This article contains everything you need to know about writing challenges, what causes them, and how to overcome them.
Writing is a lonely, mentally challenging and sometimes downright boring profession. Most of your time is spent in front of a screen, trying to put words together, while your brain is telling you, “Nobody would read this.”
On top of that, you’re left to create your own schedule, set your own rates, and make time for your family and friends.
“Writing, at its best, is a lonely life.”Ernest Hemingway
How do you overcome countless writing challenges and keep your sanity at the same time? Well, there is an art to it, but in this post, you’ll learn:
- What writing challenges every writer faces
- What causes these obstacles
- How to overcome them
Let’s dive in!
- 1. Distractions Are Everywhere
- 2. The Feast And Famine Writing Cycle
- 3. No Time To Write
- 4. Writer’s Block
- 5. Productivity Lulls
- 6. Editing Your Own Work
- 7. Managing Deadlines
- 8. Structuring Articles
- 9. Handling Isolation
- 10. Stifled Creativity
- Final Word On Writing Challenges
- Writing Challenges Infographic
1. Distractions Are Everywhere
Right off the bat, the biggest writing challenge for me is eliminating distractions for a few hours so I can get into a flow state and start writing well.
In this modern world we live in, distractions are everywhere. I like separating them into two categories, offline and online distractions.
Offline distractions are easy to eliminate. Establish boundaries, and tell everyone in your house not to disturb you for the next few hours. Most people are reasonable and will respect your request.
Writing with kids in the house may be a challenge, but it comes down to timing. Complete your deep work when they’re asleep, playing with their friends, or at school. And do non-creative tasks like answering emails when they’re home and awake.
The real challenge is online distractions. With so many social media platforms, you can’t keep track of them all. They draw your attention all over the place, and when it comes time to work, you find getting into that flow state impossible.
How To Eliminate Online Distractions
Getting rid of online distractions requires a combination of discipline and tools to keep you distraction free.
My ritual for eliminating online distractions is to close all the tabs I’m not using, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and even email. I put my phone in a drawer in the next room. But even after taking these steps, I still feel tempted to open Facebook or YouTube, and this is where distraction-blocking tools, like Freedom App, come in.
They block the news feed of any social media platform. That stops you from getting into that zombie-like trance where you’re scrolling Facebook for what feels like five minutes, then you realize you’ve just wasted an hour.
Simply head over to the Chrome store, and you’ll find distraction-free extensions for YouTube, Facebook and any other social media platform.
I highly recommend installing the distraction-free YouTube extension since writers need to do a lot of research and this sometimes requires this search tool. YouTube shows videos you might like on the right sidebar, and if you get distracted, you can easily waste hours watching videos.
Distraction-free YouTube blocks the sidebar on the right so you can watch what you need for research purposes then head out.
2. The Feast And Famine Writing Cycle
The infamous feast and famine cycle is another major challenge in the freelance writing community with a simple solution.
A feast and famine cycle refers to the workflow freelance writers receive. One month you might get a lot of work and beat your monthly income target, and another you won’t even come close. Consider this an opportunity rather than a challenge.
How To Overcome The Feast And Famine Cycle
The most obvious solution to this challenge is to pay yourself a salary. A great mindset to adopt is to think of yourself as an employee of your company. You pay yourself a set salary that covers your expenses, and the money left over you either put into an emergency fund or invest back into your business.
This prevents you from going overboard with spending when times are good. Then when a famine rolls around, you have some money to fall back on while you get more clients.
This doesn’t tackle the root of the problem, however; it just treats the symptom. The reason people fall into famines is that when they’re busy, they stop marketing and trying to get clients. When the inevitable famine comes, they have a lot of time on their hands to market their service, and this brings in a new flow of clients that leads to another feast.
Now that we know what causes a feast and famine challenge, the solution is obvious. Never stop marketing!
Whether your preferred form of marketing is:
- Paid ads
- Cold email
- Or content marketing
don’t stop once you’re busy because your lack of marketing might not show itself immediately, but in a few weeks or months, you’ll start to feel it.
Set an hour or two aside every day and pitch your service to potential clients. Make it a habit, and if you don’t have time to pitch because you’re too busy, hire a virtual assistant to do it for you.
By constantly pitching your writing services to potential clients, you’ll never experience a feast and famine cycle again. Your workflow becomes predictable and reliable.
3. No Time To Write
For most writers, finding time to write is a chore since life has a habit of getting in the way. But that’s where budgeting your time comes in. When you want to get better at money management, you budget your money. So why not do the same with your time?
How To Find Time To Write
Once you’ve structured your day, look for times where you can improve or eliminate as this allows you to get some extra writing done.
Another mindset shift you must make is that you don’t need a laptop or computer to start writing. You carry a smartphone, so if you don’t have access to your computer, whip out your phone and blog away. You can always send the file to your computer later.
4. Writer’s Block
Ernest Hemingway once said writer’s block is the most terrifying challenge he ever faced. You know the terror. You open a Google Doc or Microsoft Word document, then you stare at a blank screen having no idea where to start.
You don’t have to go through that dreaded challenge every time you start working on a new project. The most common reason people experience writer’s block is that they judge their work before it's time.
How To Overcome Writer’s Block
Most writers expect to write pure magic as soon as they touch a keyboard. Instead of writing then editing later, they judge and throw out their first drafts. With this practice, you’ll obviously feel stuck because writing a perfect first draft is impossible. Your first draft will be terrible regardless of your writing skills. and that’s fine. You can always edit your draft later.
Once you understand and accept that your first draft will be poorly written, you won’t experience writer’s block anymore. Daily writing becomes a piece of cake.
When you start writing, don’t judge your work. Just write. No matter how horrible you think your writing is, don’t delete or edit it right away. That comes later.
5. Productivity Lulls
Some days, you feel tired and unproductive. You struggle to get words to flow, and a voice in your head questions every word you write. All writers experience this, and it’s a good thing. Slow days allow you to appreciate productive days when you can write a few thousand words in a blink of an eye.
Here are a few tricks you can use to make your unproductive days a bit more productive.
How Do I Overcome A Productivity Slump
My three go-to techniques for increasing productivity are:
- A nice, long shower
Multiple studies show the benefits exercise provides your brain. It improves thinking power, sharpness and motivation. In simple terms, exercise promotes the growth of a protein called BDNF, which is found to increase mood, improve learning and even protect your brain against Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases.
After running around the neighborhood a few times, hop in the shower.
Do you notice that when you’re showering, unique and creative thoughts magically pop into your head? This is because you’re relaxed and stress-free. These creative opportunities are essential to being productive.
Last, avoid eating until you’ve reached a required word count. For example, have lunch only after you’ve written 2,000 words. This technique encourages you to give yourself a reward for completing a difficult task. You’ll also be more inspired because hunger is a strong motivator.
6. Editing Your Own Work
One of the biggest fears most freelance writers face is posting or sending an article to a client that includes typos and other mistakes. After you’ve written a post without judging it, you can bet you’ll find typos and structural problems. This is where editing comes in.
Editing is harder and more draining than writing itself because when you’re writing, you enter a flow state after a few minutes. Editing is a drag on mental energy.
How To Edit While Feeling Drained And Bored
After you finish writing an article, put it into Grammarly first and fix any basic issues. Next, change the font and print the article. Why?
If you write in Arial and edit in a different font, the change tricks your brain into thinking you’re reading a different piece. You’ll be more likely to catch small errors. And printing your post on a sheet of paper prevents you from writing while you’re reading, which can interrupt the flow. Instead, make a line under the mistake, then edit the document on your computer later.
Taking these steps has greatly decreased the number of mistakes in my articles and improved the flow.
Check out our self-editing guide.
7. Managing Deadlines
Even if your client hasn’t given you a deadline for a post, you must set a date for yourself, as this allows you to schedule posts properly.
How To Set Attainable Deadlines
After you’ve written blog posts for a while, you’ll start to get a feel for how long you take to research, write and edit a post. When you receive a writing project, instead of trying to finish as soon as possible, give yourself enough time to complete your project well.
The first step in setting attainable deadlines is to break down your project into smaller chunks. For example, research, an outline, the first 1000 words, last 1000 words, and editing.
Next, look back at previous projects and notice where there have been delays. Maybe your piece required more research or editing took longer than you anticipated. Factor all this into the time it takes to complete your writing project.
This ensures you don’t rush your post because of a deadline and hand in mediocre work.
8. Structuring Articles
Structuring your blog posts can be a struggle since it requires a good amount of skill. Decide which subheadings are relevant, entertaining and eye-catching for your readers while keeping them interested to read the entire 3,000-word article.
How To Structure Your Articles
Outlines can make your life ten times easier. When creating an outline, visualize yourself holding your reader’s hand and walking them through everything they need to know to fix whatever problem your article solves.
After you’ve completed your outline, the rest is easy. You’ll feel like you’re just filling in blanks since the structure of the post is already complete.
9. Handling Isolation
Creative writing is a lonely profession, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make time to socialize with friends and family and meet new people.
Socializing is a skill. Like any other skill, you can improve it or lose it. If you’re spending all day indoors working on creative writing projects and you don’t emphasize socializing, don’t expect to maintain your social skills.
How To Overcome Feeling Socially Isolated
As a writer, you must prioritize what’s important to you. Since we’re social creatures, socializing should be up there with food and water. But few writers prioritize it.
So instead of watching Netflix or browsing the internet after you’ve completed your work for the day, try something new. Go to a networking event for writers, take up a new hobby like dancing, surfing or martial arts. These are all interesting ways of making friends with people who share your interests.
Check out our guide for lonely writers.
10. Stifled Creativity
Just like it’s normal to sometimes feel unproductive, feeling creatively dry is a writing challenge we all face. But you can take a few steps to get your creative juices flowing again.
How To Get Your Creative Juices Flowing
There are several ways of getting into a creative headspace. Some include;
- Watching a new movie
- Reading a great writing book
- Listening to a podcast about writing
- Socializing with old friends or make new ones
The activities above all do one thing. They take your mind off your writing challenge and let your subconscious do the work.
Did you ever notice you never get an amazing idea while you’re actively thinking about how to solve a problem? Great ideas come when you’re doing something totally unrelated like watching TV or talking to a friend or family member.
Use this knowledge to your advantage. Next time you face a creative writing challenge, take your conscious mind off the problem and allow your subconscious to find a solution.
If you still need help, read our guide to self-care for writers.
Final Word On Writing Challenges
Writing challenges don’t only affect your productivity, they are mentally challenging and make you question your career choices. But with a few simple tricks and techniques, you can kiss all these challenges goodbye.
What Is A Creative Writing Prompt?
A creative writing prompt is a project like a short story or poetry challenge. Prior to tackling the challenge, know the purpose of the writing challenge, which writing style to use, and who the audience is.
What Is Creative Writing And What Are Some Examples?
Creative writing is any form of writing that goes outside the bounds of academic, journalistic and technical writing. NaNoWriMo is an organization that promotes creative writing by holding short story and poetry challenges around the world. Other examples of creative writing include flash fiction and poetry.
Writing Challenges Infographic
Writing is a tough gig.
Perhaps you’re working on that difficult first draft, but you’re struggling with self-belief?
Maybe you’ve been playing with an idea for months, but deep down you know it’s not good enough.
Or perhaps you want to turn a hobby into a professional career that pays the bills, but you’re not sure how to do it?
Even if you’re a more accomplished writer or someone who’s finished a book or works with paying clients, it can take years to gain the confidence needed to become a professional writer.
These are common challenges, which anyone who wants to become a writer faces.
I wanted to learn more about these common writing challenges so last year, I asked 22 top authors and writers one question:
What was your greatest writing or creative challenge and how did you overcome it?
Now, I’ve put together the best answers in this writing infographic.
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