SEQ 3DC Pt 1 Holding Back


Does this sound familiar?

You decide that you’re going to take your writing seriously. You set an intention — perhaps you’ll get up and write every morning, perhaps you set a daily word-count goal, or you decide this is the year you finish your novel. You’re really going to do it!

And then life happens and you wake up a couple of months later and… your writing life is pretty much where it was before: sporadic outbursts of creativity and not nearly as much progress as you had hoped.


You’re not alone. And you’re not doomed to fail because of some personality flaw unique to you.

You’re human.

And luckily for us, human behavioral researchers have discovered some patterns that can help us.


When trying to achieve an outcome, we tend to rely on the motivation that comes from the emotion of imagining ourselves at finish line. It feels great to picture ourselves holding that published book, on a stage doing a reading, answering fan mail…these high emotions spur us to make commitments to our writing.

We think that, with the right motivation, we can make it stick this time.

It makes intuitive sense.

And it almost never works.


Researchers have shown that emotions are fleeing and the motivation they conjure evaporates like morning mist in the harsh light of day.

But there is something you can do that will change this boom and bust cycle in your creative life.

While motivation alone is not enough to help us change our behavior, when we combine it with the right actions and reminders we can easily build the good habits we need to make massive progress on our journey towards becoming prolific, fulfilled writers.

And I’ll be back in your mailbox soon to talk about exactly how you do that.

(Me? It happened when I finally realized that I was going to keep coming back to writing, over and over, no matter how much I tried to tell myself I didn’t need it, so I might as well figure out a way to incorporate it into my life!)

Keep writing,

Julie's signature


What trips you up, when you try to
commit to your writing?
Leave a comment and let’s talk!

20 thoughts on “SEQ 3DC Pt 1 Holding Back

  1. Well like you i find myself coming back to writing over and over. After having a bit of a breakdown and realizing that I can’t do the workforce anymore-autistic and filing for disability- i find that writing helps my mind with a lot of things though motivation is a big issue to work through. Which is something I tackle everyday. Some days are better than others.

  2. This is so true. After I retired and moved back to NYC, my birthplace, I thought, ok, now I will write the memoir about my son and his struggles.
    I took some Gotham Writer’s courses and even wrote about a third of it. Now we are in 2022 and it is still not completed. I need a definite push to finish anything. I”m great at beginnings and I can relate this to my two marriages. It’s the long haul that traps me and I become frustrated.
    So, I still want to complete my memoir and I do believe it will happen. I guess hope springs eternal.

  3. I’m ready to commit to writing, just sometimes there’s little free time in the day. Free time that I want to spend on learning new things, but then I never end up writing things which show my knowledge. I don’t know a lot, but what I’m strong in is improv and flow. If someone told me to go write a story in 40 mins I could do that no problem. I end up spending a lot of time learning new languages, doing coursework, and on my job. I don’t want writing to feel like a job, but day-to-day we have to type/write so many words. I want that to change so I am ready to commit to writing and to making my knowledge and perspectives more readily available. I want to make myself proud of my journey, being a person, writer, artist, and educator. All 4 of which are related and by no means a full explanation of me. At the end of the day I’m a lifelong learner, who is also a lifelong teacher, but to teach you need materials to teach with for the most part. Therefore, I should start putting – pen to paper more often.

  4. Within the last year and some change, I’ve habituated journaling for perhaps an average of an hour daily (morning and evening pages combined), and I can see powerful growth in my sense of connection to myself, to the world around me, to the themes shared within humanity, to a common sense of suffering and of joy, and to nuanced views on these. And yet, when it comes time to wrest myself from the journal and place words on a page with intention—and without the slightly more free feeling that comes from the illusion that nobody will ever read your writing—I run up against a handful of issues. I recently won an international flash fiction competition, and I’ve tried to repeat what I feel was the process that led me to that place, but I’m still left with a lack of consistency. That’s why I’m here now. The chips are stacked, my writing is steadily improving, and I’m ready to expand to an exponential degree. (Consistency will do this, I’m sure of it.)

      1. Oh, I know exactly what you mean.
        The truth is that inspiration is super-helpful — it gives us that little hit of dopamine our brains are always on the hunt for — but it’s never going to carry us through to a satisfying writing life. We have to be willing to expect that writing isn’t always going to feel like that.
        Sometimes we have to keep turning up UNTIL inspiration does.
        The good news is, it really works: if you keep showing up for your writing, the inspiration will follow; and each brief waves of it will help you surf a long way towards the next one.

  5. It takes me forever to decide what I want to write about. Then I second-guess myself and change my mind. Or I think it’s not going to be good and I quit. I want to develop a consistent persistent writing habit.

  6. I actually feel I have committed to a writing life. I suppose now it’s consistency that I need to build into my practice. I could sit for hours one day, but then nothing for a few days – sometimes that’s because I need a break from the main project, but there’s other little things I’ve realised I could be doing in between to build up my craft, short-stories, creative non-fiction, a poem or even a journalling habit. I think I want writing to be the whole of my life, not the afterthought.

    1. Yes yes! There is more to the writing life than simply churning out new words. So much reading, daydreaming, thinking (if you can train yourself to think about story ideas and characters you can call it prt of your writing practice!); learning craft pieces; learning about the business (if you’re interested in publishing) and supporting other writers; then building systems to support all of these efforts. Lots to do!

  7. I’m easily motivated in short spurts (say, attending a writing conference) but as you mentioned, the inspiration is short lived. I go through spurts of writing and publishing articles and then there are serious dry spells…because…life. I really want to find a way to keep going and create a routine.

    1. Yup, for me it’s hard to do it alone. With a writing group I’m much more likely to have those periods of inactivity be shorter…

  8. I want to commit because every time I feel really down, like I can’t get up again, I can express myself in my way through writing. I’ve recently felt really inspired, and written about 30 short creative pieces in a few days, and I want to be able to write and ‘feel inspired’ consistently, since I really enjoy it and I feel better when I write every single time.

  9. So true. How many times have my resolves been waylaid by life? Which is also important to live, by the way.

    1. Yes and yes. We have to live to find things to write about (Will be interesting to see the novels that come out in the next few years from working writers who had only their four walls for inspiration!)

  10. I’m ready to commit. I’ve seen what happens when I put my mind to writing for 30 minutes/day. My grandmother (my soul mate) had several stories she was working on when she passed away. It was always a dream of her’s to publish her work. I am her protege and I sense her when I write. I feel the weight of the writing baton which she gave to me and I will see to it that I get my work out there. I am joining the writing community which she was a life-long member of and will continue to do the work she wished for me. I will write, everyday, until my project is complete and I fulfill our wish.

  11. I want to commit for real this time because a “someday” when I have lots of time and inspiration and no clutter in my life will never come, and yet time keeps ticking on. I want to try to write stories from the snippets I have in my mind. I want to believe I can. As you point out, I cannot rely on the motivation of picturing a magical day when the product is in my hands. I look forward to your tips.

  12. I love to collect story ideas and have a drawer full of starting points and half finished structures…I never get around to writing because when I start, I want to write the perfect first draft and get lost in describing details, thinking about intricate structures or researching background info. So it gets tedious and I never get to finish what I started. Also, it seems hard to incorporate it into my daily life and making it a ritual not an occasional event

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