You Already Know What You Already Know

By Renate Hancock

Overcome the obstacles in your writing life with four simple steps you already know.

You can stop reading right now if:

  • You’re an author who has publishers in bidding wars over your work.
  • You consistently produce a book (or two) every year.
  • You have your writing process down to a fine science.Keep reading if you’re a writer who sneaks past your WIP to search writing blogs for courage and inspiration.

Keep reading if you’re a writer who sneaks past your WIP to search writing blogs for courage and inspiration.

Don’t scoff. We all know it takes more than four simple steps to become a good writer.

Writers need the skills to create engaging plots, relevant non-fiction, or provocative poetry. We have to understand the publishing industry. Plus, we need to maintain a consistent, intimate relationship with literature. All while managing our day jobs.

But those aren’t obstacles. They’re skills, knowledge, and practices we can learn to do our jobs as writers.

I’m talking about the kind of obstacle that continuously resurrects itself and negatively affects our writing lives. They aren’t typical workplace challenges.

In fact, we should call them the Three Zombies. They rise up and sneak back whenever you think you’ve slain them. And once they sink their teeth into you, you’re dead meat.

The three most deadly obstacles I face in my writing life are self-doubt, a lack of feedback, and time to write.


In the writer’s world, we call self-doubt “impostor syndrome.” — How dare we call ourselves writers! What makes us think we have anything worthwhile to write about? Are we good enough?

This phenomenon is less prevalent in a day job where we’re assigned a detailed job description. We likely have the necessary skill set or wouldn’t have applied for the position.

We gain the title for the position as soon as we’re hired. We can now call ourselves bank tellers, data technicians, or supervisors. Or we have the license that says we’re trained for a particular job — nurse, teacher, electrician.

We might only sometimes feel confident about our skill level in those jobs. But we have the right to do the work or use the title.

Lack of feedback.

In a regular job (unless we own the company), we report to a supervisor who lets us know whether or not we’re succeeding. We call it feedback.

A writer can slug away at a novel daily with no feedback. We must decide which direction to go and whether we’re reaching our goal. We can quantify our work by word count or hours in the chair. But it’s up to us to analyze the quality of our work.

Time for writing.

Fitting the creation of content into our daily life is a constant challenge. Whether employed elsewhere or writing is our full-time occupation, this is true. We cram writing into our spare time after meeting the demands of home, family, and career. Or we can balance time spent researching, publishing, and marketing with actual writing.

At some point, we must acknowledge that creative endeavors take a certain amount of brain power and energy. Squeezing 1000 words into the time between tucking our kids into bed and the time our brains stop functioning doesn’t necessarily produce our best work.

A successful employer can only expect us to produce quality work by providing reasonable work time. We can’t expect it of ourselves either.

If you’re going to have a job where you can be your own boss, you HAVE to BE your own boss.

Writing isn’t a run-of-the-mill, nine-to-five job. It comes with a particular set of benefits and challenges. But we can use systems from our day jobs to help overcome those three deadly obstacles.

Try these four steps.

Set quantifiable criteria.

Develop a job description, work habit objectives, word count goals, or whatever works best to inspire you or give you a clear direction for your writing life.

Don’t assume that these have to deal only with your writing itself. When your boss requires you to be at work at a specific time, you have to make the necessary adjustments to your morning routine to allow you to make the commute and arrive on time.

Set the criteria, and do the work to make it happen. You’ll gain confidence by accomplishing what you set out to do. And that, my friend, is an effective way to keep self-doubt at bay.

Still, feel like an imposter? Give yourself a title, or create a business name to help you feel official. Then own it.

Provide a source for feedback.

On your work habits or productivity –
Once you’ve set criteria, it’s easier to tell if you’re meeting your goals.

Track your daily or weekly achievements. This is a source of immediate feedback. It will let you know whether your goals are accessible and your work habits effective.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. If your goal is to write for an hour each day, a checkmark on the calendar is all it takes.

On the quality of your writing –
Have you noticed how often writers are urged to find a support group—ahem, writers’ group?

(If you’ve never shown anyone your work, that should be a warning.) This group can give you feedback on the quality of what you’re writing. And if you need accountability partners to help keep you on track, start there.

Hint: The kind of group you work with matters. Do you need a group that focuses on generating material or critiquing?

Set the schedule

While this is important for every writer, this is especially critical if you work as a freelance writer from home.

The problem with having a flexible schedule is it can become too lax. You’ll tell yourself you can start later tomorrow or after you finish painting the kids’ rooms. Before long, you aren’t honoring your commitment, and no one else is.

Try setting a consistent time slot for writing. Do this even if you’re trying to squeeze it in between work and the demands of your home life. Try the hour after you send the kids to school before you leave for work. Get up an hour earlier to write before anyone else is awake.

Once you’ve chosen the time, adjust whatever you can in the other areas of your day to facilitate your writing time.

Give yourself grace if it doesn’t happen every day, but watch for ways to make it happen more often. Or make an improvement plan.


Regularly review and reflect on your practice.

Be your own boss. Which area needs addressing most? Do you need to take a class, find a different writing group, or write first and save your emails until the end of the day? Honor your commitment by holding yourself accountable.

Make sure you give yourself credit for small successes. No one likes to work for a boss that doesn’t recognize how hard they’re trying or how far they’ve come. Be gentle, respectful, and kind to yourself.

Remember the rewards. A boss knows employees need regular pay, benefits, and time off. Since you’re the boss, you decide what those are. Find bonuses that motivate, renew and inspire you.

You may not face the same mind-stealing obstacles that I do. Your struggle might be more on the technical side of writing or finding an agent.

Whatever your personal challenge is, consider applying a method you learned at your day job to get around it. And then share it with the rest of us!

Create Goals That Work

Find The Right Writing Group

Build Writing Support

Published by Writing Heights Writing Bug

A blog by writers for everyone interested in books, reading, writing, and just about everything in between.

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