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15 of the most common causes of writer’s block – and how to cure them

Feeling stuck in your manuscript, craft, or career? Here are 15 of the most common problems that can stall a writer’s progress – plus key strategies for overcoming each one.

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10. Problem: You believe you will never be as good as the other writers out there.

Bonnie Friedman (Writing Past Dark) calls envy “the writer’s disease.” During the time I was racking up rejections from publishers for my book, my husband was racking up accolades for his art. The envy I felt led to one of the most painful times of my life, and it was the biggest waste of my time because, in the end, it took me further from my writing goals than any other distraction.


What to do: Stop looking around. I can’t stress this enough. There will always be someone out there who you feel is doing better than you. I used to think the fix was to focus on those doing worse than me, but I was wrong. The fix is to stop comparing yourself completely. Only when I was able to look away from my husband’s career track and return my gaze to my own was I able to stop the pain and move forward.

Ask yourself why you are writing. My answer at that time was, “To make a difference for people suffering from addictions.” As long as I was aligned with my purpose, I was able to keep a clear-eyed view of my own goals, and it ceased to matter what my husband was doing or getting.

When I was about to move into my new house, people told me to forget about writing for a while, that moving and getting settled were going to eat up all my motivation. They’re crazy, I thought.
I’ve got this.

11. Problem: You’re going through some life changes.

I did not have this. I didn’t write for a month. Know that during times like these you can’t fight the forces of life and change, and that’s OK.


What to do: Make time to stay connected to your writing. Sometimes just doing the smallest amount can keep us grounded.

Can you look at your writing project for just five minutes each day? Open the file of whatever you’re working on and simply read through it?

If you simply can’t get to your writing, don’t beat up on yourself. It will still be there when you return – and a fallow period can lead to unexpected harvests.

Set a date to return to your project. Tell the whole universe your date. Don’t stand your project up.


12. Problem: You can’t handle rejection.

Rejection sucks. It never feels good, and it can stop us in our tracks. No matter how much we know that rejection happens for many reasons – your submission comes at the wrong time, isn’t a good fit for where you sent it, etc. – we almost ALWAYS think it’s a judgment on the writing. Whether it is or isn’t, rejection is a part of the writing business, and you have to keep going, whatever it takes. The best and most famous writers have been rejected, many of them numerous times.


What to do: Submit more. This may seem counterintuitive, but the numbers are in your favor: the more you submit, the more you up your chances of getting accepted. Also, when you have several pieces circulating, each rejection doesn’t feel world-ending since you still have other irons in the fire.

Join a group of writers, in person or online, who are also submitting their work. The camaraderie will be a salve, and you will come to see that rejection both does and does not define a writer.

Don’t fight the pain of rejection. Acknowledge it. Share your disappointment. Then get up, dust yourself off, and get back on the horse. We all do it.


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