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What Holds You Back from Writing?

How to Break Free

Authorship isn’t as glamorous as we sometimes think. Writing can feel like a totally solo venture—just you and the words in your head. The process involves a lot of roadblocks, a heap of self-doubt, and dozens of deleted paragraphs you spent weeks perfecting. Sometimes, we can let all of those negatives—and more—hold us back from writing. 

Below, we’ll tackle seven of the most common writing hang-ups and talk about how to break free and get the creative juices flowing again. 

1. Inexperience

The problem: If this is your first time tackling the manuscript process, you may feel intimidated by the thought of writing down thousands upon thousands of words. Maybe you’ve made it halfway through a draft and you don’t know where to go next…or how to get there. 

The solution: Read! Head to your local library or bookstore and pick up a bunch of books in your genre (and a few outside of it). See how other authors have plotted, paced, and presented arguments. Then, once you’ve learned from the pros, dive back in. Remember that this is your first book, and it won’t be perfect. Allow yourself to experiment and learn from your successes and your mistakes. 

2. Writer’s Block

The problem: You were cruising along just fine, and then BAM! Brick wall. You’ve lost your inspiration, your motivation, and your ability to get the idea out of your head and onto paper. 

The solution: Good news! Independent Publisher has a whole article on conquering writer’s block. Check out 15 ways to shake the block, including free writing, outlining, writing a synopsis, and more. 

3. Not Enough Time

The problem: There aren’t enough hours in the day to write. Between work, friends, family, school, and a million other things, we simply don’t have the time we want to work on our craft. 

The solution: Set an achievable writing goal for each week. Not every day—there will be days when you just can’t find a spare five minutes to write. But make that weekly goal, and stick to it. No excuses (with the exceptions of emergencies, of course). If you need to wake up at 5 a.m. to meet your goal, so be it. If you need to skip out on a night at the movies, that’s the way it is. Don’t let your work or relationships suffer, but do find time to put your writing first. 

4. Stuck on Research

The problem: You need a lot of research for your book—whether it’s nonfiction or fiction—and you can’t seem to get past the background work to make progress on the manuscript. 

The solution: Write a draft anyway. Leave blanks where you know you will need research to support your points or enhance your world building. Then come back when you have the bones of the manuscript and flesh it out. If you don’t feel like you have enough to run with when the research is missing, write the outline instead of the full draft. This will point you in the right direction too. 

5. Overwhelming Revisions

The problem: Every book requires major revisions, and those growing pains can be painful. You may have to cut some of your favorite parts to make the whole story work, but you don’t want to. You may need to rework a whole chapter, a whole character, a whole narrative arc, and you don’t even know where to begin. 

The solution: Once more, Independent Publisher has you covered! Check out our “Revise Right” article for five steps to revising your manuscript. 

6. Wondering What’s Next

The problem: You’re almost done with your manuscript, but the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t as welcoming as it appears. On the other side of this tunnel, you’ll find yourself facing things like publication, distribution, marketing, and more. 

The solution: Create a checklist that includes every little piece of the publishing puzzle. Do you want an agent? Will you self-publish? What about cover design? Making a list helps you get organized and not feel quite as overwhelmed. Then, put the list aside and keep writing. Finish your manuscript, and then worry about the rest. Because if you don’t finish writing, you won’t get to worry about the rest. 

7. Giving In to Fear

The problem: Writing is scary. The act of putting your innermost thoughts, deeply held opinions, or creative worlds on paper is scary. Sharing your writing is scary. Wondering what will happen to your writing when it is out in the wild is scary. Failure is scary. Success can be scary too. 

The solution: Remind yourself that there’s nothing to fear except fear itself. (And, you know, sharks and stuff.) Think of all the writers who faced rejection, bad reviews, or years of slow sales before they had a breakout book. Think of the writers who failed, but then succeeded. Think of the writers who succeeded, and then failed. No book in the world is perfect, and yours will be no exception. Embrace the unknown, because there’s nothing else you can do, and never let the fear of “what if” hold you back. 

Have any other writing hang-ups you’d like tackled? Let us know in the comments below! As High School Musical taught us…we’re all in this together.


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Jillian Bergsma Manning is a contributing editor for Independent Publisher. She loves reading and writing but not arithmetic. Follow her on Twitter at @LillianJaine or on her blog at