Why Discouragement is the Writer’s Greatest Obstacle, and How to Overcome It

The greatest stumbling block of every artist, writer or otherwise, is discouragement. Without looking at statistics or surveys, my guess would be that nothing does a better job of keeping a story in a box under your bed than discouragement.

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As part of this blog and my efforts to create a brand for myself, I do a lot of research into good resources for writers. Currently I’m working on a blog post about the best creative writing podcasts to follow, but every day I also get emails in my inbox from other writing blogs, brimming with advice and really helpful words of wisdom. The best of these, I tweet and post on Facebook and Pinterest (and I would love for you to follow me, by the way, on any of those platforms). But because I get bombarded by advice and good resources every day, it’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by all the things I feel like I should do as a writer, and how to make my writing perfect. The novel I’ve been working on is my brain child. My magnum opus. And I’ve been working on the stupid thing for almost nine years now. That’s ridiculous, but I keep working on it because I want it to be perfect before I send it out to make its own way in the world. Reading craft books and listening to craft podcasts and sorting through the advice penned by other bloggers sometimes gets me down – to the point where I’m pretty sure this novel is never going to get published, and even if it does, it will never be successful.

My guess is that a lot of writers feel the same way. Some of my most recent tweets on Twitter have discussed the issue of not feeling discouraged, and judging from the response I got, I really think it’s a problem that writers can relate to. So I decided to dedicate a blog post to overcoming discouragement, and to tell you to keep writing. No matter what. You have a story inside of you that will change someone’s world for the better. If you give up because you get discouraged, we’ll have a tragedy on our hands. My firm belief is that the world needs more writers because the world also needs more thinkers, and writing and reading both lead to more thinking. Hopefully that thinking will then lead to action, which will lead to solving some of the world’s most serious issues. But we can’t get there without writers who finish their work and put it out there.

Maybe the best encouragement I can offer is to remind you why you write. Hopefully you’re doing it because you love it. Because you have a message to share. Because it brings you joy. Your writing is for yourself, first and foremost. On a personal note, I keep this blog in part to keep track of all the most useful resources I find – for myself. I’m writing this blog post about discouragement because right now, that’s what I’m facing. Even though I’m also hoping that other people will find it helpful, my writing is for myself before anyone else. If you remember that your writing is for you, it becomes easier to take criticism and advice for what it’s worth, and to keep writing even if it feels like no one thinks you can, or wants you to.

Sometimes when I get discouraged, I watch this video. (I have not yet been able to watch it without crying.)


One line in particular stands out to me: “Don’t let the voice of critics paralyze you. You can make the world a better place.” It’s a Mormon Message, but even if you’re not Mormon, or even if you’re not Christian, I think the message will ring true to you. I truly believe it. We all have creative strengths, and using them will improve the world we live in.

Another article I read this week, called Every Journey Starts with One Step, talks about the importance of taking that first step toward achieving your dream. James Altucher, the author, says, “Every single project, every book that’s been written, every company that grew into a billion dollar enterprise, started with one single action.” He then argues that you just need to take your first step, even if you don’t know what you’re going to do after that.

This advice is the best I’ve heard yet for overcoming discouragement (though that wasn’t actually what the article was about). Discouragement is paralyzing. It frightens us into staying where we are and keeps us in the comfort zone of always thinking about that first chapter, but never writing it. If we never take a first step, then we’ll never make the world a better place by telling the stories within us.

So just take a first step. Just finish your novel. Just send it to one agent, or one editor, or even go so far as to publish it to one platform. It almost doesn’t matter what step you take, just take one – do something. And eventually, if you keep taking steps, you’ll achieve what you set out to do.

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this message. How do you combat discouragement? And what first step are you going to take? I hope you’ll share in the comments below, and I hope you’ll share this message to your own followers on social media if you found it helpful.

If you’d like to learn more about great resources for writers, sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

And don’t forget to keep writing.

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