Episode 008 – Writing Obstacles

This week on the podcast, we have more than 10 whole minutes of tackling the obstacles we face when reaching for our writing goals.

Find out what some common obstacles are, from chronic health problems, to distractions, to imposter syndrome, and get tips on overcoming them.

Answer our QOTW in the comments section: What obstacles are keeping you from achieving your writing goals?

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how to overcome imposter syndrome
That voice is a liar - tell it so!

Replace it with truth: no one can write your story like you can

Real imposters don't get imposter syndrome

Talk it over with a coach or friend

You ARE good enough!

Listen now wherever you stream podcasts.


Hello Navigators. Welcome to Writer Roadmap, the podcast for writers seeking inspiration, guidance, and support on their creative journey. I’m your host, Holly Lyne, and in today’s episode, we’re talking about those pesky obstacles that get in the way of our writing plans.

We all experience obstacles in the journey towards achieving our goals. It’s impossible to avoid them completely, and naive to think they won’t slow you down. The key is to be prepared for them and account for them in your planning. Having allowed time for detours and pit stops, then, how do we actually handle them when they occur?

This is an extremely personal matter. Your situation will be different from mine, or from anyone else’s. Your personality, your coping strategies, and everything about your life is unique. I can’t tell you what to do about every problem that may crop up in your life, but what I can do is lay out some of the common obstacles along with suggestions for ways to navigate around them.

As someone who has suffered with chronic mental health problems all of my life, I absolutely understand this problem. Whether it’s chronic pain, depression, an autoimmune disorder, or something else, having a long-term condition that affects your day-to-day life can be a huge challenge when it comes to achieving your goals. These health problems can be unpredictable and difficult to plan for. When I’m laying out my publishing schedule for the year, I can’t possibly predict that I’ll spend all of April in the foetal position, unable to get dressed because the world is freaking me out.

It may be the case that over the years you’ve learned ways to minimise the effects of your condition. Perhaps certain dietary choices, or regular fresh air help; maybe it’s regular acupuncture, or the right balance of socialising, or it might be the right medication that’s essential. If you have sure-fire methods of regulating your health, make sure these are included in your plan for your time. Don’t neglect your health needs in favour of cramming in an extra 1000 words.

When an unexpected flare-up occurs, the most important thing you can do is be gentle with yourself. There is no benefit to getting frustrated or despondent, or blaming your condition. First and foremost, address your health needs – seek qualified help if necessary, get support from someone who understands what you’re going through. Don’t ignore the problem or try to “power through” it. Face it and get help. It’s the only way to be able to move forward.

Everyone who works from home faces one general problem: distraction.

When home is your place of work, rest, and play, it can be extremely difficult to maintain boundaries around these areas of your life. Many of us, especially those of us with children, know the pain of trying to work when there are other things, or people, clawing for your attention absolutely all of the time. Even if you don’t have children there is a very good chance that you sometimes feel the pull of Netflix, or the kitchen, or a quick walk outside, or any number of other distractions that can get in the way of a good day’s writing.

When I’m focused on a first draft, particularly during NaNoWriMo when it is full pedal to the metal, I have to make arrangements to minimise these distractions. Things like having the kids go and stay with my parents for a few days, disconnecting my internet, and so on, but these solutions are not practical long-term. They can be sustained for short bursts before other demands take over and that carefully cultivated distraction-free time disappears.

Much of how you handle these distractions will be unique to your personality and your situation, but I can help with some general tips for mitigating a variety of different distractions around the home.

  • Designate different spaces for work and other activities
  • Work outside the home if possible
  • Time block/schedule yourself
  • Switch your phone into Airplane mode or at least set it to send no notifications
  • Get help: I am a big believer in outsourcing wherever possible. We are not superheroes. We cannot possibly do all of the things that modern life seems to demand of us. So ask for help. If you have a partner, make sure you have the housework equally shared between you, and ensure they are doing their fair share of the parenting if you have children. If there is something extra that they can take off your plate, let them do that for you.

Imposter Syndrome

I don’t know a single writer who has never felt a nagging voice inside saying, “Who do you think you are to write a book?” Sometimes that voice can stop us in our tracks and delay the completion or publication of a book. We give it far too much validity. We listen and we actually believe the traitor trying to rob us of our dreams and stop us achieving our goals. That nasty little voice somehow rings with authority.

Where does that voice come from? From every time you were told to be more realistic, to scale back your ambitions, that there’s no future in a creative career, that you should get a “real job”. Whenever you hear or read about successful writers being rejected hundreds of times before finally getting a book accepted by a publisher, a seed of doubt is planted that this path is arduous and only for the elite. Gatekeepers in the publishing industry are there to keep ordinary people like you from embarrassing yourself by putting pages and pages of drivel out into the world.

These seeds get watered every time the story is encountered again, and again, and again. They flourish and become deeply rooted beliefs. You’ve come to know in your core that only the most special, the most gifted people are allowed to live a fulfilling and creative life. Only the most dedicated, the most skilled experts, have a right to be successful.

Here’s the truth: that voice is a liar. It doesn’t understand creativity, and it doesn’t understand you. It’s that bitter old man who did go get a “real job” and now lives a miserable existence devoid of any spark of intuition or sprinkle of magic. The voice belongs to someone who quit and who won’t be satisfied until everyone else quits too.

It stalks you and strikes when you experience the tiniest wobble of doubt in your own abilities. There it is to tell you to give up.

The only thing you can do is hit mute. Block that little shit. You don’t need that kind of toxic negativity in your life. You can decide not to listen to it ever again.

Look, I know it’s not really that easy. That meanie is sat on my shoulder right now, tapping on my temple and telling me I’ve never really achieved anything. Asking me who I am to tell other people how to do it. So I’m writing this for myself, as well as you. He’s a liar! Don’t listen. Give him the brush-off and take a deep breath.

Here’s a new inner voice for you: You ARE good enough, your voice matters. No one else in the world can write the book you’re writing now, because no one else has your voice, your perspective, or your experience. You CAN write that book and you CAN publish it, if you choose to. You do not need anyone’s permission to be creative, or to be successful.

The gatekeepers never really cared about quality. They only cared about sales. We are so fortunate to live in a time when we can choose ourselves, and kick open the gates. Independent publishing gives us the option to take full control of our writing careers, and carve our own paths. We can pour effort into creating wonderful stories to share with the world and then just share them — on our own terms.
Shove that imposter demon off your shoulder. You don’t need to lug around the extra weight of all its emotional baggage.


Imposter syndrome has a twin: a more attractive sibling who comes to you dressed in finery and acting like your friend. She slinks up to you, strokes your face, and tells you that you can make your book better if you just add this, and remove that, and tweak the other thing. She drapes herself over your shoulders and whispers these sweet nothings to you endlessly. Literally. She will never go away. No matter what you do to try to shake her off, she sticks around like an infection.

She is not your friend. She is not trying to help. She is just as insidious as the bitter old bastard that you just sent packing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make your writing better, or wanting to put out a high quality book, but perfectionism not only gets in the way of finishing a project, it can stop you from even starting. That’s the problem. That’s the temptress you have to say goodbye to. She’s a serious obstacle to you achieving your goals.

In the words of writer Rebecca Solnit, “So many of us believe in perfection, which ruins everything else, because the perfect is not only the enemy of the good; it’s also the enemy of the realistic, the possible, and the fun.”

Writing should be an opportunity to explore, play, rebel, and above all, create. There’s no room for the creativity-blocker of “perfect”. Perfect is impossible. Nothing can ever be perfect. It’s a fantasy, not a real goal to pursue. What does it even mean? It’s subjective. One person’s “perfect” is another person’s “flawed”. No matter how much energy and attention you pour into a project, someone somewhere is going to dislike it, or find fault with it. It’s inevitable.

Make your writing the best it can reasonably be, and then release it. Let go of the idea that it has to be perfect, and get on with creating the next thing.

“Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make. Good. Art.”

— Neil Gaiman

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What obstacles are in your way right now and do you need help overcoming them?

I have a new Instagram account for the podcast, so please follow that @WriterRoadmap and let me know your thoughts.

Thank you for listening and happy planning.

Writer Roadmap intro and outro music used under license from Pixabay. Music track “Salangseuleoun” was Created by “Dayfox”.

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