How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Writing Progress

As writers, we’ve all had those moments when it’s been hard to sit down and write.

It could be because other responsibilities have kept us away from our writing desks, or illness has sidelined us.

Then there are those times when we’ve been able to write and we just… don’t.

When that happens, it’s down to sabotage—and it’s usually ourselves who are the saboteurs!

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Writing Progress

Self-Sabotage: Perfectionism

If you’ve ever been ready to write but then sat staring at a blank screen instead, it might not be because of a lack of inspiration.

The fear of perfectionism can really cripple a writer. Not getting a sentence right first try, or being unable to edit a scene to the standard you want can be enough to stop your writing progress dead in its tracks.

How To Stop It: Acceptance and Improvement

What you write won’t be perfect on the first try. It probably won’t be on the fifth, so stop self-sabotaging yourself with unrealistic expectations.

Treat every writing session as if it’s for your eyes only. The words don’t have to be great; they don’t even have to be good, just get them down. Once you have them, then it’s time to fix things.

Read writing books, take courses, study (not plagiarize) what your favorite authors do, and improve your craft. The act of writing makes you a better writer. Accept that you’ll always be improving instead of trying to be perfect, and enjoy the process.

The Self-Sabotage: Failing To Plan

Just like a plan can help you guide the story in a certain direction, if you want to make progress with your WIP, you need something solid guiding you.

How To Stop It: Make The Plan And Follow Through

Before writing, take five minutes to jot down a bullet point to-do list to use as your writing session plan.

This simple yet effective method gives you something to work on rather than winging things. Trust me, procrastination slips in after you’ve drafted the sixth chapter but aren’t sure what to do next.

A plan will give you that next step, and being able to tick off your list will inspire you to keep going.

Self-Sabotage: Not Scheduling Writing Time

Once upon a time, I used to only write when I felt like it. Going with the flow of that habit, I went 6 years without once putting pen to paper. That was a lot of writing growth missed and progress wasted.

It was self-sabotage at its finest and I broke it with a simple schedule.

How To Stop It: Schedule Writing Time

Break your non-writing habit by scheduling time in your day to write. It could be ten minutes, an hour, or an afternoon.

Just look at the time you have spare and commit it to writing. Often, you’ll find that once you’re five minutes in, you’ll want to keep going. It’s just that scary act of starting that’s been stopping you.

Self-Sabotage: Letting The Doubt Be Loud

Everyone has doubts. You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t. It’s when you let them stop you from writing that it’s a problem.

One reason your doubt can get so loud is that it’s in your own voice. It’s you telling yourself that your work isn’t good enough.

It remembers the drafts full of plot holes, the hours spent combing our paragraphs for weak words, and we can no longer see the great characters we created or the twists we pulled off.

How To Stop It: Drown It Out

If you’ve ever shared your writing with someone, you’ve got a weapon against the doubt. Anyone other than you who has read your work can see the best parts and they can tell you about it.

Take what they say and print it out. Every time you doubt what you’re writing, read that list of compliments and remind yourself that you aren’t as bad a writer as the doubt wants you to think. Use that praise to inspire yourself when you write and drown the doubt out.

Self-Sabotage: Social Media Comparisons

Some days you open Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and your whole feed is book deals, agent signings, novels making bestseller lists—and none of it has your name attached.

It’s very easy to wonder why it’s not you and to think it never will be. On dark days, it’s enough to make you consider binning your latest work in progress.

How To Stop It: Take A Break

Like all social media, you’re looking at a highlight reel. That writer who signed a book deal, had three fall through before that one stuck. That other writer with an agent spent ten years being rejected by every other agent in the land. You rarely see, or remember, that part of the social media equation, or even if you do, it doesn’t make it sting any less.

Every writer wants to succeed, and often, social media makes it feel like everyone but you is.

Stop the comparisons by remembering everyone has their own journey, and by taking a break when it gets too much.

Limit checking social media to once a day and for a set amount of time. And always choose writing and improving your own craft over scrolling feeds that put you in a bad head-space.

Everyone has their own path, and you have to keep following yours, and no one else’s, to see where it goes.

Self-Sabotage: Giving Into Distractions

How many times have you started a writing session only to spend half of it on your phone, wasting that precious time?

If you’re anything like me, you can’t get two paragraphs deep without giving in to such a distraction, or the many others that interrupt our writing flow.

How To Stop It: Discipline

You need to get serious about getting rid of distractions. Put the phone away. Block websites. Resort to just a pen and paper and a locked room, if that’s what it takes.

Identify the distractions that sabotage your writing progress and use discipline to rid yourself of their influence.

While you can’t control a lot of things in the publishing world, you can control your own writing and how much progress you can make with it. Once you use your writing sessions for actual writing and stop self-sabotaging yourself, it’s amazing what you can accomplish.

— K.M. Allan

Find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

31 thoughts on “How To Stop Self-Sabotaging Your Writing Progress

  1. I love your tips for avoiding some common pitfalls that often stall me in writing. Not following through on my goals is the thing that trips me most, so the determination in your words is heartening.
    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Great post, Kate! I use the bullet points method all the time. It also works well when I have to stop writing for the day, giving me a head start the next time. I get going faster and don’t forget the juicy tidbits I wanted to include in the story.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Yes! A schedule, or routine, helps tremendously. Doesn’t matter if it’s an hour or ten minutes. I totally agree. When it comes to turning pro in writing, there really is no substitute to doing consistent work. Great post, Kate!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great article! I am so bad with discipline! I allow my time to be usurped by other ppl and random tasks.

    A break from social media is definitely a good thing for many reasons but comparison issues is a biggie!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. petespringerauthor

    Ah, self-sabotage—the writer’s bane. If you saw how many times you saw me nodding when I was reading your post, you’d think I was a head-bobbing toy.🤣

    For me, the big one was going from writing when I felt like it (i.e., hobbyist) to writing something each day (i.e., writer). Talent helps, but there is no substitute for hard work. Great post, Kate!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Pete! Glad to hear you relate as well. Makes me feel not as bad about my own self-sabotage 😅. Totally agree with hard work being just as important, if not more, than talent. It’ll definitely help you get things done.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s the scheduling the sabotages my writing usually. And I don’t have the control I want over it. No matter when I write, invariable, that will be the time when my husband decides he wants/needs to talk to me. Sure, I could close the door to the spare bedroom and have my session on my laptop, but my motivation wanes. I do must better at my desktop computer, which sits in a room that doesn’t have a door to it. My husband and I work hard at our relationship, which I believe is more important than my writing sessions. My sessions are a hit or miss.

    Something I have found that works of the self-doubt is to critique other people’s manuscripts. Although I’m most certain my work a far, far from perfect, I find mistakes in their writing that I don’t do, which helps me stay motivation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good tip about critiquing, Glynis. Beta reading is definitely as helpful for the one doing the reading as it is for the writer.

      Trying to write when you don’t have a space of your own is a struggle I know as well. It can be hard to get the balance right without offending anyone.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Perfectionism and doubt are quite a powerful team to face, and my worst enemy. I always think I should’ve done better, even in early drafts…
    …when it comes to distractions, I’ve created somewhat decent solution – I give myself a 5-10 minute break after I finish editing a chapter or two (depending on how long it took) and then I’m back to the task without inetrruptions for another set. The fact I’ve never been into social networks is a favor, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re lucky to not be a slave to social media, Tomas. It’s a beast.

      Love your dedicated breaks tip. I’d be worried I’d spend more than ten minutes, but if I used a timer, it would probably work 🤔.

      I’m currently struggling with the “it should be better” monster. Edits aren’t up to the level I want them to be, and I have no idea how to make them better.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, I admit that I was always quite secretive, so there was no point for me to jump on the social media train, even this blog was a major step. My sister tried to convince me to at least make a profile and try to meet new people – she had managed to date a few guys via Facebook – but I’ve never really trusted them, less so after all the data leaks.

        Liked by 1 person

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