Seven Common Obstacles on Your Writing Journey (and How to Overcome Them)

9 Feb 2024 | Motivation

Title image: Seven Common Obstacles on Your Writing Journey (and How to Overcome Them)

If you’ve been a writer for any length of time, you’ll have encountered some kind of obstacle, getting in the way of your writing goals.

I faced a (very common) freelancing obstacle at the start of January, of not having as much paid work as I wanted:

  • Client A let me know they were pausing work with all their freelance writers until further notice.
  • Client B let me know that they wouldn’t be taking on so much work from me for the next few months.

In due course, Client A got back in touch, ready to resume work (with a slightly different scope). So this wasn’t a huge obstacle, but it did prompt me to reach out to some past clients and do some extra guest posting to build up my profile a bit – my freelance work is almost all ghostwriting, so it’s hard to keep my byline out there.

Maybe you’re a freelancer too and you’ve faced some similar obstacles, like a client suddenly vanishing, or dramatically cutting down or changing the work they do with you. Or perhaps you’re facing an entirely different challenge.

You might be in the enviable position where the writing road ahead looks smooth and flawless, and you can’t imagine any obstacles coming up. (I usually find, in my own writing life, that this is exactly when something comes out of the blue to surprise me… ;-))

Let’s take a look at some common obstacles that writers face and then go through some ways to overcome them.

Seven Common Obstacles for Writers (Which Are You Facing?)

Some of these obstacles might seem quite small – but something that comes as a little bump in the road to one writer might completely throw things off for another.

#1: Lack of Freelance Work

This obstacle is unfortunately hard to avoid completely. I’ve been freelancing for 16+ years and I’ve still had a couple of times in the last 12 months where I had less work than I wanted (also a few times when I’ve had a bit more work than I wanted … such is the freelance life!)

If you’re just getting started with freelancing, it can take some time to ramp up to a point where you’ve got enough work to make a living. That’s why most freelancers start out freelancing around a regular day job (or other commitments, like being a stay-at-home parent) instead of going full-time from day one.

#2: A Piece Being Rejected

Another obstacle on your path is when you have a piece of writing rejected. As well as the practical impact – you’ll need to look for a new publication for this piece, or pitch something different – rejection can also have a huge emotional impact on you as a writer.

The experience of rejection is part of the business of writing, but that doesn’t necessarily make it feel any easier. Some people are also more sensitive to rejection than others: if that’s you, then it may take a lot of courage to even put yourself in a position where you might have your work rejected.

#3: Unexpected Interruptions to Writing Time

Here’s another obstacle we’ve probably all faced: having our writing time interrupted. As I draft this post, I can hear my nine-year-old coughing – he’s off school with a horrible January cough. I’m lucky that he’s happy to sit playing games on an old phone handset while I write, but if you’re a writer with younger children, having them home from nursery or school during the day could seriously curtail your ability to get anything done.

Even small interruptions, like a phone call, the “ding” on your phone that could be the message you’re waiting for, someone coming to chat to you, or a knock at the door can all really throw you off when you’re in the middle of a writing session.

#4: Feeling Out of Ideas

Sometimes, you might be between writing projects and have no clue what you’re going to work on next. This often happens to me with novels: I’ll finish a novel and then it feels like I’m never going to have another novel-length idea again. (So far, I always have had more ideas, eventually!)

Whether you’re pitching articles, crafting poems, writing short stories, keeping up a blog, or something else entirely, you’re likely to have times when it seems like your well of ideas has run dry. 

#5: Your Client or Editor Wants a Lot of Changes

As a freelancer, I never mind making changes if a client needs them – though in practice, most of my clients will simply do edits themselves if they want something changed. But if you have especially demanding clients, or if you’re trying to get a piece accepted by an editor, you may be faced with making extensive changes to your work.

It can be really disheartening to have to make major changes to a piece – especially as you generally won’t be paid anything extra for this work! It may well be worth it (I once cut a short story’s word count dramatically at the editor’s request, in order to see it published in a magazine) … but it can still feel like a daunting obstacle.

#6: Technical Difficulties

Another common obstacle that writers face – but often don’t see coming! – is when technology doesn’t cooperate. Whether your wifi is playing up, a certain letter isn’t quite working on your keyboard, or there’s some other issue, it can be incredibly frustrating to have to waste writing time on troubleshooting technology.

I find it helps to assume that things will go wrong with technology at times and to avoid doing anything at the last possible minute (if you wait to submit a short story until 5 minutes before the deadline, that’s just tempting fate … especially if your internet connection is a little unreliable). 

#7: Missing a Deadline

Missing a deadline can feel like a small disaster, though it definitely doesn’t need to be. However much you pride yourself on meeting deadlines, there’s probably going to be some point in your writing career where you simply can’t hit a deadline. Perhaps you or a family member is unwell, you’re facing technical catastrophes, or something else has gone seriously awry.

It’s super-embarrassing to miss a deadline and only realise it when your client or editor gets in touch to ask whether your piece is ready … but I promise you won’t be the first person this has happened to! Apologise, and let them know when you’ll get the work to them.

How to Overcome Writing Obstacles

Some obstacles will be looming in the distance, far ahead; others may not make themselves known until it’s already far too late to change course to avoid them. 

Whatever your writing goals for 2024, it’s worth asking yourself, what’s most likely to derail my plans?

For instance, maybe you’re planning to write for 15 minutes each morning, but if you wake up late or your child wakes up early, then that time’s going to be lost. You could swerve that obstacle by planning for a backup slot later in the day (mine is usually immediately after lunch).

When something does go wrong in your writing life – and it’s just the nature of writing, and life, that occasionally things will go wrong – then here are four ways to overcome the obstacle.

Step 1. Don’t Give In to Discouragement

One of the worst things about writing obstacles is that they make it so tempting to just give up. Sometimes, if you’re facing a tough obstacle or the same one has come up over and over again, you might be tempted to see it as a sign that it’s just not worth carrying on.

But don’t give in to this discouragement. It is worth writing, and facing these obstacles will help you become an even stronger, more dedicated writer. Keep battling forward – you may need to change your path a little or you may have to take longer over your journey to your goals, but you can still get there.

Step 2. Seek Out Support

Whatever obstacle you’re facing, it’s almost certain that it’ll be easier to overcome if you have a bit of support. And generally, the people who care about you would love to help and support you on the path to your goals … just as you’d want to help and support them in turn.

Support might be:

  • Practical support. This might involve the other person doing something for you – like taking care of your kids for an hour or two so you can write. It could also involve them not doing something, like not interrupting while you’re writing!
  • Emotional support. This can be so valuable, especially if you’re struggling not to feel discouraged. Reach out to other people who get it – fellow writers. That might be personal friends or members of a local writing group, but it could also be other writers who you’ve met online.
  • Support with the actual writing. If you’re struggling with an issue like your work being rejected, then you may find that what helps most is to have someone to give you a hand with your writing itself by offering feedback or suggestions. This might be a beta reader, editor, or writing mentor/coach.

Step 3. Brainstorm Possible Options

In many cases, the solution to an obstacle will be clear. If you’ve missed a deadline, then the solution is to prioritise that piece of work and get it finished as quickly as possible. If your internet connection is notoriously unreliable, then the solution is probably to switch providers, if you can.

But sometimes, there might not be an obvious solution. Let’s say you’ve finished a novel and you don’t have any ideas for the next one. Should you push yourself to come up with some kind of idea and get started? Should you take some time off from writing completely? Should you work on short stories instead? Those are potential options. Taking a few minutes to consider what you might do can help with the next step.

Step 4. Create a Clear Plan of Action

Once you’ve thought through some possible solutions, create a plan to get around your obstacle. 

Let’s say you wrote a short story that was rejected. You might plan to:

  1. Get feedback on the short story from your writing group or a beta reader
  2. Edit it to improve it
  3. Send it out to a different magazine/market

Or maybe your problem isn’t with the writing itself, but instead with having your writing time interrupted. You might plan to:

  1. Explain to your partner that you really need to focus, uninterrupted, when you’re writing
  2. Create a space in your home where you can write away from other people
  3. Wear headphones when you’re writing so people are less likely to start a conversation

There may not be one obvious course of action, even after you’ve spent some time brainstorming possibilities – but hopefully you’ll have at least one or two things that seem worth trying to help you move forward.

The writing journey can be a wonderful and exciting one, but there are bound to be a few obstacles along the way. If you get stuck or end up off-course, pick yourself up, and chart a new path ahead. Whatever obstacle you’re facing, there will be a way to get around it or to make it smaller.

Overcome Your Obstacles With Supercharge Your Writing Progress

Supercharge Your Writing Progress is the fourth guide in my Supercharge series. (You don’t have to read all four guides, or read them in order – they’re designed to stand alone.) 

It tackles issues like:

  • How to decide what “writing success” looks like for you
  • Staying motivated and enthusiastic about your writing
  • Overcoming common issues, like starting too many projects

You can find out all about it here. It’s $8 (which includes printable checklists and a writing year planner) – or you can get all four of the Supercharge guides for $20.

About

I’m Ali Luke, and I live in Leeds in the UK with my husband and two children.

Aliventures is where I help you master the art, craft and business of writing.

My Novels

My contemporary fantasy trilogy is available from Amazon. The books follow on from one another, so read Lycopolis first.

You can buy them all from Amazon, or read them FREE in Kindle Unlimited.

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