7 Barriers to Writing You Can Leap Over Today

    barriers to writing

    It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

    When you aspired to become a writer, you imagined crafting pages of immaculate prose, publishing work that gets better with each read, and your peers telling each other, “Now there’s talent!”

    Instead, when you try to write, you feel paralyzed.

    You don’t know if what you’re saying makes sense, and every moment you spend with your work is a struggle.

    What you eventually produce takes longer than you planned, and it fills you with a sense of disappointment.

    Don’t worry.

    Here are seven barriers to writing every writer needs to overcome – and how to leap over them today.

    1. I Don’t Have Time to Write

    Your boss is demanding, your spouse needs your attention, you’ve got three kids to feed, and the dog is begging for a walk.

    Then, you’ve got bill to pay bills, a shelf to hang, a house to clean, and a hundred and one other things to do.

    All this before you sit down, come up with an original idea, and write about it.

    The Fix

    If you call yourself a writer, writing is one of your life’s tasks. Like any professional, you’ve got to turn up every day and get to work.

    Be brutal with the activities filling your day. No, I’m not suggesting unemployment, divorce or animal services.

    Eliminate the non-essential:

    Quit Facebook.
    Delete the email app from your phone.
    Watch television only on the weekend.
    Turn off notifications and internet access while you write.

    Protect your time and concentrate on developing the habit of writing every day.

    You’ll know you’re succeeding when it feels like writing is taking over your life.

    That’s a better problem—trust me.

    2. I Can’t Find My Voice

    Before J.K. Rowling had her way, the Philosopher’s Stone was a long-sought artifact from the Middle Ages. According to legend, it could turn base metals into gold.

    When they write the history of our craft, the writer’s voice will stand as the Philosopher’s Stone for writers—an elusive entity you can spend your whole life chasing, yet never find.

    Your voice isn’t something you go in search of. You already have a voice, but you need to develop it through continued, disciplined practice.

    The Fix

    Short-story writers can develop their voice by writing short stories in the style of their writing idols, and then adding their personality.

    Copywriters can take a proven copywriting formula and make it specific to their industry.

    Prefer poetry? You could take an English translation of Japanese Haiku and write a poem following the same structure.

    Test the confines of the niche you’re writing within, and you will develop a voice people will listen to.

    3. First Drafts Feel Impossible

    Many writers hate first drafts.

    There’s the horrible moment when you open a new document, stare at the white screen and wonder, “How am I going to fill this page? What will I ever say?”

    Unless you’re remarkably creative, it’s natural to feel afraid.

    Think of the musician who experiences stage fright before going on to wow the audience, the actor who struggles to remember their lines before getting a standing ovation, or the athlete who paces nervously around a dressing room before going on to win gold.

    The Fix

    Start writing or typing. Write whatever comes to mind for ten minutes.

    Don’t edit, or censor yourself, or hold back.

    Like the athlete who stretches before an event, free writing will warm up your mind to the task at hand.

    Once you feel more confident about what you’re going to say, stop and write a quick outline of it. Then, write your first draft.

    4. I Hate Editing

    And you thought first drafts were hard?

    I was a journalist for several years, and learned the fundamental difference between writing and editing the hard way.

    In a newspaper, it is the job of two separate people to write and to edit the same news story.

    They are two different skills that engage different parts of your brain.

    To write is to compose; to edit is to arrange.

    The Fix

    If you’re starting off, you probably can’t afford to hire an editor.

    Allocate one portion of your day to writing (mornings are good). During this time, write without censoring yourself or making dramatic changes to your work.

    Later that afternoon or evening, print your work and mark the changes you need to make with a red pen. Then make these changes in one editing session.

    If you still hate editing, Stephen King has strong words for you: “To write is human, to edit is divine.”

    5. My Writing isn’t Good Enough

    Perfectionism is a nasty vice that almost every writer must overcome.

    When you’re new to the craft, your writing probably isn’t good enough. Your desire to improve your work and become a better writer is a noble one.

    However, if this desire is holding you back from finishing whatever you’re writing, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

    Neil Gaiman would agree. He says, “You learn by finishing things.”

    By finishing even the duds, you will learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

    Most importantly, you will gain the confidence to keep going.

    The Fix

    Take out the last piece of writing you abandoned.

    Read it, making a list of what’s wrong with it, and then set a date on your calendar. Commit to finishing your work by this date.

    When this date comes, share your work with someone e.g. your writing group, your writing coach or members of your email list.

    Then go and write something new, something better.

    6. I Don’t Know What to Do With My Unpublished Work

    Most writers have stacks of unpublished essays, articles and stories in their drawer, notebook or on their computer.

    Your personal slush pile is part of the writing process.

    Not every piece of work is meant to see the light of day. You don’t have to do something with everything you write.

    Some pieces serve as markers for your journey towards becoming a better writer, or as evidence that you’re doing the work.

    The Fix

    You can gain more value from your growing slush pile by starting a blog.

    It is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to share your work with the world.

    Blogging will also force you to consider what your target audience wants, instead of what you think they need.

    It takes time and patience to become a proficient blogger. But it’s the perfect outlet for new writers because it gets you into the habit of sharing your ideas.

    7. I’m Afraid of What People Will Think

    ‘What will my mother say when she finds out I’m writing about sex?’

    ‘What will my friends think when they catch me writing about the world and all its ugly imperfections?’

    ‘What will my wife/husband do when they see themselves in my work?’

    New writers find it difficult to separate their personal lives from their work. Fiction writers, for example, often face a disconcerting moment when they reread a piece and find parts of their personal life scattered on the page.

    I’ll never forget the first time my wife read a short story I’d submitted to a competition. She asked if the woman in the story was her. I didn’t admit it then, but she was right.

    The Fix

    Accept the world as your source material.

    For your work to be authentic, you must draw on what you see, feel and experience.

    This doesn’t mean disrespecting the people in your life.

    Several years ago my creative writing teacher recommended that we take people from our personal lives, and change minor details about them (such as their age, sex or backstory) so that they become harder to recognize.

    You’re going to have to get comfortable with people loving, hating, or (worst of all) not caring about what you have to say.

    Why these Barriers to Writing are Worth Overcoming

    If writing were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.

    These struggles and frustrations represent opportunities for you to improve and to grow as a writer.

    They are signs that you are making progress.

    You can overcome any of them with continued practice, by getting help from an expert, and by sharing your work with those who are better than you are.

    What you must never do is give up because filling a page is too much work.

    What you must never do is to let difficult moments dissuade you from seeking out new ways to improve.

    What you must never do is quit because the craft is more difficult than you thought.

    What you must do is write.

    Now it’s your turn. Which limiting belief holds you back as a writer? Please share in the comments.

    Your audience is waiting.

    About the author

      Bryan Collins

      Bryan Collins helps writers become authors. This post is based on his new book The Art of Writing a Non-Fiction Book. Get his 101 Writing Prompts for free and kickstart your writing today.

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    • Soha says:

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    • Anurag says:

      Nice Article for new Writers like me. really i am also facing some barriers in my life to write with open mind. Good Writers most prefers good Mood or environment for writing but some barriers stop them to write, but your this decision making guide to writers to write anything without any barriers.

      thanks & regards

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      • Very informative article i like it, gonna share with my friends.
        Thanks for sharing this.

    • Roxanna says:

      My biggest problems are worrying about what people will think and censoring myself.

    • Brett C. says:

      Styron supposedly said,

      “Let’s Face It: Writing is Hell.”

      Vonnegut said,

      “Writing is the mental equivalent of digging ditches.”

      That’s also how the physical process of writing feels for me.

      Although I consider myself to be good at writing, I have difficulty remaining motivated and disciplined–because I find the actual mental effort to be quite difficult to sustain. .

      Aside from:

      breathing exercises
      shiatsu massage
      spiritual retreats
      cognitive therapy
      medication for anxiety or mood swings….
      NanoWrimo [National Novel Writing Month]

      Does anyone have other suggestions [aside from the suggestion of giving up writing, of course]?.

      I’d be grateful for any ideas.


      [PS….Wasn’t sure about how to announce a blogpost; I’ve entered a story on this website about the woman running with a suitcase.]


    • I have been writing for three years and I’m very ecstatic when I think of stories or writing. Writing is my absolute passion and there is nothing else that I enjoy more than telling a story. The problem is that..I’m sixteen years of age and it’s hard for me to ever concentrate in my head. I used to be able to spew out ideas but then, my mind is cluttered and I can’t even take a walk in the dark to clear my mind. It’s too hard. Do you think there’s anyway to handle this situation better? There’s too much noise.

    • Sonya Munn says:

      My issue is that I start writing something and immediately start to wonder if it is good enough and if I will be able to compete in today’s market. Then I get stuck on marketing istead of just focusing on writing something good. I just started my first blog but never know what to say, post, or share on it. I feel a little lost in this process but I really love writing poetry. This article helps things feel less overwhelming.

    • Kristin Shaver says:

      Thanks for the great advice! Finding time is definitely my Achilles’ heel. I also can relate to the “what people will think.” I find myself censoring my writing more than my Catholic HS censored our school plays. Old habits are hard to break so I appreciate the real world advice.

    • Chris says:

      “You’ll know you’re succeeding when it feels like writing is taking over your life.

      That’s a better problem—trust me.”

      That’s such a great point. I think so many people (myself included) see leisure time such as watching TV and browsing Reddit, YouTube etc. as an absolute necessity.

      Making work your number focus in the day is a huge challenge as a freelancer I think and something I’m striving for myself.

      • OJAS says:

        Very Good post yaar, actually after i reading this wonderful post, must say thanks….

        • Very Good post yaar, actually after i reading this wonderful post, must say thanks….

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    • Natalie says:

      I have always been afraid of what people would think/say. I never realized this until I took a hard look at myself and why I wasn’t writing/why I wasn’t being honest in my work. I love lists like this. They put things into perspective.

    • NoahDavid says:

      Thank you for the inspiration and strategy! I just sat down to work on my eBook and found myself struggling to get a single sentence out. Why? I’m trying too hard to be perfect the first time around! I’ll apply your advice and write for 10 minutes without worrying.

      Thank you!

    • Nice post. I think I cycle through all of these again and again, which is probably normal. But it’s the editing that gets to me the most – even after having texts edited. I guess I’m like one of those actors who can’t watch a performance they’ve given.

    • Its great work this is nice way to attract audience and also unique and interesting article.

    • Michelle says:


      Thanks for the helpful tools in this article. I am currently working on, what I hope will become, my first book and by “working on” I mean thinking about, outlining what I want to say, and running my ideas past a trusted friend and fellow writer but I have yet to put words to paper yet.

      I totally agree with your point about starting a blog, I started one about a year ago and have learned so much from it not to mention all the fun I’m having writing for it. Although I don’t have a huge following I still feel a sense of obligation to write for those who do follow me. I guess you could say that they are my accountability partners in a sense.

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      • OJAS says:

        Very Good post yaar, actually after i reading this wonderful post, must say thanks….

    • I really like your blog, keep bloging like this.

    • Marni Scofidio says:

      It really helps to continue on this sometimes difficult journey, writing, to read such enthusiastic and helpful articles like this. Thank you, Bryan, for reminding me that I’m not a freak. That many writers share the same concerns and fears and that it’s normal, aye, part of the process: to feel fear means we *care* about what we’re doing. ‘Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity.’ – Chuck Jones, animator (Bugs Bunny et al)

    • The hardest thing about being both a writer and an editor is being able to switch modes. I’m forever editing as I write! UGH!

      However, I ultimately craft great copy, free of typos and grammatical errors.

      I’ve found a few different strategies that work for me. Thank goodness!

    • Neha Singh says:

      Hi Bryan,

      That was nicely written. I really enjoyed your post. It is very useful and helpful article at 7 barriers to writing you can leap over today and look forward to reading many more.thank you,

      • Glad you liked it, thanks for reading!

        • Sweta says:

          Great article Bryan this will really help people who wants to write but can’t due to myths..

    • Joe Kovacs says:

      Hey, Bryan, good to see you. We’ve been involved in some of the same SBO conversations. I love the structure of your post–problem and fix. I know Chelsea has already commented enthusiastically about your advice on managing technology (get rid of the email app) but I would like to echo her sentiments. I think as we continue to move deeper and deeper into a world where our online presence expands, these bits of advice to stay away from technology so we can continue to be productive and even prolific writers will be even more powerful.

      One of my personal barriers to writing isn’t so much the sitting-down-to-write phase. It’s more along the lines of thinking while I’m writing. This severely limits my amount of output and may even affect the quality of my story because I’m thinking so much. I’ve tried reprogramming my approach and have had some pretty positive results. The other day, I wrote more than 2,000 words in 75 minutes, which was a big deal for me. But I take a pretty cerebral approach to many things so I know I’m always going to have to be mindful of that barrier, and just NOT think so much.

      Thanks again for sharing. See you around soon.


      • Hi Joe,
        Nice to see you here.

        2,000 words in 75 minutes is a great achievement. If you can do this more often, you are well on your way.

        You make an interesting point about thinking while writing. It gives me an idea for a post! Chat soon.

    • Rozy says:

      Wow, this came at just the right time for me. Thanks for sharing such good advice and encouragement.

    • Ann English says:

      I came across this article not long after reading a piece of work out to my writing group and realising half way through that it wasn’t very good. Thanks for the confidence boost. I’ll keep plugging away.

      • Hi Ann,

        Writing groups are a great source of critical feedback. I was in one for several years.

    • Gemma says:

      Great article! And I especially love that last section. So inspirational!

      I suppose one of my biggest issues at the moment is that I find it difficult to really time-manage my creative flow (which, honestly, kinda sounds ridiculous). Once I have a little time and I start, I get sucked into it and I can stay there for hours just writing and editing when in reality I only have like, say, half an hour to spare.

      Obviously that’s conducive to my writing but when it comes to the other aspects of my life, well those just kind of get thrown out the window. And we all know that’s not necessarily the best place for them to be.

      I just tell myself that I’m simply harvesting momentum and I’ll get better at it… eventually, ha! That’s the hope at least.

      • Lots of writers find it difficult to manage their time. I read recently that if you commit to writing at the same time every day, this makes it easier to organise the rest of your life.

    • Virginia says:

      I keep telling myself that even though I write about topics thousands of other people share their thoughts on (greater field of personal development), my ‘voice’ and take on the subject may be the one that finally gets through to someone. That’s why I keep reading and writing – you never know when that a-ha moment will strike.

      • If you keep writing and if you share your work, you will reach your readers. Then make a point to listen to them and give them what they want.

        Re your aha moment, carry a notebook and pen with you, so when it does, you’re ready. Or you could transcribe notes into your phone. That’s what I do.

    • Chelsea says:

      I really LOVE the piece of advice about deleting your phone’s email app.

      I haven’t deleted mine, but I’ve turned off the push notifications… that one thing has made me FAR more productive throughout the day because I’m not constantly concerned about what other people want to know from me, and I can focus on what I need to write in that moment.

      • Every now and again my email app somehow finds its way back onto my phone and I wonder how did that happen. Feeds, notifications and emails aren’t worth the distraction.

    • Heather says:

      I agree that it is very easy to get caught up with the excuses of why you can’t or don’t write. However, just like any other activity; you have to WANT to write. I carry a little notebook with me everywhere I go. An article idea can strike at any moment and it usually happens when you least expect. I jot down my ideas then piece them together once I’m home and everyone is in bed.

      • There’s a great story about the author Roald Dahl who got out of car one day when he thought of an idea for his story and wrote a word in the dirt on his car to remember!

        Anyway, I use Evernote to record ideas on the go.

    • I was nodding all along. This has to be your best work yet, Bryan! #HUGSS

      However, I do not believe Facebook is a waste of time if you use it wisely 😉 I ENJOY my Facebook Writing Group – we encourage and empower each other to do better.

      Of course, if you spend all day ‘liking’ and ‘commenting’ on inconsequential posts, then you need to maybe manage your time better (and I have caught myself doing this too 😉 )

      Thank you so much

      • HI Krithika,
        I appreciate the positive feedback, nice to see you here too. I’m not in a Facebook writing group, but I do use Facebook to network. That said, I’ve deleted the Facebook app from my phone.

        Use what works!

    • Mayumi says:

      Ha! I’m in the middle of my search for my writer’s voice. And now I have read this post 🙂 Thank you for your second point, Bryan! Now I can stop wasting my time and looking for this elusive entity. Top notch!

    • Thanks Brian, I needed to read this to be encouraged today. I appreciate your practical fixes. Getting back to on the saddle again.

    • Love, love, love your advice on perfectionism!

      I have a number of writings that are just sitting on my computer, but I’ve been afraid to touch them because I know they will never be perfect. Every time someone asks me about them, my anxiety rises and I laugh nervously.

      “You learn by finishing things.”

      Yes! It’s time to finish that book I’ve been writing once and for all.

      Thank you, Bryan!

      • Go for it. Write 500 words. See where the blank page takes you.

    • Hi Pooja,

      Nice to see you here. Glad you enjoyed the post.

    • Hello,

      Very nice article as always.I like all points in your article.You described all thing in a good
      manner.The insights are very good the explanation about 7 barriers to writing you can leap over today.

    • Hello,

      Very well written this post. All this described a good way.I will try.

      Keep up your great work!

      Thanks for sharing:)

    • Neil says:

      For a blogger, finding your own voice is one of the most important hurdles. It takes time if you have not been into writing before. I am still trying. I think its something which one learns with time. Keep writing and the “personal touch” will develop.

      • Hi Neill,
        You’ll get there if you put the work in. Check out the War of Art by Steven Pressfield. It helped me.

        • Neil says:

          Hey Thanks!
          Will look into it.

    • neetuyadav says:

      I want also some guidance about write my story now I am very confused how I write
      Please reply me.

    • Finishing your work is so important. If I didn’t complete my book my book, then no one would of read it. But more importantly, I would not have received the feedback I needed. Obtaining critical feedback was probably one of the most essential processes I went through.

      • Critical feedback can be tough, but it’s also essential for any writer.

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