I have a confession to make.
For a very long time, I had a severe writer’s block.
Not the typical writer’s block though (the one where you sit down and don’t know what to write).
A writer’s block that prevented me from even sitting down to write in the first place.
But not for EVERY type of content.
I had no problem…
- Writing 100,000+ words in one month
- Sending out tens of engagement and sales e-mails to my readers
- Writing tens of scripts for my online program presentations
What I did struggle with though was publishing my writing.
For the last few years, I didn’t publish nearly as much content as I wanted to, despite my best intentions (and having the writing systems in place) to do so.
For example, I:
- Had plenty of unfinished blog posts and guides that kept piling up
- Wrote valuable e-mails to my e-mail list that I could repurpose as blog posts, but never did
- Avoided writing blog posts by sabotaging my writing time (like going to sleep super late or going grocery shopping instead of writing)
I was ashamed and guilty about it, but I just didn’t know what to do about it.
Was I just not excited enough to write? Should I change my business and write about something else?
I could talk about the same topics for hours and hours on end with my clients – but writing and publishing a blog post on the same topic? That felt like mission impossible.
I was afraid to share this issue with others, and kept telling myself that I was doing “just fine”.
But in reality, I wasn’t. It was eating me up inside.
I was frustrated because I knew how to write a lot, and my readers always loved my writing, but for a reason that I couldn’t quite figure out I just felt like I couldn’t get myself to share the ideas I had with the public.
I also knew deep down that the lack of publishing was hurting me.
My website traffic and e-mail list weren’t growing as fast as I wanted them to. I wasn’t helping as many people as I could be. I wasn’t sharing my ideas with the world in a way I wanted to.
It felt like I wasn’t really fulfilling my mission or doing the things that I genuinely wanted to be doing.
What made things worse was that my business didn’t actually stop growing.
Because I had already built an audience in the past, because my clients loved working with me, got amazing results with my programs and coaching and raved about them to others, I was doing great financially.
And if I ever NEEDED to write because I wasn’t doing well financially, I knew I could make it happen. But without that financial pressure, I just didn’t feel that motivated and inspired to publish content.
That’s why it was easy to say “I’m doing just fine!”, even though I felt like that the day would come when my business would crash and burn due to my lack of publishing.
How I finally started working on my publishing block
Last December, the feelings were so overwhelming that I had too much. I had to share this issue with someone and work through it.
I talked to my thinking coach, who helps me work on my subconscious thinking so I can change the invisible thinking patterns that hold me back in my business and life.
We started talking about the issues I was having and peeling the layers of my thinking like an onion, one by one.
We focused on talking about the earliest memories I had related to my writing block and tried to figure out where the block, shame, and discomfort came from.
It took us more than a month of 90-minute weekly conversations to figure things out, and even though a few things made sense for me logically, I didn’t really see any breakthroughs happen and didn’t feel like anything really “clicked” in my head.
For example, we talked about how I worked with one of my mentors on an online program full time (which I wanted to focus on 100%), and how that prevented me from publishing new content.
During that time I felt like I “should” be working on that program 24/7 and that publishing my own content would make me seem unfocused, unprofessional, and get me in trouble, so I was afraid of publishing my ideas.
Still, while knowing things like this made sense, nothing really changed – I didn’t really publish any more content than before and I still felt blocked and unmotivated when it came to publishing my ideas.
Everything still felt so HARD.
Every time I published a post, I LOST momentum, regardless of the results
We also talked about what motivated me to publish more, and realized that regardless of what I did, everything had a negative, not a positive effect on my motivation:
- If I published a blog post that got a bad response, that discouraged me from writing and published more.
- If I published a blog post and got a great response, that made me feel great put put me into the stage of “sitting on my laurels”, and didn’t motivate me to write more because I felt like I did “enough”.
So regardless of what I did or how my content performed, I felt like I was losing momentum every time I published something.
This was surprising to me, but still didn’t help me make any sort of a meaningful breakthrough.
That was until a few weeks ago.
That’s when we discovered 2 interesting events that influenced my thinking, my feelings and my behavior.
Interestingly enough, these weren’t “shame events” of painful events.
They were actually successes that I didn’t feel like I worked for as hard as I felt like I should have (or at least that was the thinking in my head).
Let me explain.
The first event was having a hugely successful guide about poker productivity.
This was the very first Ultimate Guide I ever wrote back in 2012, and it absolutely exploded in an online poker community I was a part of.
It was read by 200,000+ people in the English language and was translated into more than 7 languages.
It was a huge hit and it helped me more or less singlehandedly build an online business around it.
After that guide, I’ve written a few other guides that got roughly 50,000 views each, and recorded educational videos that got over 1,000,000 views total in the poker community.
The second event was being featured in an online program from one of my mentors as a success story.
This happened shortly after I transitioned out of the poker niche into a new niche to work on productivity with executives and entrepreneurs.
I quickly saw some initial success in the new niche and went from 0-500 e-mail subscribers within a month, plus successfully launched my first online course.
My mentor loved my results with the program and flew me to San Francisco to record a case study video where he interviewed me about my success.
This was fun and exciting, and I loved the idea of inspiring others to build their own online businesses.
Then, something even more exciting happened.
When the course I did a case study video for was officially launched to the public, they linked to my website through an e-mail that went to 500,000+ people.
My website got so much traffic overnight that it crashed the server it was hosted on, but even after the crash I could see 15,000+ people visit my website in a DAY, which was 150x more than on a usual day.
Hundreds of people would then subscribe to my e-mail list, and many of them would become my paying customers.
Because I wrote a detailed review about this online program and a lot of people were Googling about it, and because I kept getting mentioned in the e-mails that sold the course, I continued to get more and more traffic to my website for years to come, without really having to do anything.
After this event happened, I still kept writing and wrote a few other Ultimate Guides that got tens of thousands of views or attracted hundreds of new e-mail subscribers, but after I published them, I lost my writing momentum for a few months.
How these two events paralyzed me from writing
When I talked about this with my thinking coach, she suggested that these 2 events might have something to do with me unable to write and publish content.
We talked about how:
- This early success made me “expect” success like that in the future, with everything I did
- It created a lot of “pressure” and expectations on how my business “should” continue growing in the future
- There was a disconnect between the reward and hard work – I wasn’t gradually rewarded for my hard work, I got a disproportionate result based on the work I did, so I didn’t really build as strong of a work habit as I wanted to
This all made sense to me, and slowly I began to see where the pressure was coming from (from my expectations of how the trajectory of my business “should” look like), and how that was preventing me from joyfully writing and sharing my ideas while enjoying the journey.
It felt like my whole business revolved around pressure to create, not the joy of creating.
This was a huge insight for me, but then I asked her: “So what can I DO about that?”
And I HATED her answer.
She told me I had to let go of my expectations of what my business “should look like”. She told me that I had to allow the opportunity that my business might not grow as fast as I wanted it to, and that it might crash and burn.
When she said that, I felt worse than if a bus ran me over, then the bus driver came over, poured gasoline over me and set me on fire.
I felt sick in my stomach, and resisted accepting that idea.
But as she didn’t say anything else and just stared at me blankly as I processed what she told me, I mustered:
“Okay, I’ll give it a shot”.
After that, I went home feeling not-the-greatest, had my coaching calls, worked out, and moved on with my life.
Then, the next week, a few things changed:
- Writing started to feel different. Easier. More fun.
- I started enjoying what I was writing, and looking forward to my writing sessions.
- I got way less distracted by other things, and spent more time writing.
- I wrote for a whole day even though I had 5 hours of sleep and I was dead tired for most of the day (in the past, I would just sleep and avoid writing)
- I used every opportunity I could to write more. While waiting at a restaurant for food to arrive, after my workout, or in-between my coaching calls.
By doing this, I wrote more than 35,000 words in the first few weeks of 2019. That’s 10 blog posts, + 3 PDFs, + a few outlines of new posts I’m writing. All of which are already scheduled to get published well into February.
I’ve written that much (and probably even a bit more) within a week before, but that felt completely different. That felt HARD, like I was pushing myself, stretching myself, and burning myself out.
I could write a lot, but it completely burned me out.
I also never published as much content within such a short period of time.
For example, here are all the posts I’ve published so far this year:
- The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes
- 2019: The Year of Writing
- The FREE Automated Writing Tracker Spreadsheet: 2019 Edition
- 5 Ways to Write More While Traveling
- Growth Mindset For Writing: 32 Mental Reframes to Help You Write More
Now, writing feels so much different. I won’t say it’s effortless (especially when I’m tired, it’s definitely harder to start / keep writing), but overall it definitely feels like it’s easier and requires way less of my energy.
That’s probably because my mind doesn’t have to waste energy on all the pressure and stress and expectations, and can just spend it on writing instead.
Honestly, writing 10,000+ words every week has never felt this easy or fun.
What’s also interesting is that the results of my writing don’t kill my momentum anymore.
For example, I published a blog post about my annual review this week, which did REALLY well and thousands of people read.
I also published a post about my theme for the year which did just “okay”, and probably won’t bring a whole lot of traffic to my website over time.
And while I certainly spent some time checking the stats of these posts and how they did, I no longer felt like the results blocked me from writing.
Just today, I’m finishing up writing my second blog post and I’m already focused on writing blog posts that will be published a few weeks from now, just excited about sharing my ideas, having fun with writing, and not being attached to any sort of results.
I’m grateful to have gone through this process, as it’s been such a game-changer for me.
Is it just the momentum of the New Year that’s making a difference? Is it that I just came back from a week-long ski vacation where I fully disconnected from work?
Maybe these have something to do with how easy it is for me to write in the first week of January, but now that I’m 3 weeks into the year, writing still feels the same (even though I’ve been feeling super tired lately as I haven’t been getting enough sleep).
It’s the mindset I have about writing that’s different.
Mindset alone is not enough
I’ll also mention that one of the reasons why I’m able to write so much is because I created the right systems in my life that help me write a lot, like:
- Having 3 days a week dedicated just to writing, with no meetings, coaching calls or errands to run
- Always having a list of exciting ideas what to write about, and a clear content strategy plan for the year, so I never run out of ideas what to write next
- Letting myself “go with the flow” and write about the things I WANT to write about sometimes, even if they don’t feel the most strategic for my business
But again – I had those systems set up before, and I just wasn’t using them as effectively as I’m using them now.
Which brings me to the #1 lesson I learned from this experience.
Mindset + Systems = Success
A while ago, I read a blog post from “releasing the handbrake” from one of my students Rachel that really resonated with me.
I felt like this is exactly what happened in this situation, and I feel like I’ve released the handbrake that prevented me to publish more of my writing.
That helped me realize that my success with writing (and probably anything else for that matter) has 2 components, mindset, and systems.
If I had the right mindset around writing but had the wrong systems set up, I could use the time I had available for writing well, but would realistically write way less than I’m writing right now. I might now know what to write. I might not feel like I had the time to write. I might not know how to stay focused during my writing for long periods of time.
If I had the right systems set up around writing (which I had for a while), I could have the time to write, know what to write about, and know how to stay focused while writing. But I still might no write or publish as much as I wanted to because every time I would THINK about writing or sit down to write, my mind would drain so much energy that I’d feel ultra-tired after just an hour or two of writing.
But now that I have the right mindset AND systems set up, writing finally feels fun again.
How you can work on your mindset
If you can relate to anything in this post and you feel like your mindset is holding you back from writing and publishing more, then I have some advice for you.
- If you can, find a thinking coach. That’s probably the most effective way of working through your mindset blocks. I’m working with someone here locally in Slovenia, but you might be able to find someone here.
- A great place to start if you don’t want to hire a coach is by reading the book Why We Think The Way We Do And How To Change It (this is the book that includes the theory we are working through with my thinking coach, and my favorite book of 2018). This book is painful to read, and it’s one of those books you read over 6 months, not in one sitting. Implementation of the book is extremely hard as well (which is why I have a coach to do it together with me), but if you do follow through it, you’ll probably see results.
- Reading other books and resources about mindset will be helpful for becoming more aware of and changing your thinking. A couple of resources I can recommend are the books Mindset and Learned Optimism, as well as my recent blog post on how to apply Growth Mindset to writing .
- For practical exercises that will help you improe your mindset, check out the PDF you’ll find below this post with 32 Mental Reframes You Can Apply to Your Writing Today.
I will say that there seems to be no quick fix (that I have discovered) to fixing your mindset. I’ve been working with my thinking coach for 4 months now, and I see big breakthroughs like this maybe 1x/month, even though we have regular 90-minute weekly coaching sessions – plus I spend a lot of time doing the homework and thinking in-between our sessions.
If I had to use a ROUGH estimate, I get a breakthrough for every 10 hours of intensive mindset work – but the breakthroughs are priceless to me.
But all the work you put into your mindset will be worth it – as getting to the bottom of what’s stopping you from publishing will likely be THE thing that helps you make writing fun and exciting again.
What about you? Have you experienced a similar breakthrough when it comes to writing or another area of your life? Share it in the comments!
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Download your free PDF with 32 Mental Ping Pong Examples to develop a Growth Mindset for writing!