Overcoming Overwhelm: The Writer’s Nemesis

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Every writer gets overwhelmed sometimes. It’s a part of the craft—especially for those writing novels. I’ve often become the victim of overwhelm and lost much time to it. But, here’s the thing—you are both the victim and the aggressor in this fight. You must face yourself if you want to win this one. The first part of this fight is…

Know Thy Enemy

What is it that is overwhelming you? If you don’t know, you’re too close to the problem and you need to step back for a moment and really think. Some common problems I’ve seen are:

  • You don’t have enough time.
  • You don’t have enough skill.
  • You don’t know where to go from here.

Any of these ring a bell?

Not Enough Time

You have a busy day. A full-time job, kids, a significant other, a new season of your favorite show—when are you supposed to write?

I have been to the top of the mountain, and I have seen the answer. It is this:

Stop watching so many shows, dude.

You make time to write. I don’t care who you are or how busy your life seems—there are 15 to 20 minutes somewhere in your day where you can dedicate yourself to your craft. After the kids go to bed, on your lunch break, while you’re in the bathroom, instead of watching Netflix. Take a look at how you’re spending your time and decide what is not necessary. Make that your time to write.

Not Enough Skill

As you can see from the way I write this article, this is the enemy I have to face down often. It is a formidable enemy. The bad part about this one is it might be entirely true—you could be a bad writer and that is what is overwhelming you. The cure takes some time to take effect and the prescription is:

Practice. Sorry.

Practice makes perfect. Your parents were right, I’m afraid. If you’re bad at something—keep doing it until you’re better. A weightlifter doesn’t stumble onto the ability to break her own records—she works out until she beats them. And like a muscle, your writing may be weak. Work out every day and you will be stronger.

Where Do You Go From Here?

This is the most specific enemy and it comes in many forms. To answer it, you must ask another question; where am I and where am I trying to go?

Did you finish the first draft of your novel and don’t know how to go about editing it? Finish editing and need an agent? Need to decide whether to self-publish or attempt the traditional route?

Alright, let me step back onto my soap box where I can see you better. There, that’s better. Ahem—I have no idea! But I do know how you can find your answer! Check out this treasure trove of writing knowledge I found:


Oh, man, I totally got you. Look at your face! That’s right—if you want to know where you should go from here, look it up. Writers have been a traditionally solitary group until now. The internet has allowed us to talk to one another without leaving our desks and there are massive amounts of advice about your specific problem just waiting for you.

If you want to be a professional in this field, become familiar with research and the writing and publishing process. If you’re a serious writer, you should be a serious reader. There is plenty to read about what is overwhelming you at any point in your process. So, go forth and self-sustain!

The best piece of advice I can give about being overwhelmed with writing? Write. Whatever you do, never stop writing.

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About Author

John Paul Schmidt is a former news journalist. Now he's a freelancer by day and bartender by night while he works on his novel.

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