuing your dreams, and following your soul path. And it’s inevitable.
Rejection can be one of our greatest teachers, if we’re open to the lessons.
He can drive us towards creating our very best work. He can be the much needed fuel to motivate us to keep going. And he can make us stronger as we learn to pick ourselves back up, and try again and again until we get there.
You see, rejection isn’t so scary. I like to think of it as a challenge sent directly from the universe. A challenge to keep trying, keep going, and keep doing.
For some, this is enough to halt us in our tracks and turn our car around. But for those who dare to keep going, what awaits you on the other side is more dazzling than you can begin to image.
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