Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Beware: This Is Just About the Worst Advice You Can Give a Writer

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Bryan Hutchinson, founder of the blog Positive Writer. He just released a new book about writing called, Writer’s Doubt. Also, be sure to check out the writing contest he’s hosting. 

“This too shall pass.” I’m sure you’ve heard this adage before. But what does it really mean?

Waiting pic

Photo Credit: pamhule via Compfight cc

Maybe you’ve gone through a difficult situation and someone said it to make you feel better. Or perhaps you were feeling blocked or frustrated and said it to yourself to help you persevere. Some of us even have this posted on our computer screens as a reminder of the temporary status of a situation.

This too shall pass.

I’ve heard it a lot lately. It’s become a catchall phrase to soothe any worry or struggle a person might be experiencing.

And as comforting as it seems, this is not a harmless saying. In fact, if you’re a writer, it could prolong what you’re going through or, heaven forbid, make it worse.

Think about it: what does “this too shall pass” mean? Waiting. And guess what? As an artist, waiting is the last thing you should do.

What are you waiting for?

Are you holding out for inspiration? Motivation? Desire? Better days to come? Maybe a deadline to pass or that last-minute surge of energy to finish a project you’ve been putting off?

Here’s the truth: All those excuses are bogus. When you’re waiting, you’re not creating. You’re allowing valuable time to go by, which you can never get back. It’s gone… forever.

When I talk about waiting, I’m not referring to mindfulness and meditation, learning to embrace the in-between by taking a walk along the seashore on a beautiful sunshiny day. Those are helpful activities.

I’m talking about stalling.

The doubt we all face (and how to overcome it)

In times of waiting, we allow our minds to wander. And too often when we do this, we begin to imagine the worst: that we aren’t really artists. We’re just pretending, and maybe, we should give up.

After all, “this too shall pass” doesn’t seem to be passing with any haste. In fact, haven’t you noticed it’s getting worse?

That’s doubt talking.

If you wait long enough, hoping those self-defeating thoughts will evaporate, they won’t. And the longer you wait, the more rooted they become. It’s a trap many of us fall into.

Here’s what you need to do…

Stop waiting. Because it’s not helping. “This too shall pass?” Not likely. Not until you do something.

The good news is you can do something. You can write. It’s within you to create greatness. All you have to do is start. You have the talent, the ability, the imagination. If you start now by creating and focusing on your art, doubt will take a backseat to the power of doing something.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: You are magical.

Taking action will bring forth power within you that you didn’t know was there. You can worry whether you’re good enough, filling yourself with anxiety, or you can let go of fear and start doing something that will make a difference.

You are able. You are more than good enough. You have greatness in you, wanting to come out. Doubt is loudest and at its most insidious when you do nothing. So just start moving your fingers. Fear will retreat when you advance.

A practical plan is to start with 500 words a day. Just write what comes to mind, and when you reach your word limit with still have more to say, keep writing.

Then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. And so on.

The good, the bad, and the ugly (of writing)

Write when it feels good and when it’s hard and when the words come out all wrong. Write when you’re tired and angry and unsure of your ability.

As you do this, sooner or later, your message will come. What seems like gibberish today will become what you’ve always wanted to say but could never muster the courage to get out.

Try it. Keep writing until your message becomes clear and your voice emerges. Write your story with boldness, facing fear as it comes and doing it anyway. Because that’s your greatness. That’s your “magic,” the message within you that the world needs to hear.

You’re a writer, so write. That’s what we do. Even when you don’t know what to write about, just start. Your message will come. I promise.

All you have to do is stop waiting, let go of fear, and keep writing.

So what are you going to write about? How about starting in the comments? Or even better, how about joining the My 500 Words daily challenge?

About Bryan Hutchinson

Bryan Hutchinson is the founder of the blog Positive Writer. He just released a new book about writing called, Writer's Doubt.

Ever Wonder If Your Blog Post Is Good Enough?

We built a free tool so you don’t have to worry about that ever again.

1. Pick your goal of the post
2. Answer 5 basic questions
3. It tells you if it’s good enough and how to make it better

Click here to use the tool.

  • mochasarah

    Such sound advice. It’s not always easy (sometimes it’s even scary). But if you don’t start, it will never happen …

  • Great reminder. I actually love those mornings when I wake up and think I have nothing to write about. It is kind of “magical” You start typing and the words and ideas show up. They’re not always great and not always ones I want to share but even if they aren’t they often become the launching board to something else.

    • I have lots of mornings like those, Eileen. My best post come from those mornings and I’m willing to bet yours do, too. -?-

  • And I thought I was the only one? Thanks for putting a name to my demons, for exposing them and stripping them of their power.

    What a great article – I needed this today! Thank you : )

    • Thank you, Simon. Glad you enjoyed it and got something from it. Keep writing.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for this. I’ve been working on a story for quite a few years.
    I’ve written so many ideas & info that my binder is bursting. Every time I sit down to put the pieces of the story together, I can’t figure it out. The sadness & depression have been overwhelming. For the past hour I’ve been sitting in the rain & convinced myself that I can’t do it. I’ve wasted too much time. Maybe the imagination/creativity I used to have is not there anymore, etc., etc. It was a big pity party. This article showed up at the very moment I needed it.

    • You’re not alone, Kathy. Not even close. Write your heart out and feel free to share it with me when you do.

  • Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

  • I love you (as one writer to another) and haven’t ever met you but you know my heart. Thank you for your constant motivation and encouragement! Yours and Jeff’s words change me, so helpful and hope giving. Means the world to me. Blessings to you both, as we go forward and not get stuck behind the blank page.

  • I think the best advice you can give to writers is just straight up telling them that “It ain’t EASY!!!!” Because it’s not. So many artists have this built up romantic image about their craft when it’s really just has hard, and can be just as mundane, as any other job. Even more so when success isn’t guaranteed… Great point, and awesome post, Bryan.

    • It’s crazy hard and it can even be torture! You said it, Devani. We writers are a crazy lot just a glutton for punishment! 🙂

  • Ann Marie Thomas

    Thanks for the reminder and the good advice. I keep telling myself, ‘If you want to be a writer, you just have to write!’

  • Emmluu

    Thank you for this inspiration—I really, really, REALLY needed it….LOL. I am definitely guilty of writing something, reading it back later and saying, “What the Hell is this gibberish?. Then I just give up for awhile until I feel like I can write something that will make sense. What you are suggesting is what I should be doing because I am not getting anywhere with my method. Awesome post and again, Thank You!

  • Judith Gotwald

    In religious circles this quote is legendary. “This too shall pass” is the advice of a rabbi who was asked for an all purpose blessing—in bad times AND good times.
    You lost your job. “This too shall pass.”
    You won the lottery. “This too shall pass.”
    It’s a reminder for us all to stay engaged. For those who are struggling, there is a light. Persevere while waiting. For those who are blessed, it stands as a warning that fortune is fickle. Be humble and gracious while waiting.

    Not a bad adage to scribble on a PostIt when you think of it that way—even for us writers!

    • I sure do agree, Judith!
      There are times when the act of stopping is the right decision. To wait is a decision, and action, and often even a command. Think of stop lights!
      I think we always can write something, though. We can write about waiting, even, about how things have passed away. about wise rabbis. 🙂

    • True. And helpful, sometimes, when you think of it like that. Totally agree.
      However, I do content waiting for lightning to strike isn’t usually all that successful of a plan and there are those who wait and wait, and wait some more… Being a writer typically means, to write. 🙂

  • obiagelin

    What a good tip! However, there are times when a writer may not be in a writing mood and I will rather get some rest or engage in some other activity instead of putting pressure on my brain. I can pick up the pen later when I am more relaxed. Don’t you think so?

  • Great advice. IT is interesting to see what ends up coming out on the computer screen some days.

  • Exactly what I needed to hear today after a morning of “I can’t do this” going through my head (yet again). After I read your post, I sat down and started writing.

  • Janice G

    Thank you for posting this challenge to help people make progress when they have felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of a whole project. 500 words a day are certainly a good beginning.

  • Well heck, that does it, I’m heading to my drawing board right now! Thanks for the boost!

  • I have been part of the 500 word challenge and it has been a great experience. Great post, Bryan. And it so resonates with me. Writing this second book has been such a challenge. Writer’s doubt enveloped me so often. Never before had I experienced so much resistance. But I fought it. Fought it hard. In fact, I’m still fighting it. Maybe it’s proof I have something of value to offer. Loved the post.

    • Proof indeed, Anne. You have so much to offer and you prove it every, single, day!

  • Joyce Ackley

    It’s easy for me to say “That’s good advice. I’ll just write through, next time I’m blocked or frustrated.” But it’s hard to put into practice. I’ve experienced some long blocks and I’ve beaten myself up over them. I’ve been told to “keep that pen moving across the page,” etc. but it seems such a waste of time when I have nothing to say or cannot think of anything to say because I’m depressed or frustrated. Your article gave me courage to keep trying, to work through the bad times.

    • Anything worth it is rarely, if ever, easy. If it were easy you might not want it as much. Keep working, keep writing and let it be hard, because you’ve got what it takes.

  • Marcy Mason McKay

    So true, Bryan. I call this difficult place Writer’s Funk and the only way to work myself out it is to write myself out it. Pen to paper until I find my groove once again. Great post. TY.

    • Writer yourself out of it. Totally dig that, Marcy!

      • Marcy Mason McKay

        Thanks, Bryan. Easier said than done, but I try. 🙂

  • I have written one entire book and 3/4 of another, and am waiting to publish until what can be shaken in the publishing industry has finally been shaken. I am so glad I waited because it has nearly “passed” away as I watched. Eventually I will know which direction to take, but for me, waiting for it to pass has been a mistake-saver. I am so glad to know where the dust has settled, and where my trust ought to be! I did not know that before I waited. I did write, though, having a content-rich blog site ready to convert to whatever I want. I would never have guessed it would end this way, though. I am so glad I waited.

    • Katherine, waiting isn’t always a bad thing or a good thing for that matter. The question is, what are you waiting for?

  • cjdeboer

    Excellent post, Bryan! I always advise my students to just start somewhere – anywhere, and all will become clear eventually. It’s in the waiting for things to change that we become paralyzed.

  • Excellent reminder and kick in the pants!

    THIS —> “You are able. You are more than good enough. You have greatness in you, wanting to come out. Doubt is loudest and at its most insidious when you do nothing. So just start moving your fingers. Fear will retreat when you advance.” is my new mantra! Thanks!

  • I interviewed a woman on my blog today that wakes up and writes from 4 am to 7 am everyday, she writes 3,000 words a day. She’s published 11 books since 2012. It was a challenge to me to stop making excuses, stop getting distracted and just write!

    • Catherine

      Can you mention her name and some of her books

    • Thanks for the mention, Kimanzi! It’s one step at a time to becoming more productive. I’ve found that if I want to write, I have to make it happen – it’s definitely not going to happen on its own!

      A couple years ago, Jeff threw out the challenge on this blog to get up earlier to write. I’m pretty sure that I replied with an excuse! If I didn’t, I was thinking it. If I can get up early to write, anyone can! Just set your alarm ahead a few minutes each day. That’s a great place to start.

  • Brian – absolutely, positively SPOT ON!

    It is almost as if we were sitting next to each other and copying notes as this is highly similar to a post I published today which included a short YT video to emphasize the point.

    Your post is very much a confirmation to me! Thank you.

    Please know that your words are such an encouragement …

  • Beth Coulton

    I read this post this morning at work, and it stuck with me all day. I read it again this evening at home, when I could take more time to digest the words and let it sink in. I was almost in tears as I read because as it was as if you were sitting across the table from me, speaking the words I so needed to hear to assure me that I AM A WRITER and I can do this. Why is it that we get into this pattern of monumental self doubt, which eats away at our creativity and joy of our craft?
    One of my favorite lines is from a song by the Fray. They wisely sing, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” Amen to that.

  • I read this post this morning at work, and it stuck with me all day. I read it again this evening at home, when I could take more time to digest the words and let it sink in. I was almost in tears as I read because as it was as if you were sitting across the table from me, speaking the words I so needed to hear to assure me that I AM A WRITER and I can do this. Why is it that we get into this pattern of monumental self doubt, which eats away at our creativity and joy of our craft?

    One of my favorite lines is from a song by the Fray. They wisely sing, “Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” Amen to that.

    • Totally agree with that line, Beth. Thanks for letting me know. Keep writing!

  • Vishvesh Menon

    I am a writer. I write short stories and I love doing that. But when I start to think about taking the next big step, I lose my patience and give a thought of giving up. This post slapped right at my face. Such an encouraging and brilliant post. Thanks!

  • This post is magical! ‘You’re a writer, so write.’ The simple truth, isn’t that always the best advice. Now I’m off to write, thanks for the motivation 🙂

  • Your paragraph “Write when it feels good and when it’s hard ……” opens up a whole new challenge. After reading your post, for the third time, I decided to try your 500 word suggestion. I have to admit that it was difficult to begin with until I tried putting down whatever came to mind. The outcome? Rather random but I managed to get some interesting prospects down on paper for future articles. Great post!

  • Rhoda

    Thank you so much for sharing this Jeff, and you Bryan for writing it. It is what I needed as I have felt stuck on my writing journey for a while now. I declare that I am a writer and writing is what I do!

  • “Write when it feels good and when it’s hard and when the words come out all wrong. Write when you’re tired and angry and unsure of your ability…”

    This line hits me. I’m not a writer but I’m frustrated to be a Writer. I wrote poems and sometimes composed songs depends on how i feel that day… but i’ll keep it for myself, I don’t want to show it with others. Anyways, this article motivate me to pursue my writings 🙂 Thank you. Keep it up! ^^,

  • Writing is very interesting but carrying out information through writing is always a problem for me as a blogger, sometimes it feels like I have run out of what to write and would prefer someone to write for me.. Even though it is great, it is preferable I write it myself. for that I know.. I hope to come to a point where I can say I love to write….

  • Deb McFarlin

    Thank you for this post. Love it and take it to heart.

  • Travis Charlene Braucht

    I am going to write about the hopelessness, the depravity, the insanity of life, my life, and how God has reached into it and called me out.
    I’m going to write about the fear of becoming absolutely truthful, the fear of facing absolute reality honestly, and the hand of God that has chased me and formed me with pure relentlessness. And by the Power of The Spirit of Truth, I am going to look in His face, His eyes, and His soul to know what He truly thinks of me personally.

  • Phil Bryson

    I’ve already written a book about my chequered career in the royal navy, I deserted, I joined to travel which I love but as I haven’t got much money I write about days out which includes walking over Hampstead Heath and on Parliament Hill gives possibly the best view ever over London. At the end of April I went to Edinburgh and I’ve written about it. I have a couple of people who like my stories and so I email the stories to them.

    • Oh, man, I’d love to visit Edinburgh! Do you have a link to what you’ve written about it?

      • Phil Bryson

        Not sure how to do this but if you have an email address I can send it to you. It was a real eye opener to me and I really loved it.

        • Phil, send to Bryan.Hutchinson (at) positivewriter.com

          Looking forward to reading it!

      • Hi Bryan I’ve sorted it out and if you go to my blog at https://philbryson.com
        then you will be able to read my account of my visit to Edinburgh.

  • Dee Beets

    Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to hear!

  • You can’t rewind the time that already pass. The things you miss to do within that time will never be redo. Make use of your time, do what you wish to do because you will never know what will happen on the next hours to come. Making yourself productive every second of your time will make you accomplish what you have to do.

  • Bryan! Thanks a million.. I really require your pearls of wisdom today 🙂 God bless you 🙂

  • Charlene Woodley

    Thank you Bryan for these words. The encouragement in your post was a real eye-opener for me as I have a habit of feeling as if what I write ‘was not good enough’, ‘could have been better’, or ‘I really need to stop this’ despite the fact that I cannot stop. I find myself ‘stuck’ more often than I believe anyone (namely, myself) should, but I do believe that perseverance is key, so thank you so much!

    • I think we all have the habit of thinking that way from time to time, Charlene. I agree, perseverance is essential and will make the difference. Keep pushing forward, keep writing!

  • Bryan…this post tells me you’ve got some depth to you. Excellent!

    Will start following your blog…