The Real Reason Why You Can’t Write

The Real Reason Why You Can't Write

You’re dying to be a successful writer.

In fact, you spend most of your time thinking about writing and imagining where it might take you. You think about what to write, where to write, and which tools to use. You even block out time in your calendar to write.

And at the end of every day, you still haven’t written a single word.

Why can’t you make this work? Why can’t you just sit down and write? You want to, you have a unique voice, and you have ideas you want to write about. Keeping it all inside of you nearly hurts.

You know a lot about writing already – tons, in fact. You know where to find writing tools, ways to overcome writer’s block, information on finding writing work, and which websites offer writing classes on how to become a better writer.

It’s all at your fingertips.

So what’s missing? Why can’t you seem to write as freely, as much, and as easily as all the other writers?

There’s a secret about writing that no one told you.

This secret will get you in the chair, in front of your screen, writing away. Coaches,mentors and therapists use this secret all the time, helping their clients start anything they desire.

Actually, you already own this secret. It’s hidden inside you.

It’s your very own belief system.

Your beliefs about you and your writing are holding you back.

Many motivational leaders in spiritual, financial and self-help fields say that in order to achieve your goals, be they financial, spiritual or relationship related, you need to become aware of your beliefs – and then transcend the old belief system you’ve adopted.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you believe about yourself as a writer? Have you ever considered what you believe about the work you produce?

Your beliefs run the show, usually subconsciously. And if they’re limiting or negative beliefs, they’ll stop that show dead in its tracks.

You believe certain theories about why you suffer from wanting desperately to write but are unable to. Each writer has their own belief system. Maybe you believe you aren’t a good writer, or that your work isn’t “epic” enough, or that you’re too slow. Whatever.

Once you take time to figure out your beliefs about you as a writer, and about writing itself, you can begin to see where you hold yourself back from actually writing in the first place.

Can it be this simple?

Yes. Simple… but not easy.

Lucky for you, a step-by-step system exists to replace negative beliefs with better ones, and once you try it, you’ll eliminate your delaying tactics and procrastination for good.

You’ll be one of those writers you see in Starbucks, eyes glued to the page, typing away furiously while sipping steaming-hot coffee.

Step 1: Identify your limiting beliefs

Find a calm space where you can sit quietly. Take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself the following questions, listening to your intuition for the answers:

What are some of the beliefs that prevent you from writing?

For some writers, the answers jump out. For others, they need to make several attempts or spend time thinking about the answer. A few general limiting beliefs might include some or any of the following:

  • I don’t have time to…
  • I’m not smart enough to…
  • I’m too busy to…
  • I could never be successful at…
  • I’m afraid if I’m successful then…
  • I don’t have enough money to…
  • My mother/father/spouse/partner/friend says that I should…

These are just some examples to help you uncover your personal limiting beliefs. Yours may be related to your writing, or to success, or to failure, or to something else entirely.

Write down your list of limiting beliefs – the negative thoughts and emotions that come to you when you think of writing, or yourself as a writer.

If it’s difficult to come up with the honest answers about what’s holding you back, you can work with a mentor or coach to do some soul-searching and self-discovery. It’s well worth the effort so you can begin getting words on the page.

Step 2: Flip your limiting beliefs

Now that you have a list of limiting beliefs, write the opposite of each belief on a new sheet of paper. Turn your negative beliefs and thoughts into positive ones.

For example:

Old Belief: My parents said I can’t make money as a writer and that I should get a real job.

New Belief: Writing is a real career that can earn money, and many people have been successful. I can be successful in this career too.

Old Belief: I have to wait for my life to be perfect and balanced. Then I’ll be able to write.

New Belief: I can write any time I choose, and I don’t have to wait for any silly criteria – I can begin writing today, and I will.

Step 3: Pick 3 new beliefs

From the new beliefs you created, pick 3. Post them somewhere you’ll see them every day, often. (Post ONLY the new beliefs – the old ones are gone!)

Spend 2 to 3 minutes a day reading your new positive beliefs, and infuse this visualization with positive energy. By reading your new beliefs frequently, and believing in them, you’ll gradually come to create change around your writing.

Slowly these new beliefs will become your reality and truth.

Step 4: Grow into your new beliefs

This may not be an instant transformation; rather, you’ll grow into it. Help that growth occur by creating a specific action plan that helps you live your new beliefs.

Perhaps you need to get assistance with some of your tasks so you’ll have time to write. Maybe you’ll have to read daily material around a specific feeling or belief you’ve newly adopted. You might need to get help from a coach, or someone who’ll assist you in changing old writing habits.

Stay around positive people who are self-growth oriented. Their encouragement will help wear down those negative beliefs until they’re completely gone.

How New Beliefs Can Transform Your Writing Life

By bringing your limiting beliefs to the surface and reversing them into positive ones, you can transform your writing, and your life as a writer.

One of my main beliefs that caused me to delay writing was that everything else has to be done first. With children and coaching clients, this meant I left writing to the last item of the day, and I barely wrote because of it.

My limiting belief was completely blocking me from writing.

My new belief became: I can write first thing every day before everything else. I didn’t know how this could ever happen, but I started waking up a little earlier, or sometimes just wrote for 10 minutes, first thing in the morning.

Slowly I figured out how to rearrange my schedule so that writing is my first activity of the morning on most days.

Granted, writing may still be challenging for you at times. Finding the right words sometimes feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Writer’s block might still show up. But more often than not, you’ll be writing.

And when you aren’t, you’ll know how to get back to it quickly.

Which limiting beliefs will you change?  What’s holding you back from writing? And where do you want your new writing beliefs to take you?

If you're ready to get past your writing roadblocks, then the Damn Fine Words writing course for business owners might be exactly what you need. A 10-week writing course designed to improve your skills, it'll help you become a faster, better, and more confident writer in no time.

Post by Esther Litchfield-Fink

Esther Litchfield-Fink is a writer who actually writes, and you can check out her blog, called Smart But Scared, at

Join the Discussion. Click Here to Leave a Comment.

  1. Hi Esther,
    Thanks a ton for this great post! I’ve decided to finally complete my Quickstart Guide on Mindfulness today and this post landed into my inbox just when I was slacking off (yet again).

    My limiting beliefs are all the ones you’ve written about, all mixed up in a single indistinguishable glob.

    As if mynegative beliefs are not bad enough, I’m also afflicted by my failure to plan. I think the biggest cause of my writing block is the Double Blank syndrome: confronting my blank monitor with a blank mind. Yesterday, I gave myself a specific writing assignment for today, that is, to complete my e-book. I’ve already outlined it. Now I have to write it. Starting now.

    Thanks again.

    • Thank you for your comment : ) It sounds like you did plan and got some work done so that’s great! Good luck on completing your e-book. You can do it.

  2. Hi Esther,
    Thanks a ton for this great post! I’ve decided to finally complete my Quickstart Guide on Mindfulness today and this post landed in my inbox just when I was slacking off (yet again).

    My limiting beliefs are all the ones you’ve written about, all mixed up in a single indistinguishable glob.

    As if my negative beliefs are not bad enough, I’m also afflicted by my failure to plan. I think the biggest cause of my writing block is the Double Blank syndrome: confronting my blank monitor with a blank mind. Yesterday, I gave myself a specific writing assignment for today, that is, to complete my e-book. I’ve already outlined it. Now I have to write it. Starting now.

    Thanks again.

  3. Awesome piece, couldn’t have come at a better time. It’s like you wrote this with me in mind, thank you!

  4. VENKATESH says:

    Writing is really a tough job. yes to start with one needs to scribble whatever comes to mind. But while writing we have a lot of work to do. Say develop a context, writing the main script, developing the characters and maintain consistency and all that.

    More important is imagination which is not everybody’s forte as imagination requires the courage to go beyond the existing reality.

    All said and done one should write else, there would be no history.

    • RIght on. Its amazing how children have such vivid, easy imaginations! I guess we just need to play some more…and then we’ll have the inspiration to write more and better. Good luck!

  5. How funny had I not read all the way to the bottom I could have sworn this was a post by James Chartrand. I’ve been through her DFW course and just love everything about her process, feedback etc. Thus Esther you are clearly a Damn Fine Writer. Nice post and thanks for the refresher.

    • Esther, you really hit the nail on the head for me. I struggle with limiting beliefs about my talent/abilities as a writer. I am currently straddling two worlds/careers to be financially viable.

      I start James Chartrand’s Damn Fine Words course next Monday, and I am so excited to get going. I look forward to removing all the stumbling blocks and making the transition to becoming a full-time writer. With one web site, consistent online profiles and a single business card that says “Writer.” 😉

      • Alison, so great that you are starting the course towards becoming the writer you want to be and can be. The combination of removing the stumbling blocks and the support of the course sounds great.

    • Kelli you made my day with your comment! Enjoy your writing and thank you so much.

  6. An excellent post Esther. I especially like the idea of flipping negative or limiting beliefs into positive, useful words and actions for change.

    Thanks too for using your own life as an example. It’s courageous and something I like from an author and their writing.

  7. Thank you Michael. I was such a blocked writer until I wrote this exercise out and read my new positive beliefs daily. That unlocked so much writing for me. I appreciate your comment.

  8. Hi Esther!
    Wow! Great post! Your reasons are spot on! It is our own beliefs that limit us in any direction and who knows where those beliefs come from. Really who cares where they come from?!
    Those little negative voices inside our heads that criticize us are not part of us. They are a mental mechanism. That is all. They are not divine guidance or our own inner consciousness. They are lies and the best course of action is to run them right over and keep going!
    Great article! Sharing!

  9. Thank you Chris! I love what you wrote – ‘they are not divine guidance’. So true. Our blocks are our limiting beliefs that WE create and WE can tear them down by reversing them. Take care, looking forward to more of your posts too!

  10. Thank you for writing this!!!! As a writer struggling every day with blocks, this gives me a new approach and I can’t wait to try it.
    Please keep posting, will be following you!

  11. Nice post Esther!
    I’ll add another view on why writing gets hard. Most people try to write and edit at the same time, and they are different parts of the brain. When you separate them into two different activities, you get a lot more done.
    Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.

    • Ellie Pope – interesting idea! I totally agree. Writing and editing are not one and the same. I love writing and, well, editing…that’s another story! Enjoy your writing journey.

  12. Great advice Esther. A lovely motivational post. Writers are more prone to self doubt than many creative professionals. Sitting down in a chair and telling yourself to write sometimes isn’t good enough. You need to overcome those writing fears by digging a little deeper and understanding your inhibitions.

  13. I have a treasured mentor by the name of Dan Kennedy who pointed out to me the importance of knowing where the mindset of the majority of information product buyers is at.

    To make sure that he keeps this reality fresh in his mind, he has a handwritten note that he has kept over the years that came to him from someone who requested a refund for his “Magnetic Marketing” kit back in 1997.

    It reads . . .

    “I can’t use this. My life is going nowhere. Why fight it. I can’t afford it. Thanks anyway.”

    Dan has gotten many other letters like this over the years because he’s sold a ton of stuff but he keeps this one as a reminder of the dreadful, defeated state of mind that the majority of people are going through life with.

    When you accept this reality, it’s not hard to see why the entertainment business is a multi-multi-billion dollar industry. People want to blank this thought out of their mind minute by minute.

    And the guy who wrote that note bought. He believed in himself for the short span of time that it took for him to hear Dan’s speech and walk to the back of the room and buy. Can you imagine how much worse the state of mind is of the person who could’ve bought but didn’t?

    It’s so cool to see here that James signed off on your post speaking directly to this topic. This market needs to hear this message. Hell, I’m happy to read this because this is a message I can’t be reminded of too many times so I thank you Esther for reminding me of such an important lesson. 🙂

    • Lewis – yes I really appreciate that James posted this because it’s such a struggle at times and for so many of us writers and creatives to recognize and get past our limiting beliefs. I reuse this process many times for different areas of my life too.

  14. My first reaction to posts like this is garbage. It’s sort of in line with this thought that the difference between you being a writer and not being a writer is calling yourself a writer. Some would argue the moment you say to yourself “I am a writer” then yes, you are a writer.

    Simply not true. You actually have to do the work. 😀

    However, I’m so far removed from the position that many people find themselves in who want to be a writer … they have these limiting beliefs that prove to be barriers — that I forget my own evolution as a writer … one complete with my own limiting beliefs. I was 25 before I decided I was going to be a writer. I could be a writer. Funny, because the eight years before that I wanted to be a writer, but didn’t have the confidence, support, or encouragement.

    So, this article is a healthy reminder that people are stuck … and need somebody to come along and help them out. To encourage, support, and build up their confidence. I wish I’d read this article back then. Good work Esther.

    • I love your comment, Demian, for several reasons.

      I definitely tend to be right in your camp, because I know full well that it comes down to doing the hard work, asking yourself the tough questions, facing the honest truth, doing the hard work, taking action and getting clear, and doing the hard work.

      You and I both know that – because we’ve been there, and done it ourselves. We know, personally and by experience, that it’s nice to do the whole limiting belief thing, but you can do that until the cows come home and still get nowhere.

      You have to do the real damn work and get to it.

      But, exactly as you say, we’re both coming to this from an expert’s perspective – we’re at Z (or a humble R, Q, or X), whereas many people are still at A, or D, or F. It’s the curse of knowledge. Much as we’d love to shake our fist and move time forward for stuck writers (and give a couple a good swift boot to the rear to get them going), we can’t.

      People have to walk their own journey and go through what we went through to learn.

      HOPEFULLY… posts like these help give them a bit of a shortcut so that they can do the work faster, more easily, and with less damn pain than you or I did. Neither of us had anyone dishing out the smart advice, and we had to figure it out on our own.

      Luckily, no one has to do that today. 🙂

      • James, there are really hard workers, committed to putting the time in to learn and write yet without removing what keeps them stuck its such a huge struggle and it can be easier. Thank you so much for posting this.

    • Demian, thank you for taking the time to comment. There are amazing, smart, creative and talented writers that are stuck and can become unstuck. Thanks for sharing a bit of your journey.

  15. I really needed this post today. I’ve been feeling stuck for a while now, so hopefully this will get me going again!

  16. Esther, Your post is really inspiring for me. and I follow what you said to examine what block me deeply to my writing skill… and there is always a strong voice there said : because I am Asian, and English is not my first language, and I cannot write well in English as academia study student. After this negative thoughts had been flipped into positive one, it does pour lots of positive energy to me but still leave a very practical question to me that, how should I start to this transformation? to trun my positive belief really into my daily action?

    • Wenny, I watched a YouTube of Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post talk about how she got started and she was told over and over that she would never make it because of her accent and that English was not her first language. Look what she built! Perhaps you could write with whatever skills you have and have someone edit it for grammar etc. The main thing really is that you have something to offer in your writing that no one else has, because only you could write with the individuality of yourself. You could always eventually take writing and English courses. : ) Stay inspired!

  17. Nice article Esther, excellent way of explaining beliefs 🙂

  18. Hello Esther,

    I hate writing any content, but after reading the reasons why I hate and how I can remove this problem, I’m feeling pretty happy now! Thanks for the cool info 🙂

  19. Esther thanks for the interesting post. This is of course a topic dealt confronted universally, and which has been written about by many(including me 🙂 ). All of your points are prescient but I really bleieve the most important element is the exhortation “grow into the new beliefs,” that it is gradual. Whether this topic or any other, it is all too easy to hope to read a great “how-to” and even if it cautions that things take time, the very nature of blogs and how-to’s imbues folks with a hopeful sense of iimediacy. I hope people really embrace that “it takes time” aspect of what you hav epreached because to me, that has been key, and there is a fair bit of magic found in the daily grind once we truly commit to it.

    Thanks again for the good piece.

  20. Hi thanks for this great post , i used to make the mistake of writing and editing at the same time and felt that i was never really getting anywhere fast then like Ellie said above these are two different activities, to be handled separately.

    But would write then edit any day !!!


  21. This is good information. I bet it works for anything you want to learn to get better at.

    At the present time I don’t suffer from this problem, but there was a time where I could waste my dedicated writing time without a problem.

    This post has helped me keep that possibility fresh in my mind.

    Thank you for writing this!

  22. “i don’t have enough time /i don’t have enough energy after working all freaking day”
    “i don’t know enough/i don’t have innate talent like ‘real writers’ do”
    “i’m not good enough to create things from scratch”
    “i can’t start writing until everything else is done” (and/or, “i can’t start writing if it’s only going to be a short session – i have to wait until i have lots of free time”)
    (reading things by my favorite writers –> “i can’t come up with anything as great as that”)

    now, to the task of refuting /changing all these limiting beliefs!

  23. Aditi Mehrotra says:

    Thank you! I started feeling better even before I reached the part of the post with the solution. Reading the introduction made me feel that I am not alone. And that itself was enough. Although I am going to try what you suggested. I already have a feeling it will help. Trying to finish everything before writing is one problem I suffer from. Writing first thing in the morning, no matter what, even if it is just for 15 minutes, makes a lot of sense.
    Thank you once again!


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