Struggling to write

Emma Parnell
3 min readSep 26, 2022

I’ve broken my writing habit recently and I’m annoyed with myself for that.

When I first started my weekly writing habit around a year ago I was skeptical about my ability to keep it up, happily I found it came easily. My format and reason for writing evolved over time. I found myself moving towards a weekly column format where I wrote about the thing that was most top of mind for me that week.

It came easily. I gravitated towards the subjects that easily started forming into a narrative in my head, usually whilst swimming or walking. I started to get a sense for which topics would draw higher readership than others and I tried to alternate between more challenging subjects and the lighter things.

That was all well and good until about a month ago when I started to feel the excuses slipping in and the motivation dropping.

So for anyone out there that’s trying to build a writing habit, and for a kick up the arse for me, here’s some excuses I’ve used, and some thoughts on how to get around them (or not).

I’m too busy

It’s true, I am busy at the moment but I’ve been busy before and still managed to write. I’ve noticed I’ve stopped putting time in my diary to write, possibly because it was coming easily to me.

Maybe the answer here is to simply reinstate that hour in my diary on a Monday as protected writing time.

I’m too stressed

This is the one that is a real blocker for me. Being busy doesn’t stress me out but if project work is at a difficult stage I get stressed, and when I’m stressed about other things I struggle to write.

Part of me thinks I should be kind to myself here but I also know writing could be a form of escapism from the stress. It has been today. I should also think about whether I could write about whatever it is that’s stressing me out. Two birds, one stone!

The Queen died

That was last week’s excuse! I’m not going to be able to use that one again but I do play the bank holiday card whenever it comes up. While I don’t think anyone should have to work bank holidays if they don’t have to, I have noticed that missing a week breaks my habit and destabilises me. It makes it easier to make more excuses and keep missing more and more weeks.

I think the answer is to make sure I still publish on bank holiday weeks but maybe give myself a bit of grace and publish on a Tuesday.

No one will notice if I have a week off

My audience numbers are not massive but I do have a small readership now which is really lovely. Despite my Medium data telling me this, when I’m struggling to write I shrink my audience numbers down to zero. I tell myself that no one is sitting around waiting for my weekly thoughts so it doesn’t matter if I write them or not.

I think the answer here is just going in and looking at the stats. Reminding myself there are people out there reading and appreciating what I write – and that my writing is helping me grow my business and get me work.

What’s on my mind is too sensitive

My motivation for writing comes with being honest and writing about what’s on my mind that particular week. I’ve been noticing recently that I’m getting worried about how my writing might affect my business. If I’m too honest will that deter clients?

This is one I’m going to have to take on a case by case basis I think but I hope I can lean into owning the space around running a business with honesty and integrity and trust that good things will come from that.

If you’re building a writing habit I’m interested to know what’s worked for you. Turns out this week, for me, the answer was to write about not writing!

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Emma Parnell

Freelance specialist in user research, service design and brand development. Previously @wearesnook, @nhsdigital, @wearewithyou.