5 Lies You Tell Yourself That Keep You from Becoming an Awesome Writer

5 Lies You Tell Yourself That Keep You from Becoming an Awesome Writer

Many writers are afraid of writing.

As a blogger and writer, I’m approached quite often by friends and readers who are interested in starting to freelance, or to write on their own.

The truth is that they’re all better writers than me, but they haven’t decided to start a blog, write a book, or begin freelancing, because they believe the bunch of lies that their mind tells them about writing.

There are several myths that I’m tired of hearing over and over again, so today I’m going to debunk them. Here are five common lies writers believe — and why they’re all wrong.

1. I have nothing to say

This is a bald-faced lie.

How many times have you been in a conversation, and simply said nothing the entire time? Unless it was a terrible date, the chances are that, when you’re out with people, you’re able to have a conversation. In fact, I expect you rarely end up going out with friends and saying nothing the entire night because you “have nothing to say.”


  • You don’t have an opinion on anything?

  • You don’t have domain knowledge of anything?

  • You don’t get excited about anything?

Focus in on one of those — any of those — and then just start writing, and see what happens.

You’ve got more things to say than you like to think. (Click to tweet this idea).

2. No one will listen to me

Well, it’s really hard to listen to someone who never says anything.

That hurts, huh? Well, it’s true.

If you write something, at least you give people the option of listening to you. If you keep everything bottled up, you don’t even give them the chance.

This is easily the worst excuse for not starting. Even if nobody reads anything you write, writing will make you a better thinker, and will allow you to communicate your thoughts more clearly, simply by practicing.

3. I’m not interesting

You don’t have to be. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but people aren’t interested in you. You know what they’re interested in? Themselves. Seriously.

More than anything, people are interested in themselves and in their problems. If you write about things that affect them, it doesn’t matter if you’re the most boring person who’s ever lived. In their eyes, you’re going to be incredibly useful because you speak to their needs, and help them solve their problems.

If you focus your writing on solving problems, your readers will find you more interesting than the Dos Equis guy.

4. I can’t make money writing

That’s not true. While you might not get a million-dollar book advance, you can make a pretty good income from digital publishing. If you don’t believe that, just look at Alexis — or Ali or Dana or Chris or Darren. If you’re into writing fiction, just take a look at Johnny: he’s made novel writing his full-time gig.

Heck, I’ve managed to do it, and I’m not even that great of a writer.

The fact is that writing is a medium of communication. If you can use communication to help solve problems, you’ll always be able to charge for it. While they might not look like the book deals of thirty years ago or the newspaper dynasties of the last century, writing careers certainly aren’t dead. They’re just changing.

5. I can’t compete with CNN

Good news! You don’t have to!

The traditional media channels are dying. They’re becoming more and more segmented according to people’s interests. You don’t have to compete with CNN. You can create your own little media network, and be a miniature giant.

Besides, with how ridiculous the news networks are becoming lately, do you really want to “compete” with them? You can do way cooler things on your own, without waiting for permission from the corporate politics and bureaucracy which plague huge media companies.

Writing careers aren't dead, they're just changing.

Did any of those excuses hit home? If so, good. They should.

Get rid of your excuses, pick a favorite writing tool and start writing.

Because, when it comes down to it, there’s really only one defining characteristic of a writer:

A writer writes.

What lies have you told yourself about writing? How did you move past them?

Filed Under: Blogging


  • Teresa says:

    Hey Joel, nice job on this. Yes, it does ring a bell to me. Also, I have been told, that I need more practice in my writing skills.

  • Ferret says:

    As far as #1 goes, no, I do not say anything when I’m with people. I never know what to say and I’m always worried of saying the wrong thing. Luckily, my wife more than makes up for that by being a social butterfly, so I tend to use her to shield me from conversations.

  • Leslie says:

    Yes! This is a great list. Thank you for such clear and concise advice for blasting through these excuses.

  • Joel Key says:

    Great post, and an important message for would-be writers. Writers are unfortunately their own harshest critics, especially if their work is not receiving the attention it deserves.

  • P.S. Joshi says:

    Your post was tremendously encouraging. I hope all writers gain confidence from it. I shared it with my daughter via email.

  • Robyn LaRue says:

    I plan to share this post with every new writer I come across. I don’t know how many times I’ve said these lies to myself and though I worked hard to overcome them, they still creep up now and again. And Justice is absolutely right…the excuse of time can be solved with a simple question…how bad do you want it?

  • Alicia says:

    Can I add a #6?

    Lie #6: I’m not a good writer.

    It looks like you, Joel, could benefit from breaking down the barriers of that one.

    “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
    -Justice Brandeis

  • So true! I’ve worked with writers for years both as an editor and one-on-ones. While I do focus on mechanics, strategies, structures and the like, I find I spend the largest amount of time during chats with writers helping them see that they need to get past all these excuses and just keep writing.

    Well said! 🙂

    • Interesting that there’s so much coaching and confidence-building involved! Well done on helping writers get past these fears, Leigh!

    • Jason says:

      Very true. As a writer, I usually talk myself out of writing just a quickly as I came up with the idea! It is a shame that writers cannot simply tune out their inner critic! Therein lies the rub, I suppose. We are, as writers, examiners. We attempt to see all angles of an object/subject, and pull ideas from it. The downside, we also examine (at times overly so) our craft.

      thanks for your input as an editor! It is taken and I will keep it in mind as I tread the waters.



  • Elke Feuer says:

    Wonderful post, Joel! The lie I used to tell myself is that I didn’t have time to write. I said that when I was single. What I wouldn’t give to (not) have that kind of time now that I’m married with two kids. 🙂

    I stopped using that excuse when I read about authors who were single mothers with three or more kids who managed to get their books published. The first thing I did was take a hard look at my schedule and where I spent my time. No surprise, I found lots of time I wasted watching TV and other useless activities. I cut them out, shuffled things around, and managed to find 3.5 hours of writing time everyday.

    If something is important to you, you make time for it. That’s what I tell the writers in my group when they give me my old excuse or ask me how I find time to do it all. I also tell them to find what works for them. If they can only manage one day a week, then do it, just make it consistent.

    • Great addition to the list, Elke! Not having time is such an easy excuse to make, but you’re right, when we look at our schedules closely, we can often spot time that could be put to better use. I completely agree with you: if something is important to you, you make time for it.

  • You hit a nerve with this post, Joel, exposing all my excuses in one short blog entry. Why don’t I write on my blog? It’s been running for, oh, a couple of years and I bet I can count on 10 fingers how many entries. Hell, even the new Dr. Watson has a blog (a PBS version of Sherlock currently broadcasting) and he does it just because he wants to. He’s not trying to reach any audience. He’s writing because writing makes him feel good and he can get stuff off his mind. I realize this is a fictional character but it raises a good point as do you – just write about what works for you.

    Thanks for being “here”.

    • Thanks for your comment, Jeannie! You’re right, it hits pretty close to home and challenges so many common fears. I like you point about Dr. Watson writing just to write — sometimes it’s good to get back to basics like that!

  • Bobbie Edwards says:

    Thanks, Joel, for laying these out, one by one. And yes, they ALL hit home. Especially about having nothing new to say – it’s all been written in someone else’s words. This is very encouraging – knowing that even ‘the good writers’ have the same fear of writing. Have talked for years about writing my memoir – I do have something to say, I believe, that will help those suffering from depression and anxiety. So, I rebuke these five lies, and all the others, and step out in faith. Who will write my story, in my words, if not me?
    Thanks and God bless.

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