I used to write for one reason, and that reason was: because it stayed done.
Dishes don’t stay done. Laundry doesn’t stay done. Dinner doesn’t stay done, you have to make it again every single night. So weird.
But the words on the page did not wander off and need to be corralled all over again. I could say DONE, hit publish, and walk away—and it would still be DONE when I came back. My brain likes when some thing stay done. (It’s also nice to finish a sentence without interruption. So I guess that’s really two reasons to write.)
Over time those DONEs lined up, one after the other, and turned into a writing practice. The writing helps me make sense of things and lets me connect with you and is an important part of my life–and you know what? I still get in my own way sometimes. All the time. I worry: Does this matter? Is this good enough?
Listening to those questions will stop every single thought that’s trying to make its way onto the screen. Every time. I know this, and I still have to practice answering back every day. Argh.
What keeps you from doing what lights you up? What keeps you from the things that wake you up inside, the things that make you come more fully alive, the things that make you feel more like you?
Why You Aren’t Writing
I think we’re more or less the same when it comes to being stuck.
We don’t have time or energy or resources. We feel guilty taking the time or spending the energy or using the resources.
We’re still negotiating with the voices that whisper, Who do you think you are? And, Not good enough.
We’re embarrassed. We look around and see others already doing the thing we want to do—and doing it well—and we think we won’t measure up.
We don’t know how to get started. We don’t know where to get started. We don’t know if it’s worth getting started.
It’s always worth getting started.
I know that for many of you, writing is part of being who you were meant to be. (I know that because you tell me in email and comments and sometimes even in person.) Putting words down on paper and sharing them with the world is something that makes you come alive. I get that.
Not everyone wants to be a writer, and not everyone needs to. I get that, too. But if you are a writer who isn’t writing, here are five roadblocks that might be getting in your way—and what to do about them.
(And just between us, I kinda think these apply to everybody, no matter how you express yourself. Instagram totally counts.)
The problem: You don’t have time.
This one is tricky because it’s true. You’re not imagining it. Your days are full. You probably don’t have the time to add in one more thing.
What to try: Start with “no.”
More time isn’t ever going to hand itself over on a silver platter, so if you want it, you’re going to have to hunt it down.
I always start by saying no. I say no to television. I say no to coffee dates at certain times of day. I say no to taking my kids on field trips that they don’t even want to take. The more you say no, the more you can say yes to your most important things.
The problem: You aren’t sure your words matter.
You’re worried that someone else is already doing the thing you want to do. Someone else already wrote the book, or has the huge blog, or talks about it on Facebook all day long. Maybe you think no one is listening for you.
What to try: Be you.
This is a real thing. Someone else already wrote it or did it or said it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Someone else may have written about it, but no one else can write it from your perspective. You know who you are, and you know what makes you different. That’s what we’re listening for.
Write from the place that makes you, you. Write with your own voice, from your own experience, and help us see ourselves in your words.
If you have something to say, it matters.
The problem: You don’t know where to start.
You have something to say, but you aren’t sure where to begin, or how to begin, or even if you should begin.
What to try: Start here and start now.
Start with your story. Start with why you care about this thing you want to write. Start with what has you laughing or crying or burning up.
Start by starting. You don’t have to know where you’re going before you jump in.
You’ll learn more about what you want to write by writing. You’ll learn what stories you need to tell by listening to yourself, and by listening to the people who read your words, and by practicing. Start there.
The problem: You don’t want to be all awkward.
You want to try this new thing, but you don’t really want to look ridiculous trying it out. You don’t want people to see you try things that don’t work! You’d just rather not be all awkward while you figure things out, that’s all.
What to try: Be all awkward.
So, the only way out of this one is through it. Sorry! But you can handle it.
Be the awkward. Embrace the awkward. The awkward part means you’re being brave, trying something new, and learning a ton. Everybody’s been there. No one starts out polished and perfect. There’s no such thing as perfect.
The more you can get comfortable with feeling awkward, the faster you’ll move on to feeling not-awkward. (For now! There will always be new and different awkward stages to work through. Sorry again!)
The problem: You have fears.
You’re afraid you’re not good enough. You’re afraid of what people will say. You’re afraid of what people will think but not say.
You’re afraid of what you’ll find out about yourself. You’re afraid of what everyone else will find out about you.
You’re afraid someone will read this. You’re afraid no one will read this. You’re afraid both someone and no one will read this. (Fears are not always logical.)
What to try: Use the power of “anyway.”
The fears aren’t going anywhere, I’m pretty sure. That’s okay. You don’t have to wait for them to disappear before you get to work. You can feel the fear and you can write anyway. You can revise anyway. You can hit “publish” or “send” or “update” anyway.
Talk the fear through with someone you trust, if you can. Sometimes speaking it helps take away its power.
Then you get to practice. Practice noticing the fear, practice feeling it, and then practice looking the other direction and writing anyway.
You can do this.
Be who you were made to be
The bad news: The world might not need our words. It might! But it might not.
The good news: That isn’t exactly the point.
If you’re a writer, you need to write. It’s not just about the words, it’s about becoming more fully yourself.
You come more awake and more alive by doing the things that make you feel more like yourself–and the world needs you more fully alive. That matters.
More resources for writers
Need more writing inspiration? Try these.
- Hope*writers on What I Wish I Knew Before I Wrote My First Book
- Jeff Goins on how to know if you have a good idea for a book
- 5 Writing prompts to help you tell your story
- 3 Excuses that keep smart, creative people stuck
- One shift in thinking that will help to unleash your creative voice
- 9 Books to nourish your creative spirit
And then get to work. You were made to be you, and if you’re a writer, it’s time to start writing.