Why Do Some Writers Have So Much Trouble Actually Writing?

White DoveEight years ago I joined a writing program in San Francisco even though I was scared to death to do it. I hadn’t written in the eight years before that and I was terrified to start writing again. I had made small attempts over the years—the beginning of a story here, or a journal entry there—but my writing was so clumsy and forced that I couldn’t read what I’d written without cringing.

I was torn between two extremes. On one hand, I was convinced I was a horrible writer and I had no idea how to go about becoming a great writer, or even a good one. On the other hand, I had never stopped devouring books or dreaming about the book I would one day finish. It got to the point where I actually felt sick inside every time I thought about writing.

That was why I joined the writing program, even though I was so scared. I had hit rock bottom and felt I had no other choice. If I didn’t start writing again I felt like I would look back at myself in 30 years and see nothing but a wasted life.

What I didn’t know at that time was how many other writers out there feel like this. Most of us start out differently to begin with—we’re sensitive, or we’re introverts, or we grew up as part of the nerd-and-geek-crowd—and so we’ve always known that we’re not like other people when it comes to our goals and desires. Most of us don’t care about making a million dollars or wielding power over other people. Instead, we want to write down our stories and we want other people to read them. We want other people to LOVE them.

We want to be great writers.

As we get older, we read and read, and read some more. We discover writers that we love and we make them our heroes and we wish we could be just like them. For me, it was Jack Kerouac, Ernest Hemingway and Stephen King. Every time I read something by them I was totally enthralled with the world they painted, and consumed with envy at the same time. I didn’t see how I could possibly ever write anything that awesome.

So I started reading around about “how to write.” This is another thing writers do. Because we’re huge readers, whenever we want to learn about something we swallow mass doses of books and articles on the subject. But most of the writing guides and classes and websites out there only made me feel worse about my inability to get any serious writing done. It seemed like there were all these rules about writing. Dialogue had to be written in a certain way, and characters had to have a clear motivation from the start. There were five ways to build tension in a plot, and three checkpoints to meet for the perfect ending.

Not only did I not know how to do any of that, but the thought of outlining a whole novel and then writing it to meet these checklists and standards made me feel so deflated and depressed. It took all the fun out of it. All I really wanted to do was write and get lost in my own imagination-land and see what happened. But it seemed like if I tried to go about things in that way, I would be acting like a rookie writer who knew nothing. I would be setting myself up to fail.

If you feel like this about your own writing right now, you are not alone. You are among countless other writers who struggle with this very problem. In fact, it’s a problem I see so frequently with my clients when they first come to me that I actually just think of it as normal. It’s part of the normal growing pains of becoming a great writer.

You may be feeling these growing pains if:

You think about writing frequently, but you never actually sit down to do any writing.

When you do write, you read it over and feel ashamed, embarrassed, or depressed.

You want to be a writer—you know in your heart that this is what you want—but you don’t feel like you can tell anyone about it. If you do try to talk about it you feel judged, not good enough, and maybe a wee bit panicky.

You recently hit a certain age and you’re sad that you haven’t yet written your book. You also feel scared that you might never write your book.

You know you were born to be a writer, but you don’t feel like a “real writer” and you don’t feel like you can claim that identity.

This is what I work on when coaching people. And yes, sometimes the work does involve a bit of editing and revision, or keeping writers to certain word counts and deadlines. Sometimes a writer comes to me and that’s what they need. But for the most part, I’m not a drill sergeant sort of coach. What I really do is listen to what’s going on with a stuck writer and help them gently unravel the knots of whatever is making them freeze up.

I also help writers gain the confidence to submit their work, enter contests, get more active on social media, tell their friends and families that they’re writers, and block off time devoted to writing each week.

Whatever the writer needs, I work with them in the spirit of gentleness, kindness, and emotional support.

So if you’re having problems writing and you have no idea how to get started or move ahead, coaching could be a very good fit for you. You can check out my coaching page here for more details:

Coaching for All Writers

Or you can email me at writecitysf@gmail.com to see if coaching might be something that could work for you.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out:

What Is Coaching and Why I Do It

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