10 Reasons you stop writing your book and why to ignore them

Writers block copy

There isn’t a writer alive that hasn’t stopped writing, whether as a planned break or simply because they got out of the habit. It’s happened to me in the past and I’m sure it will happen again in the future. When it does, we often come up with excuses as to justify why we’ve stopped writing, but the majority of the time that’s all they are, excuses. The trick is recognising them for the lies they are and dealing with them. Here are the ten most common reasons people stop writing and why you should ignore them.

1 Your writing isn’t very good

You’ve just read back what you’ve been slaving over for the past few weeks/months and are horrified at how poor it is, so much so you’re questioning whether you’re a writer at all. I’ll let you into a little secret, every writer does this. OK, there may be a couple who write perfect prose straight off but we don’t talk to them. The key to being a productive writer is allowing yourself to write badly. We all write lumpen prose and stilted dialogue at times, as well as falling back on clichéd descriptions. This is alright because we know we can fix anything during the edit. So go ahead, stop worrying and get back to your writing.

2 You’re tired

Most of us have other jobs or roles which leave us drained at the end of the day. The most productive writers know this and either change their routine to compensate (by writing first thing in the morning for example) or learn to write tired. Unless you are lucky enough to be a full-time writer you need to find a regular slot you make your own and get into the habit of writing then. It will be hard at first but if you do it on a regular basis you will soon get used to it.

3 You’ve fallen out of love with the story

This can be a tough one. You started out writing your story with a fire and passion for the new but somewhere along the way you’ve fallen out of love with the story, possibly even questioning whether it’s any good. This is a normal reaction. A writer’s emotions vary wildly during the writing process. It’s important to recognise this and work through the down times. When this happens to me I have a number of ways to rekindle the fire. I’ll read back the start of the story to capture some of that initial passion. I’ll also switch to writing a scene I’ve been looking forward to. I’ll also stop writing win the middle of a scene I’ve been enjoying so I can’t wait to get back to it the next day.

4 You’ve written yourself into a hole

This can happen to any writer but especially to those who prefer to free write rather than follow a plan. Finding yourself in a hole can be really deflating because once you’ve written something your brain automatically tells you this is ‘how the story is, how it was and how it will always be.’ This is nonsense. You have full control over your story. You can do anything with it. If you’ve written yourself into a hole, go back to a point where just before it went bad and change it. Throw in something new, something unexpected. Don’t get disheartened, use it as an excuse to play around with things and be creative. You’ll soon find your story moving again.

5 The imposter syndrome

You’ve been writing for a while but you’ve realised you’re not really a writer so you’re giving up. It could be because of a bad review, some feedback you’ve received about your manuscript or just the way your friends smirk when writing is mentioned, but no matter how much encouragement you’ve had from others, there’s this nagging voice in the back of your mind telling you you’re faking it. You aren’t a real writer. Some point soon you’ll get found out for the imposter you are, writers everywhere will point at you and laugh and all the doubters will be proven right.

You aren’t alone.

Nearly all writers suffer from the imposter syndrome, from award-winning novelists to newbies. And it’s a good thing. Rather than let it crush you, harness these doubts about your own ability to fuel the desire to improve, to never settle with where you are but learn and get better.

6 You don’t have the time

When I was younger I thought my day was full. Then I took on evening classes and realised my day hadn’t been full at all, it was just an illusion. I had plenty of time, I just didn’t use it effectively. Then I had children and realised doing evening classes was a breeze in comparison. I’d thought time was tight before but boy was I wrong. Everybody has time to write, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. The question is never if you have time but what are you prepared to give up to free up your writing time.

7 You’ll do it later/tomorrow

You’re going to write, sure you are, but not today. Today you’ll catch up with that boxed-set you’ve been watching, or finish polishing the family silver. Tomorrow will be your writing day. And when tomorrow comes, there’ll be another reason to delay getting back to writing.

You’ll do it tomorrow is one of the most insidious excuses for not writing because you genuinely believe it to be true, yet how often have you said this only to find that two weeks later you’ve still not written a thing. If you can find time to write tomorrow you can find time to write today, it’s a simple as that.

8 It’s a pain

Writing is a real pain, especially when you move from the lovely, free-flowing creative part into the painstaking grind of the edit. If writing was easy, everybody would do it. But you’re not everybody, you’re a writer. You’re don’t do this because it’s easy, you do it because you want to tell your story. The main reason people stop is not because the work is hard but because there is so much to do. They can’t see the finish line, just a seemingly endless pile of work that’s stopped being fun. The thing is, there’s no time limit to writing a book. It takes as long as it takes. Instead of worrying about how much there is to do, simply do. Then look back after a week, a month, and see how much you’ve achieved. You’ll be amazed.

9 The muse isn’t with you

For those of you who have a job other than writing, I dare you to go to your boss/business partner and let them know you won’t be working today because the muse isn’t with you. If you’re lucky, they’ll just laugh in your face. The most productive writers treat writing as a job. They sit down whether they feel creative or not. They learn to grind out words on the bad days and enjoy the rush on the good days. If writing as a hobby by all means sit back and wait but if you want to be a writer you need to treat writing like any other job by turning up and putting in the hours.

10 A fire has destroyed your home and all your belongings

OK, I’ll let you off this time, but you could always borrow a pen and a notepad to record just how you feel and use what you’ve written to fuel your next blockbuster!

So what about you? Do you recognise any of these or are there others I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.


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46 thoughts on “10 Reasons you stop writing your book and why to ignore them

  1. Reblogged this on Davetopia and commented:
    All of these are true of writing as more than a hobby, but they also apply to making any hobby more than a pastime.

    Even ‘You’ve written yourself into a hole’: our experience changes constantly which changes both what we can do and what we see as worthy, so it might be surprising how infrequently our plans to progress need revision.

    • You’re absolutely right, Dave. The more experienced you become, the more you realise just how significant the changes you can make during the editing process that you become less worried about writing yourself into a hole or doubting the story. The key is to keep going rather than letting your despondency win out.
      Thanks for the reblog!

  2. I consider my self thoroughly chastised 😉

    Intriguing, that you were writing this as I was penning my post about committing to that second novel…

  3. I think we’ve all experienced some, if not all, of these. The part about what we’re willing to give up is so key. Sometimes when life has filled my day with tasks and I haven’t had time to write, I finally plunk down to do it at ten pm. I’m not thrilled about it–I’d rather unwind with a show–but as you say, even 30 minutes can usually be achieved, and over time those snippets add up.

    • Absolutely, Carrie. I’ve had lots of conversations with people, many starting with ‘how lucky you are …’ before proclaiming their wish to have written a book, as if I too couldn’t have been doing something else instead. I’m a great believer that you can achieve many things in life if you put your mind to it, the question is always what are you willing to sacrifice to do it.

    • Yep, that’s what it all boils down to. It’s always good to remind people that what they’re experiencing is normal, has happened to many others and can be overcome.
      Thanks so much for the reblog.

  4. Reblogged this on Mirymom's Blog and commented:
    This summer, I was super productive in the first half, and not so much in the second half. I didn’t stop writing, but I sloooowwwed. I think it was the tired one.

    These are some great points about why you shouldn’t let anything stop you from writing. Any of them can be worked through.

    • But you kept going, and that’s what’s important. You can’t always write at peak speed. Sometimes it’s like pulling each individual word from a vat of treacle. What I find with my own writing is that these hard won passages that need less editing than those that flow out of me in a creative rush, so while it may feel tough at the time, it saves effort later on.
      Thanks for the reblog!

  5. Number 4 is my personal nemesis. I find it difficult to assign sections that aren’t working (but which I’ve spent a lot of time on) to the recycle bin. I don’t think it would happen so often if I disciplined myself to produce outlines rather than plunging headfirst into ‘just write and see what happens’ mode! I’m finding this blog post (and the comments) reassuring. Thanks. PS: I really enjoyed ‘Second Chance’.

    • It’s a really difficult thing to do, especially when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into the chapter or scene that’s causing the problem. In these situations my mantra is “it’s all about the story, stupid.” I can be as stubborn as the next person but in the end I always put my story ahead of my ego. If it doesn’t work, it either gets heavily edited or it gets binned.
      Also, sometimes a bit of space is needed, so I’ll move onto another scene or part of the story and allow my subconscious to chew on the problem for a period of time. I’ve resolved problems this way quite a few times in the past, and sometimes the distance can make you realise that the scene isn’t really a problem at all!

      Thanks so much for your kind words about Second Chance. I’m really thrilled you enjoyed it. You’ve made my day!

  6. Can I quote you? Instead of worrying about how much there is to do, simply do… I may even put it up on the wall 😛

    Been there, done it, bought the T-shirt etc for all of those, Dylan – trouble is as soon as you give yourself a slap and get over yourself, along comes another one. It’s not even that they’re like London buses, because there’s a constant stream of new excuses – I could write a book. Oh, hang on! *groans*

  7. Reblogged this on Audrey Driscoll's Blog and commented:
    Helpful thoughts for any stalled writer, including me with my as-yet-untitled sequel to the Herbert West Series gathering dust (literally, because I write first drafts with pen on paper). Fall is coming; fewer distractions and more opportunities to get back to writing. Thanks Dylan!

  8. I thought there might be another one: rejection fatigue. That was the reason I stopped writing around about 2001 or 2002. I’d been writing for about six years and my reward was a stack of rejection letters as high as a wardrobe. When I sat down one day to start a new novel I thought ‘what’s the point?’ and didn’t write another word for ten years.

    I’m now mid way through the fourth novel since I started again.

    • That’s a great point. I only sent out one or two queries before realising that process wasn’t for me (this was before I’d received any replies) but I understand how disheartening constant rejections can be. I’m so glad you managed to overcome this issue and have returned to writing. 🙂

    • I really ought to put (easier to give than do) at the start of all my advice posts because I too have suffered (and I’m sure I will again) from all of these at some point. Putting it off until tomorrow is so seductive, though, because it’s only one day. How could it hurt?

  9. I think everyone has impostor syndrome about the things that matter to them…whether it’s being a writer, a parent, or something else in your life. Sometimes you just have to have that faith and go forward. Easier said than done, of course!

    When I saw your wisdom on writing yourself into a hole, I was suddenly inspired to think of it as “writing yourself into a wormhole to a different and more exciting story dimension.” 🙂

    • Oooh! I like that idea. I’ve been toying with a story about time-travel, wormhole and alternative dimensions in space-time for a while but haven’t quite got it all to hang together yet. Hopefully I’ll get it to work one day …

  10. Never truer words than the ones you have put together here, Dylan. I’ve especially been going though a phase this week where I’ve told myself I’ve not had the time to write. Then this morning I realised that I’d been doing far too much reading of other blogs (some of which I wonder why I follow anyway). I’ve taken action by unfollowing quite a few of these blogs and, thus, freeing up my time to do more writing. And before you ask – No, your blog is not one the casualties.

    • That’s the funny thing about time, you always manage to fill it. This is why setting aside writing time and guarding that time from all other distractions is really important. As for your last point, I’m extremely grateful. 🙂

  11. Oh no – another kicking! Me and my sore a**e. To be fair, I have started blogging again and will be starting on the WIP later today (it is the early hours of Sunday morning as I write this).
    Great post – it’s all helping with the motivation!

  12. I’ve been through phases of this before, Dylan, and ended up beating it with a 15 minute technique. You can always commit to writing for 15 minutes, even if you’re sure you should be arrested for word crimes and 30 minutes seems too daunting. Invariably you’ll write for longer than that, but it helps to get your bum in the chair. No matter what comes out, it’s better than nothing.

    • That’s a great tip. Like many things in life, it’s the thought of doing it that’s actually worse than the actual doing itself. If you can persuade yourself to start, you often find it’s less painful than you thought.

    • And you are not alone. The key is recognising what’s happening and fighting against it. It’s not easy but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
      Thanks so much for the reblog!

  13. Hi Dylan! I originally contacted you about featuring a different article, although this one seems more of a fit. Is it alright if I feature this one rather than the other one? I just wanted to ask first.

    • Hi Ryan, sorry for the delay in coming back to you, your comment ended up in spam for some reason. Yes, I’m more than happy for you to use this post, as long as you link back to the original.

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