Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

My Biggest Writing Struggle (What’s Yours?)

Last night, I spent four hours working on citations and end notes for an upcoming book. I had to manually add them so they didn’t mess with the typesetting program. Which made for some pretty tedious work.

Arm-wrestling Photo

Photo credit: Dan Bennett (Creative Commons)

Every time I thought I finished, I’d find a place where I needed to insert one. Then it was back to the drawing board. I’d have to start all over again. I could have screamed.

For an impatient person like me, this was complete and utter hell.

The struggles writers face

We all have our own idiosyncrasies and shortcomings when it comes to writing, don’t we? We have our frustrations and Achilles’ heels, little things that trip us up and hold us back from doing the work.

We all battle the blank page, get stuck in creative ruts, and fall out of love with the craft. This is normal, this fact of struggle. It’s what makes us human.

We all encounter obstacles at times, some that even make us want to quit. So why don’t we share them? Why don’t we admit what we’re struggling with?

Two reasons:

  1. fear
  2. pride

We’re too afraid to show our scars and too proud to mar our reputation. Let’s change that. Because, I believe, we could help each other, if we only knew what was wrong.

So here’s my struggle…

I like attention. I am addicted to short-term gratification. I tend to focus on the urgent, not the important, things in life.

Having a blog has often made this problem worse.

In an age when you can write anything, publish it yourself, and share your work with thousands of people — all within an hour — it’s hard to hold back your best content.

The art of sitting on something to say has been lost to most of us, myself included.

My biggest writing struggle is waiting. TV has stolen my attention span. I no long appreciate activities that require patience.

If I’m honest, though, my best work still comes from taking my time, from the endless rewrites and editing that seem so mundane and pointless.

I have to discipline myself to hold back. I have friends read my work and give me feedback. I do this before sharing it with the world. This is how I know I’m being held accountable to creating art, not just making noise.

So there’s my struggle: holding back when I’d rather jump the gun. It’s not easy, and I don’t manage it well. But sharing it here with you already helps.

Why was that so painful (and so freeing)?

This was kind of hard to admit here. I’d prefer that you think of me as some kind of Superman with a keyboard.

The truth is I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t have any of this figured out. I am right there in the trenches with you.

Sharing my own struggles helps take a load off. It relieves me of the burden to impress. Makes me feel more connected, more human, instead of isolated and robotic.

Anytime I share a struggle (about anything), I feel this way. Relieved. As if so much had been held back for so long and now is suddenly released.

I know how important transparency is, especially in communication. But I’m embarrassed by how much I neglect it, how much I hide from my healing. I hope we, together, can change that. I hope we can share our struggles.

Share your struggle

Currently, I’m working on a project to help other writers work through some of their struggles. I can’t say much, so just stay tuned (make sure you’re signed up for updates).

But I want to bring you in on some of the planning. I want to hear from you: What’s your biggest writing struggle? Share it below. Your feedback is invaluable in helping me help you (hope that doesn’t sound too Jerry Maguire-ish).

Plus, it’ll be fun to see how we, as a community, can help each other out. I love the conversation that happens here.

Oh, and get ready: Something big is coming soon. In the meantime, tell me your struggle in the comments of this post. And respond to someone else’s.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Penn Lamb

    I am young.
    I often hear that I don’t know what I’m writing, that I’m not competent enough to show my idea’s. Even worse, I hear this from my lit teachers. That a young woman such as I, 17 and turning to face her future financially and emotionally with the beliefs that her highschool sweetheart will stand with her too, cannot write. Cannot contribute the words that flow from mind to pencil to page. I am told, ‘You don’t have enough wisdom as a young person.’ James Clavell Wrote – “Wisdom is not measured by age, but by experience.” I believe I have plenty to share.

    This is my biggest struggle.

    • Wisdom is gained in a lot of ways, not just through the passage of time. NEVER let anyone tell you can’t do something. It’s okay to accept criticism to improve, as we all can get better at whatever we’re doing. If your heart is in it, you’ll be spectacular.

    • Navya

      Dear Penn, 
        I am proud of you for writing. The sooner you start, the better. You are starting as early as 17! Write as much as you can and you’ll blossom into a wonderful writer.

      And about the people who say you are not wise,  I’d like to know at what ‘age’ they think a person becomes wise and can start writing.  I’d like a number. 

      MOST important of all, read. Read as widely as you can, because it makes you a better writer. Good luck! 

  • I hate editing. I absolutely hate it. My content tends to be clean and because it generally doesn’t have too many errors I have been able to get away with not having to worry about fighting that editing beast.

    But if I could make myself slow down and work on editing I would probably produce something better than I have.

  • Terrence Young

    I have the hardest time finishing short stories. I’m currently challenging myself to focus on the end game before I start writing.

  • Danielle

    Thinking for the perfect moment to write. Your post made me understand that I shouldn’t be waiting for that perfect moment. Thanks; will start right away (almost right away).

  • I struggle with setting aside time to write. Like your post said, I tend to focus on the urgent, which means that my writing never makes it to the “urgent list”!

  • Amanda Hawken

    My new struggle is having to move in with my adult children and grandchildren due to a set of troubles beyond my control. Write? How does one write in the midst of other adult pressures, screaming babies and poopy nappies? I think C S Lewis made the same comment. “How do I get to write while looking after my invalid mother?” And look what he did! Perhaps I am encouraged after all!

  • My mind wanders. (Damn, I’m gettin’ old) Then, I second guess myself – that what I write is worthwhile. Anyway, thanks for the ebook – I write because I must. for no other reason. It helps. 

  • Hi Jeff! I love your newsletter, thanks so much. Today my Facebook has gotten stuck, I can’t post, share or do anything. Maybe it’s due to the powerful storm over Buenos Aires, which started yesterday.
    Can you believe it , Jeff? I have all my English poems ‘ready’ for a free chapbook publication by the writers’ website where I moderate (we’re not at all famous, just struggling to better our stuff with help from our peers). But I came in second or third in various competitions, and summed up 100% and more to win a free publication. 
    Trouble is, I just don’t get started on readying the Word.doc with my chosen poems, plus short bio, for them to do the ‘publish on demand’ mode with my work. It’s all there, but…nothing…I could set aside some time for it, but instead I fuss around the Internet or FB or my blogspot, etc etc. 
    Whatever’s wrong with me?? 
    Greetings and all the best from Buenos Aires,
    Sylvia Evelyn 

  • Navya

    Not organising before I begin to write, causing loss of continuity and causing my writing to seem disjointed. However, this problem never arises when I seize on my feelings and jot them down immediately. The flow of thoughts is so continuous that I am surprised in spite of myself. It is structured writing that poses this problem to me. 

      I think persistence, or as you say, Jeff, showing up, will help solve that problem. 

  • julie

    Getting started. I procrastinate because deep down I guess my writing isn’t good enough. Sharing my writing with other is scary.Ii’m a people pleaser and I want everyone to like me and my writings.

  • Anonymous

    I just found your blog accidently  haha..but I am in a Engl class and I kid you not it is driving me crazy!!!… I just am frustrated angry about writing a 1200 word essay…the whole beginning, thesis statement lol..topic sentences! everything about it makes me so angry to say the least..and I don’t like asking for help because I feel so little when people think I don’t know stuff..I suppose it’s just pride but I am definitely willing to learn…and I have learned a lot in the past three or so months of being in the class and I am forever thankful for the teachers who drive you insane for a good purpose because at the end of the day they will instill in you good things that you can carry with you forever….

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  • I don’t usually reply to posts but I will in this case. WoW packers movers, packers and movers pune

  • Very interesting.Thank you for your time and for what you’re doing to encourage quality in the world of blogging. sea cargo services

  • Gabriel Mambo

    I’m going through a similar struggle that this blog post has covered. It’s very hard to keep focused and committed to writing when you tend to feel like giving up. I’m appreciative of the fact that I’m not alone in my struggles and trials and can do whatever I need to do in order to succeed and pull through. Thanks a lot for this post.

  • Wow! Where to begin! I used to write well and everyday, sometimes all day. It has been years due to moving three times, health issues, marriage a child and now having time to write again…uh…I feel like I just don’t know where to begin and I feel excited at having the time to write, but once I sit down and look at all the ideas I had jotted down from years ago, I feel overwhelmed and then don’t know where to begin. This in itself flusters me because I used to have no problem sitting down and writing. Now I sit down when I have the time, and…nothing. I get so aggrivated and angry and stressed out because it never used to be like this!!! I think “What’s wrong with me? Why is this so hard now?” I can only guess two things: 1) I have been away from writing for so long, I have to relearn how get back into it and this is frustrating feeling like you’re starting all over again, and 2) my tastes have changed from when I first started writing and now I have figure out what interests me, which probably means more reading than writing.

    Then AFTER all that, I face the sense of excitement getting any writing published I tend to push myself into it again and find any old piece of writing that maybe I can publish. This is not wise of course and can lead to bad quality writing and not teaching myself self-discipline and to be patient. Then…after excitment of publishing comes the fear critics! I know I can’t please everyone and I don’t try to. I just write for those who would enjoy my work. Critics will be there but I need to learn not to fear them. I can’t let them stop any of my writing from reaching the hands of those who do enjoy it.

    So I guess I am struggling qutie a bit now and really looking for any advice and HELP!

    So happy to have found this site and to see that I am not alone. Thanks so much! God bless!

  • Organizing and structuring long documents. I’m a copywriter so I do a lot of research. A long document can be totally frustrating when it comes to deciding which facts are important and which are not, and where to put them. Only when that’s done can I start asking what the sales value is behind the facts taken together — and finally start some real writing. Once it all comes together, it’s easy. Everything before that point can feel like torture at times.

  • Lei10003

    Hi, thank you for posting about it. I know there are other people out there who struggle as I do but it’s very hard to come across them. I’ve been struggling with my attention span as well and patience…oh boy have I been struggling. I’ve recently overcome (being hopeful by saying this) a traumatic period in my life and have yet to get back into the groove of many parts of me that once came natural. I’d really love for writing to be a part that I can get back or unlock. I know it’s there but something keeps holding me back.

  • egors

    im struggling to come up with a plot that works and i want nothing more than to quit after two years. im getting pissed off with the fact that i can’t master it. i have read books on the subject and still nothing.

  • Kimberly

    I struggle with my children writing their essays. They procrastinate and I get frustrated, because I am not a great writer myself. I tend to ramble on and not tie things together. I want to know, if anything. I can do to motivate them.

  • Darren Huckey

    I struggle with finishing. I have about 10 writing projects that are about 65% complete. I’ve managed to complete 4 small books (less than 100 pages each, one of which was dependent upon translation work on my part in a very short timeframe), but struggled to complete many of the other books I’ve started writing. I have these short bursts of ideas, but maintaining the course before other important issues come up has been my struggle. Therefore, I end up writing blog posts and short articles, rather than completing my books.