On being a writer: what’s holding me back?

Joining in with the online discussion that Kate Motaung is hosting: On Being a Writer, based on Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig’s book On Being a Writer: 12 simple habits for a writing life that lasts

Today’s the first day of the discussion and we were invited to post a blog post around the topic of Identify. 

I’ve chosen to reflect on what’s holding me back.


I am a writer, in that I write (and edit) non-fiction for a living and aside from this, I write, daily, in my journals or I work on my book. I dabble in writing in some form each and every day as my one dream, desire, overarching hope is to write, and publish, and have my fiction (my ‘from the heart’ writing) reach an audience.

To be able to help others who might have gone through similar things I have and who might need a light, a guide, to ‘hear’ someone tell them they’re strong, that they can and will make it, that all is not lost.

[I have a note stuck on my office wall. It says ‘Be the light that helps others see…’ I read it one day and it described, perfectly, what I’d like to do with my writing….(I’m waving my heart around on a stick here, ladies: please treat me gently…I don’t have any illusions at all that I could become the next Marianne Williamson or Paolo Coelho or anything, but I do believe my writing has a place and could help many women]

I’ve been writing here at I Will Bloom for almost a year and, for me, the posts that have been most successful are the ones where I’ve shared – spilled – bits of my heart. I feel that’s my most genuine, authentic, writing and I feel that’s when people have responded to my writing the most, with the most genuine, heartfelt, comments.

[Please don’t get me wrong: I don’t write for comments, I have written on I Will Bloom for me, to get it all out of my system, to process, to understand – it’s been a wonderful, amazing thing for me to see a community build around my blog, but that isn’t why I started writing on I Will Bloom].

So…what’s holding me back, from going the whole hog? Jacking everything else in and declaring myself a writer? The writer from the heart that I so desperately want to be?

Excuses galore. You name a possible solution, I have an excuse for it. [I’m like a witch doctor curing all  possibilities of committing. I have a potion and songs and dances for each and every way that it might just, could, possibly work!]

My littles. I’m the sole bread winner, a single Mama with two small children. I need to pay bills. I don’t have the luxury of dedicating myself to writing (I realise few people do….and, yes, I am aware of J.K.Rowling’s story…thank you very much to all the friends who have pointed her out when I try to vocalise my fears! But, actually, my situation is nothing like hers. I don’t have the luxury of benefits or child care (or even child maintenance!) to fall back on and I’m in a foreign (developing) country, isolated, with no family around to help me…not that I’m shouting ‘Woe is me’ from the rooftops, you understand)…]

Time is also precious, as much as money is necessary. I don’t have great swathes of free time where I can mull things over/develop ‘plans of attack’…[my X-Factor and film viewing, for a few hours a week is sacred ‘me’ time that’s necessary to stop me going bonkers (to hear English being spoken if nothing else!) and I simply can’t claw out great swathes of time from my schedule…I already wake at 5 and crawl in to bed, physically exhausted at around 10…and every minute between 5am and 10pm is accounted for with pretty much military precision!]

I’m also an ‘all or nothing’ kinda girl so my fiction (or perhaps more accurately my ‘from the heart’ writing) has taken a backseat because if I’m not able to dedicate myself 100% to it, my heart is just not fully in it, then everything suffers. I clamp up, I get writers block, I paralyse myself.

What holds me back is, also, I think the fear of dedicating myself properly – with commitment – to my ‘from the heart’ writing. This blog sort of surged up as part of my self-defeating strategy to not allow myself time to concentrate on the kind of writing I want to do…”If you have a blog, Helen, then you’ll have an outlet for some of your writing”…”It’s something you can do until you can do what you want to do” (I convinced myself…leading myself, in the process, away from dedicating myself to other ‘from the heart’ writing projects).

But, you know, I battle with myself, constantly…I love my blog, love it…love the community, love “my girls”, but my blog sort of feels like a cop out and I kind of get disappointed every time I publish a post…because it sometimes feels like I used up a part of me on a blog post and not on something more in tune with what I want to be writing. And I sometimes hate myself (a little bit) for that.

Then my mind goes back round to commitment and all the other cop out excuses I use to dominate my inner writer self…”You don’t have time”, “You’re daft to think you can take on another huge project”…and the killer one: “Who do you think you are?”…

I read work by amazing thinkers, authors, writers, every single day and I’m blown away by the quality and originality of the writing. And I look at what I do, in my half assed way, and I get intimidated. As much by my own lack of commitment as by the other writers and their writing.

Then I circle round to ‘Ugh, it’s all too much, I’ll just leave it for a while…I’ll start when x or y or z happens”…and you know, time is pushing and x or y or z haven’t happened so far and I’m beginning to think they’re not going to happen

And I know, I know, I know, I believe that the Universe conspires to make something happen when we visualise it and ask very clearly and very specifically for it…(I’ve lived this process previously so I know it works)…so I kick myself every day that I haven’t had the gumption to ask, to dedicate myself in a committed manner to making it happen. 

So what is it?

What is holding me back?

Is it a fear of not being good enough (to live up to my own expectations)? Is it fear of what might happen if I allow myself to – and then manage to – write as I (85%) knowcan/could? Is it really that I fear that? That I fear success? Actually achieving what I dream of achieving?

I don’t know, but I do know that I’m not getting any younger and that every day I don’t practice, don’t try, don’t at least imagine myself writing the kinds of things I want to write, and take my writing to the places I’d like to take it, then I’m doing myself a disservice.

And, at the end of the day, that’s sort of strange, isn’t it?

Sabotaging myself, sacrificing my talents…

For what?

What is holding me back?

[Answers on a postcard, please….all ideas/suggestions considered!]

Helen xxx


28 thoughts on “On being a writer: what’s holding me back?

  1. Kate Motaung says:

    So glad you’re adding your voice to this conversation, Helen! Firstly, I just want to thank you for carving out precious time to make these words a reality on the screen. Even the discipline of sitting down to type after making the decision to do so is to be commended!

    You’re asking important questions here, and I can tell you’ve pondered them for some time. While I don’t have the answers (sigh), it’s wonderful to see how you’ve identified your passions and gifts, your temptations and your struggles. I’d say that’s half the battle — knowing what you’re good at, what you love, what frustrates you, and what hinders your productivity.

    Hopefully the upcoming chapters in this book will also lend themselves to progress and answers, as we seek to cultivate healthy habits together that will lead to writing lives that last.

    Thanks for taking part in this group! Lovely to have you with us, and I look forward to the days and weeks to come!

    Liked by 1 person

    • iwillbloom says:

      Thank *you*, Kate for organising this. I’m hoping it will be the ‘shift’ that many of us need to fearlessly go forwards, more confident and with a clearer direction. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Karen Brown says:

    Oh, I so get this. All of the fears, pride, idols, longings, are all so intertwined with my desires to glorify God- and sometimes it doesn’t feel like a “holy calling” at all. I’m right there with you in comparing my work to others, in wanting things to be perfect, in the “all or nothing” mentality. But from where I sit, you have a strong voice and are a gifted communicator. I hope you discover what’s holding you back and move it out of the way. Peace, friend.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Karen, I’ve definitely experienced this battle too [and have perfect evasion tactics/excuses to avoid confronting it head-on ;)] …thank you so much for taking the time to comment and for your kind, kind words….Helen xx


  3. Lizelle says:

    I hear ya lady.
    Sounds like there are many fears you are raising your sword in the face of…I am confident that you will be victorious though. I think personality too is always a huge factor in the face of our dreams. Like you’ve said you’re an all or nothing kindda girl where as I am a ‘give me SOMETHING’ kind of girl lol I hate waiting for tomorrow…we have this saying on the island that goes ‘one one cocoa does full basket’ stemming back to plantation days when the ladies would pick cocoa pods off the tree. They would start their day’s task looking as though nothing was done as they did struggle to pick each pod but sure enough, as long as they kept going, they would end with their basket closer to full than empty.

    So i guess I’m telling you ‘one one cocoa does full basket’ this morning, as you continue your fight to strategies, to optimise and to believe that the results of your actions are already set in motion and are running to you as fast as you are running to them.

    Much ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • iwillbloom says:

      Lady Liz, you honestly don’t know how much this has helped me. I think, as much as it’s me being an ‘all or nothing’ type person, I also have to recognise that it’s the fear of the unknown and the enormity of the task that also have me stalled. The ‘one one cocoa does fill basket’ mantra has put it all in to perspective in many ways (I will, for example, ever know the hardships of those cocoa pickers). Thank you so, so much xxx


  4. Gabriele says:

    Your justifications sound good to me. But, I love reading your writing and if that “heart felt” writing gets out i’m going to love it. You know I look for your posts because they communicate to me that you are a real person who can share all the good and bad and still show up again. Keep writing!


  5. heyjude6119 says:

    Hi Helen,
    Great job on identifying your fears and hopes as a writer. It’s hard to be a mom in a 2 parent family! Never enough time or energy to go around, I can’t imagine being the sole parent. So focus on what you’re doing right!! I think the blogging is an important thing to do for now and not cheating yourself. Have you ever thought of these as something you can collect and someday compile into something you do want to write? I’m looking forward to getting to know you better and perusing your blog!
    PS – I think everyone sounds a lot more polished than I do, but then I remember there are times when the scuffed shoe is the more comfortable one. There’s a place for every one of us as writers.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Judy: yeah, it’s so great to connect with you! [Love your idea: indeed, scuffed shoes are almost the most comfortable ones! One of my favourite writers is Charles Bukowski (style *not* content), and I think there’s no-one more scuffed than he!]…I’ll head across to your blog shortly….can’t wait!! Helen xx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. so much of this resonated with me, and helped put some words to my thoughts. It is easy for me to say that I write, but not as easy to say that I AM a writer. I have a print that I bought from a friend that hangs on my wall that says ‘Writer’ on it. I bought it in an attempt to convince myself that I am indeed a writer, though perhaps it does not look like perhaps I had imagined. sometimes i tend to glare at the picture, thinking that its mocking me…but I know that’s not the case. its my lack of belief in my gifts that is speaking. thank you for sharing what is holding you back. I hope to enter into this discussion as well this week.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi…thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and comment. Yeah, the ‘I write’ is easier…it’s the ‘I’m a writer’ that’s hard, isn’t it? I’m definitely learning *a lot* from the discussions/posts/comments from other ladies that are participating: lets hope by the end of this we can go forth – confidently – and state ‘I am a writer’…! Love how you mention writing as ‘your gift’. I think that’s a powerful way to see it (and a way to recognise that we must push through that lack of belief to realise the full potential of the gifts we have been given). Helen xx

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Joy Lenton says:

    Oh, Helen, I think you’ve been reading my mind here:”but I do know that I’m not getting any younger and that every day I don’t practice, don’t try, don’t at least imagine myself writing the kinds of things I want to write, and take my writing to the places I’d like to take it, then I’m doing myself a disservice” Yup. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, wrote the book… no, hang on, that’s still to come! Writing out our hearts in the blogosphere is a way to engage in community, encourage and touch others, and hone our skills at the same time as being cathartic and releasing for us as writers. But (as I’m slowly discovering) believing we can write the book/s burning within which we desire to see published is another matter entirely, a whole new notch of brave to ascend, a learning curve with way too many twists and turns.
    But I still firmly believe that YOU can and will do it, my friend. Those books will get birthed despite the length and weariness of the labour involved. Maybe we could hold one another’s hand through the process? Or at least stand on the sidelines cheering one another one. Yes? Great post, by the way. 🙂 Xx


    • iwillbloom says:

      I’m all in. Let’s do this. Hand in hand is the only way to go because you’re right: it’s a curve with too many twists and turns and it’s too scary to go alone. [I’m realising there’s a reason heroes are usually always accompanied! Frodo! Dorothy! Even the Marvel heroes are joining forces nowadays for Goodness sake!]

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I can so relate to every thing you said. We are not getting any younger is another one I have said. Powerful words. I renounce the fear of being rejects and I stand in the truth that God did not give me a spirit of fear but of peace, love and a sound mind. Go write my friend. Your neighbor at Kate Motaung. Blessings Diana


  9. You ARE a writer Helen. And a beautiful one. In my opinion there’s no need to even put a label on it. It’s you. It’s who you are and that seems awfully obvious to me. I’m just glad that you do write – for all the reasons you need to get it out. And I feel honored that you share so much with us.
    Just keep up the great work. Don’t put the Mom guilt on yourself (we all do) for doing it. When something seems to be as much a part of you as breathing – than it’s not a vice or something taking you away. It’s you being that best you that you can be….and I think that benefits our children.
    Blessings sent your way and wishes for a wonderful week! xoxo


    • iwillbloom says:

      Thank you so much for your comment: your idea of my writing being part of the best ‘me’ I can be (and that, in turn, being good for my littles) has *really* helped…I hadn’t thought about it in that way…thank you xxx


  10. Jenny Kim says:

    What is holding you back is your own insecurities. You just need to dive in. I’ve dived into many things that wasn’t in my comfort zone. Looking back, I can’t believe I was scared to do what I did. Trust me, you will be ok. Worst case scenario is that you will be in exactly the same situation you are in today. If you don’t take a risk, then you will never propel yourself.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Jenny, loved the direct nature of your comment: many thanks! I’m definitely a person who takes risks and I am coming out of my comfort zone after a very rough few years, personally, which have made me doubt myself, my decision-making abilities and my choices. I’ve also led my life (pre-abuse) on the basis of ‘do the thing that scares you’…I think you’ve made me realise that my fears are based on the fallout of the abuse and the effects that has had on me (and for that I thank you): the only way I’m going to get to where I want to be is by moving through all of this, towards what I want. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated.


  11. annkroeker says:

    Your conversational style creates a relatable, disarming, invitational feel. As you sorted through your struggle in this post, you incorporated those parenthetical statements, clarifications and disclaimers that seemed to visually represent your internal struggle. I feel like I can see and feel your struggle right here on the page. You are indeed practicing your craft and building experience as a writer–an excellent use of any blog is trying out different ideas and techniques. The practice of blogging is a gift to your readers and yourself, so I encourage you to keep using this blog, because I sense you are growing through your storytelling, heart-baring experiments. As a person and a writer, you are going deeper (growing as a person and writer often happens simultaneously, as the writing opens up the person and the opened-up person expands the writing). The more you grow, the more that light will shine–the light you hope to extend to others, that they might see. It’s happening here, in this very post, as I can see honest responses of fellow strugglers in the comments.

    You are facing a big challenge, writing in the midst of life as a single mom. And yet, you’re doing it! Maybe you’d like to do more or tackle other projects or this blog in a different way, but you’re working creatively within your limits. I’m impressed. Really impressed. I hope that you can self-coach yourself out of any doubts that pop into your head. When you sense the second-guessing rising inside you, perhaps you can remind yourself, “Hey, I don’t buy that. Nope. Not true.” What I see on this page is a woman who is a writer, writing.

    I hope one day those parenthetical thoughts disappear because you have quieted the voice inside you that is creating conflict and embraced your identity as a writer.


    • iwillbloom says:

      Ann, thank you so much for taking the time to leave such a considered (and very helpful) comment. I totally agree that growing as a person and as a writer go hand in hand: I do feel my writing has come to have depths (perhaps contours is a better word?) as a result of my recent experiences, and the profound reflections this has precipitated. I am all about self-coaching out of the mists: I definitely think my doubts on this front is the ‘last frontier’ and once I’m past this, I’ll be ‘ready to go’ and will come out guns blazing (I can feel it coming)….I’ve just discovered NLP and am slowly working through an excellent book on this subject which is helping me in unexpected, and very deep, ways, and I can feel myself getting stronger – and listening to the mocking voices in my head (entirely a result of the trauma lines that still run through my head and which sometimes don’t let me find peace) less and less. That’s got to be a good thing. I’m so thankful, so very thankful that you took the time to comment: I so much appreciate it. Thank you. Helen xxx


  12. Carly says:

    I really like your writing and it’s great how you can identify the struggles and the things that are holding you back. I love your motivation to help others who have had similar experiences to you. It’s so important for people to be able to hear from those who have been through the same things they have and to be encouraged. That is a big part of my motivation too though I am several steps behind you in actually doing it. I love the quote- “be the light that helps others see”- so inspiring!


  13. Liane says:

    i think this is my favourite thing that you have posted on your blog. I can relate to so much of it too..

    You’re a fantastic writer. I aspire to be as good as you 🙂 xx


  14. Barbara says:

    Oh, yes, Helen! I’ve read every word of this post…and I read all of the comments – the VERY ENCOURAGING comments! Because, they all see what I see (or read what I read, to be literal?!)…a very LOVELY woman who is sharing her heart! As I’ve said before, I love to read your heart and am excited that you are writing again…and YES, you ARE very much a writer! I know it IS hard when you have your littles and it’s only you they rely on for everything! And, you are doing a fantastic “job” of that and still sharing your heart in your writing. I am also excited by one little phrase you said…talking about your “book”; because, if there ever WAS a book that you wrote, I’d certainly be looking for it!

    This series with Kate seems to be a very good one; one that I haven’t gotten involved in! I write on my blog, because I enjoy writing (I don’t write for the comments either, but they sure do help to encourage me to continue! I really didn’t consider myself a writer though, at least not until I did write for 31 days straight last Oct. So glad that we connected!! Looking forward to keeping up with all that you share!


    • iwillbloom says:

      Hi Barbara, thank you xxx I’m also excited about the ‘b’ word….! And for your 31 days posts this year….(is it really a year ago that we ‘met’??!)


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