This blogpost was originally published as a guest post about the third volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner for Sandra’s Book Club.
Three challenges writers face and how to overcome them
As writers, there are so many different challenges we face. Now we’ve left 2021 behind us, I want to share the three main challenges that came up for the writers I coached that year.
I struggle to stay accountable to myself
For some writers, it’s rather easy to keep themselves motivated. For others, it’s harder. I don’t have an answer as to why some writers need more external motivation than others, but I do know it’s become harder generally to stay motivated since the You-Know-What started.
If it has been a struggle to keep yourself motivated and moving forward with your writing, I highly suggest you find yourself an accountability partner. This could be a fellow writer, but it doesn’t have to be. An accountability partner doesn’t have to have similar goals. Perhaps one of your friends or colleagues has set some intentions for the new year and you could keep each other accountable?
Whoever you pick, make sure you are on the same page. You both need to understand the kind of motivation the other person needs, and you need to be comfortable giving that kind of motivation. I once had a client who asked me to be meaner to her when she didn’t achieve her writing goals, but that doesn’t align with who I am and the kind of coaching I do.
You also need to set some rules about who is reaching out first and how often. Make sure you’re not creating any loopholes for yourself to get out from doing what you said you’d be doing! If you want write every Tuesday morning, but you’ve been struggling to get started, it might not be helpful if your accountability partner waits until the Thursday to ask whether you got your writing done. Neither is it helpful if they text or call you while you should be writing. So think through this and figure out together what makes the most sense for you both.
I struggle to stay true to myself in my writing
I’m quite sure that this is something writers have always struggled with, simply because we don’t exist in a vacuum, isolated from people with opinions about what we’re writing. There’s also always been a writing market, with its supply and demand and publishers and agents trying to make money of our work, telling us what stories are and aren’t selling right now.
Of course, not all writers face this challenge, because there are those who are perfectly happy writing certain pieces simply because they sell well, even if it’s not exactly the genre they would have picked themselves. But there are a lot of writers who do feel like they’re stuck between what they want to be writing and what they think they should be writing instead, if they’re to make any kind of money with their work.
If you feel similarly caught between these two options and wish to return to yourself, it could be useful to grab a journal and write down why it is you’re writing. Why do you write? What does it bring you? What do you want it to bring you?
Once you’ve figured out the answers to those questions, think of what you want to be writing and ask yourself why this is. Why these particular works? Why this genre? What do you love so much about it? What does it allow you to say?
Now look at what you think you should be writing and be honest with yourself: Could writing this kind of work give you the same as what you want to be writing? Does it feed your soul in the same way? If the answer is no, you know what to do. In the future, you can use these answers as guideposts to help you decide what to do when you next feel forced to write a particular kind of work.
I struggle to set boundaries around my writing
This, too, is one of those struggles that seemed to have been here forever and isn’t likely to go away any time soon, if at all. The You-Know-What made it even harder to set boundaries, especially for those with families. I mainly coach women writers and we’ve talked a lot about how most of the extra work the pandemic created ended up in their lap. Some ended up full-time mothering again, while others lost their dedicated writing space to their spouse, who suddenly needed a home office.
The thing about boundaries is that you can only set them properly if you:
- believe in what you’re doing, and
- feel worthy of what you’re asking for.
If you, on some level, don’t believe you can write or have nothing interesting to say, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries around your writing time. But even if you believe in your writing, you still have to feel worthy of taking time away from whatever else goes on in your life.
For example, if you, on some level, feel that locking yourself up in a room with a sign on the door that you’re not to be disturbed unless the house is on fire makes you a bad mother, it’s going to be really hard to set and stick to that boundary. Likewise, if you feel that setting time apart to write makes you a bad partner because you could be spending that time with and on them, it’ll be hard to keep it up, if you manage to do it at all.
So before you start asking yourself what kind of boundaries you need in your life, you need to have another honest conversation first. Do you believe in what you’re doing? If not, how come? And what do you need to do to start believing in yourself? What do you need to let go of? Do you feel worthy of setting boundaries around your writing? If not, what is that based on? What do you need to do to start feeling worthy? And what do you need to let go of to make that happen?
If you’re facing any of these challenges, I wish you all the luck in overcoming them. I hope today’s post will help you get there.