Obstacles to Writing

“Most commitments that keep me from my writing are masks that I put up to hide my fear and my failure to do what I need and want most to do. If my belief in my own work is strong, other commitments will adjust themselves. Human beings have free will.

“If I could speak to myself as an 18-year-old, I would say, ‘You can say ‘no’ to the demands of your immature mother. You can insist on some privacy, some time of your own.’ If I could speak to myself as a young mother of four children, I would say, ‘You could nap with the children, then in the solitude of night or dawn, write.’ Regardless of our particular circumstances, the struggle goes on to keep at our work. If I could speak to myself just this morning when I answered the phone and the mail instead of writing, I’d say, ‘You can sit down, slow down, turn off the telephone.’ There is something fundamentally wrong with ‘other commitments’ that keep me from my true work.”

–Pat Schneider, Writing Alone and With Others

What keeps me from writing? Write this question out repeatedly, answering it as many ways as you can.


  1. Erika says

    What keeps me from writing?
    The thought that it has to be perfect the first time out.

    What keeps me from writing?
    The feelings that I have nothing truly decent to say & what I write will just be crap anyway.

    What keeps me from writing?
    I make rules for myself that I can only write when I’m alone or that I can only write at night. Then of course I’m not alone and/or too busy at night.

    What keeps me from writing?
    I worry & question myself before I’ve even written anything. “What if my humor doesn’t translate?” “What if nobody gets me?” “What if they only see my poor grammar?”

    I’m looking at each one of my answers and I’m seeing it really is the same one each time. Fear. I am becoming more & more fearless in so many areas of my life. This looks like another place i will be embracing that growth process.

  2. says


    Yes, it all boils down to fear. Having to take the risk and put ourselves down on the page. And it’s still scary–not matter how long you write. I recently heard a 10 time novelist talking about how she literally tied herself to her chair each day when she sat down to work on her 8th book.

  3. says

    What keeps me from writing?

    1. electronic distractions
    2. keeping my life at a pace that doesn’t allow enough reflection
    3. teaching other people to write
    4. my damaged memory
    5. so many stories about family members that I can’t tell or that they don’t want me to tell

    • vickie says

      I can relate so completely to the family stories, in my case they are so entwined with my life and I need to freely express all that emotion and pain. The question is how to express these things without bringing pain to my family. What was it you said? No one ever died from writing. I hope you find your freedom.

  4. Joanne W. James says


    The gate to the city closed on me and I’ve waited there for it to open ever since. Iowa City with the Ped Mall, the store windows with lapis beads, Tibetan incense, polar fleece scarves, my expensive olive green Itoya pen in its lined case. Black and gold the University colors. The brick bank. My student loans. Tree-lined streets, locusts’ shrilling, or snow drifts and the news stand open the morning of a blizzard. The city where I crossed the bridge over the dark river towards the hospital and wandered the halls looking for signs to Adult Psychiatric. The drama of the campus age 43, ethics, Notley’s legacy, hours spent at my typewriter still computer illiterate. The city where I threw ten years of dream journals into the dumpster and watched dumpster divers in the alley out my window. Prairie Lights bookstore with a poetry reading five nights a week. Jane the busdriver and free rides between 10 and 2. Lost in the city where I walked under the banner the Christians held up that said You Are Going To Hell.

    This was before the tornado ripped through my apartment building at 312 E. Burlington, St. Patrick’s destroyed. This was before the flood when the river became a terror. This is the city still surrounded by corn fields and hog farms, dwindling native prairie lands, a fly way for birds in migration.

    What keeps me from writing is the gate in my mind. But I am a stubborn, obsessive, determined poet. I want my visionary poetry back. I want the metaphor and leaps of consciousness, the colors and the wonder I had before I left Iowa City. I am trying to come to terms with the gate that closed behind me. Instead I am compelled to tell stories now. I am still writing. I left a part of me in Iowa City and I must go on without it. Grief is a gate. I have no answers, just my cheap dimestore pens and endless spiral notebooks.

  5. gloria humphrey says

    What keeps me from writing?
    At this present time my job is very demanding and I’m exhausted by the time I get home,
    Is what I tell myself, however, I seem to have time to go on facebook for hours. I usually write on one of my weekly days off, and I have a Morning Minute I post to facebook on Mondays to perpetuate myself to write

    What keeps me from writing?
    Taking an online course is on my list of reasons that keep me from writing

    What keeps me from writing?

    Finally accepting the fact that I am a writer was the biggest thing to overcome as I demand more time for myself to write

    What keeps me from writing?

    Having toxic relationships with selfish people that sabotage your self worth and drain you emotionally and mentally.

  6. Gayle Herman says

    What keeps me from writing is the thought that I have to take care of my body first—exercise, then prepare healthy meals…spend hours on the internet (but not writing on my blog), maybe cleaning the house, taking a shower—the day is over before I know it…being retired is tiring me out.
    What really keeps me from writing is the fear that I’ve already said it all, that once I write it down, the energy goes out of it and I lose interest, that my mind works so fast that by the time I sit down to write, my thought is gone. With so much to write, I get overwhelmed and don’t even pick up a pen.

  7. Adrie says

    Fear keeps me from writing. Bound by fear that maybe someday I will accomplish something so meaningful and so good that I will feel a sense of fulfillment in my life.

    I am afraid to feel that fulfillment, to be good and have accomplished something.

    I am afraid to write anything less than acceptable, anything that doesn’t carry the meaning of my soul. I am afraid that if I write enough senseless things that all my writing will turn into senseless writing. That I will write trash for the rest of my life, that I will continue to write myself into stories that I have no business being in – a nosy intruder in a world where I don’t belong and that I will get lost in that world, unable to have my own life in the here and now. I realize I am a walking contradiction, I do not want to be seen as a walking contradiction.

    I am afraid that I will be laughed at. How often I have a recoiled in my mind against friends who said that they were going to write? How hypocritical and selfish of me?

    As soon as they tell me their intentions, I want to scream – I have been writing because I must, not because I suddenly woke up one day and thought “today is the day I will write a book.” Yet, I stay silent and nod my head, telling them how wonderful that will be. I omit revealing any guilty pleasure that I have found in writing. How hypocritical to think that my writing is so much better than theirs? That it is not their emotions that they are bleeding onto the page? How can I believe that my very soul – my hopes, my fears, my dreams, my fantasies, my life – are on that page and yet theirs are not?

    I would not openly criticize. I would not openly tell them that I am slightly disgusted at their happy-go-lucky announcement, they flip the words are as if it is not something from their very essence. I envy them, I want that innocence. Is writing not personal to them? Something to hold close to their chest – the very truth of their being? Did they not have to carve a little piece of their core out to write on the page?

    I am afraid, ultimately, to let them see my soul; to let them see who I am written on a page, raw and exposed; to allow that person to escape from the cloistered secrecy of a bin full of papers in the darkest corner of my closet, where I have so carefully hidden her.

    • says

      Adrie, Thanks for your honest sharing. It is hard to reveal who we really, really are and yet there are great rewards. Keep coming back, keep writing, and keep sharing your work.


  8. vickie says

    That which prevents me from writing lies within. There is a tyrant who constantly questions every word ,every phrase, even the validity of the thought process. So rare are those blessed moments of inspiration,and often inappropriately timed creating an undercurrent of irritation and confrontation or another moment in which I simply sacrifice my urge for expression in place of peace. I have tried to sit and write at times when I am alone and free to write without question ,only to discover that my thoughts are scattered and lack direction, arousing an intense frustration and sense of failure, and yet there is this voice within that screams for expression.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *