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How to Overcome 7 Common Writing Struggles & Setbacks

Lisa Tener book coach

It happens to everyone. You write and write and feel inspired and then boom.
Or thud.
You’re just not writing.
Maybe you avoid it.
Maybe you sit at your desk but nothing comes.
Or maybe you are writing but hate it. The passion has leaked out of you and you’re left with blah blah blah.

There’s hope.

How to Overcome the 7 Most Common Writing Struggles

Setback #1: You Just Can’t Make Time

time to write
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Does this sound like you? You vaguely have this writing goal, but you don’t actually sit your butt in the chair to write. 

Solutions: You need to get that butt in the chair. What can help? Reconnect with your passion and reasons for writing.

Then schedule the writing time into your calendar with specific dates, locations and times. 

Too much on your plate? Unless you’re a wizard with magical powers to stretch time, you’ll need to clear some commitments off your plate or delegate so you can create the time and space for writing. This needs to come before scheduling time or you’re likely to just berate yourself over not making it.

Setback #2: Lack of Inspiration

You actually sit butt in said chair but nothing comes.

Solution: Do you have an outline or structure? With a strong outline, you don’t actually need to write things in order. Go where you feel most inspired and work from your outline. 

If you still don’t feel inspired, try a writing prompt and use the prompt exercise as a gateway into a state of flow for your bigger writing project. Or maybe the prompt will even inspire a new project.

Setback #3: Feeling Overwhelmed


If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re in good company. The bigger the project, the more likely you are to feel overwhelmed at some point.

Solution: Break the work up into smaller phases or steps. (“Bird by Bird,” as Anne Lamott would say).

An outline helps here, too.

Setback #4 Feeling Lost

One type of overwhelm happens when you don’t have a sense of the structure or scope of your writing.

Solutions: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a strong outline can help you overcome this lost feeling and get a sense of your bearings. Your outline may change. You may feel unsure of it. It doesn’t matter. Just work with it, or let it change. Just having an outline, no matter how dynamic it is, should help you feel more grounded.

If scope is the issue, consider whether your book is too ambitious in scope. Are you trying to capture more than one target market? If yes, that’s a no-no.

Consider, too, what your target market most needs and wants; trying to give them everything on the topic may not just make you feel lost, but it may overwhelm your readers as well. “Less is more” rings true! Save some of the details for a paid course or another next step your readers can take when they finish reading your book.

Setback #5: Hating What You Write

You put so much of yourself into your writing. When you hate what you write it can feel completely deflating. “Why am I even writing a book?” “My writing sucks.” Critical self-talk can be nasty. So just tell that voice to take a hike!

imagine a reader
Photo by Bryan Delgado on Unsplash

Solutions: One tip I love is to imagine writing to one reader in your target market. It could be a real person (your sister-in-law) or an imaginary avatar you’ve created in your mind. When you do that, the writing automatically becomes more intimate and specific. You may see a marked difference from that one change alone.

It’s also important to realize that your first (or second or third) draft is not the final product. You’ll be getting input from beta readers and an editor or two. So, if you’re on a first rough draft, give yourself permission to write something that stinks. You’ll make it amazing when you edit – and I have lots of editing advice to help you do that.

If you’re already in the editing stage, then read this article for 7 tips to make your writing tighter, or these 3 tips to make the writing more compelling.

Another option is to get into a playful mood. Consider the writing an experiment. Remain curious to see how it goes. No pressure, dude.

Setback #6: Self-doubt or Imposter Syndrome

Most writers experience some form of self-doubt from time to time (or even consistently).

Solution: The key is to let go of that critical voice – thank it for its opinion and move on. Remind yourself why you want to write. Get in touch with the transformation you’re making possible for your readers. When you take the emphasis off you and whether you’ll look bad (an ego and fear-based problem) and focus on the difference you want to make for your readers, you’ll find it easier to write.

If you question the value of what you’re writing about, remind yourself what knowledge, wisdom and skills you have that can help your readers.

If you’re worried about your writing skills (as opposed to your credentials for writing about this specific topic), remember that you can hire an editor to help you polish the writing later.

Setback #7: The Loneliness of Writing

It’s easy to downplay the loneliness of writing. We often think something along the lines of, “If I were truly a writer, I should be able to write any time, regardless of the circumstances.

The truth is that it can be hard to maintain momentum if it’s all up to you. Most people need more support than that (especially some of the most successful writers). Support can mean:

I’d like to especially highlight my program, Get Your Writing Done, in case it’s a possible fit for you to uplevel your writing progress and complete a book or other project.

In Get Your Writing Done, you get:

#1 An Online Super-Inspiring Writing Group

  • One of the most important elements of success: a regular time and place to meet online and write
  • Guidance and a system for getting into a state of flow so that you write your most inspired work.
  • The support of the group energy and a committed guide (me!)
  • The opportunity to ask questions of a seasoned expert, share challenges, get help solving your biggest writing problems and more.

#2 My most effective resources for writing, self-editing, book writing (in particular) and publishing

  • Self Study classes to walk you through everything from a book concept and structure to completing a first draft (resources that normally cost $97 – $1297
  • Exclusive videos, audios and articles with my best advice plus tips and knowledge from industry insiders, including top literary agents, publishers and more.
  • Guidebooks for writing a book proposal, self-editing and more.

Find out more about Get Your Writing Done or email me to set up a call to see if this program is for you.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jane Haynes says

    This is all wonderful advice. Even though I’m not writing books, I have used many of these concepts to meet deadlines during my career as an advertising/marketing copywriter.

    I completely agree that creating an outline and knowing one’s main points before starting to write is absolutely essential.

    Once I have that in mind, I start writing the part that interests me the most, often in the middle of the narrative. Then the intro practically writes itself.

    Thank you for your succinct overview of ways to overcome struggles in the writing process.

    • Lisa Tener says

      I love that in your process the “intro practically writes itself!” Sounds like a terrific process and great evidence for our readers of the power of a strong outline! Thanks, Jayne.

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