Overwhelm: What’s Lies Beneath for Writers?

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Is this ever you? You think about writing something important–a story, blog post, article, book, or whatever. The idea plays in your mind all the time. Excitement builds the more you think about it.

And then something odd happens. In your excitement you sit down to actually write that piece. You might even have some research and notes at hand. But the page remains empty and you begin to feel bad. A sense of overwhelm takes hold of you.

Finally, in frustration, you “agree” with that overwhelmed feeling. The next thing you know, you are bad-mouthing your own writing skills and telling yourself it’s a waste of time and effort to even try to write. Familiar?

Overwhelm, though interesting, can be quite deadly to you as a writer. If left to its own devices, it will derail your every writing attempt. It stops  you in your tracks right where you stand, and it intends to prove to you that it is right and you are wrong.

This is a potentially powerful emotion, its boundaries determined only by your proactive response to it. Recognizing overwhelm for what it is is the key to keeping it at bay and your writing on track.

Overwhelm:  A Result not a Root

This whole topic came up in my radar this week in a personal way. I felt it might be helpful to share my experience with you. Before I do, though, you have to know that overwhelm is a feeling–an emotion. Depending on how you deal with it when it shows up, you will have one of several experiences.

  1. You will procrastinate and have logical explanations for doing so.
  2. Your writing completely stops or never starts in the first place. You believe the negative messages.
  3. You recognize it as a feeling and work your way down underneath it. You go down under the feeling and deal with what lies beneath. The overwhelm is dismantled and you are writing.

I have learned through the years myself that, in a deep sense, overwhelm becomes a choice. You choose to either stay stuck and not move forward or you decide to move past it and do what you set out to do. But even in that truth, harsh though it may sound, I think it’s helpful to look at the process of making that choice, especially when dealing with writing.

Lack of Clarity Is the Common Culprit

Very often when it comes to writers, that sense of overwhelm is the result of a lack of clarity. That lack comes in many forms:

  • Why do I want to write this?
  • What am I trying to say?
  • I don’t know how to do this.
  • Can I write well enough?
  • Will anybody read what I write?

As usual, this is a quick list.  Each of you has your own personalized list of areas lacking proper clarity. It is this lack of clarity wherever you experience it that is the real problem. If you are not clear in what to do or how to do it, the natural response to that is a feeling of overwhelm. Throw in some inadequacy and a pinch of fear, that’s a recipe for stopping your writing in its tracks.

Recognize this for what it is, and overwhelming feelings become an alarm going off within you. Danger! Danger! Writing derailment ahead! Let the overwhelm be a signal  for you to stop feeling like you’ll never get it done, look for the areas where you lack clarity, and listen to your writer-heart.

Fixing the Problem

Okay, so we determined that the feeling of overwhelm is a result of a lack of clarity concerning some aspect of your project or your ability to do it. Therefore, the fix for overwhelm is simply gaining that clarity. Which leads to a great question: How do I do that?

There are many ways to bring clarity into sharper focus. As you work with this concept yourself, you will discover what works best for you. That is part of growth as a writer. Whatever your pathway becomes, it will fall into some combination of these elements.

1. Go back to the basics.

Where did you leave off last time? What were you trying to do that just didn’t work and left you frustrated, tired, and thinking about quitting? Once you figure out what that is, take the time to go back and pick up that knowledge or skill you are lacking.

2. Gain the missing clarity.

Acknowledge that you are simply gaining more clarity in this area, not overwhelmed and doomed to never write this piece. Let the feelings go and focus on bringing that deeper clarity to light.

Do more research on your topic or on whatever aspect of your project that is not clear to you. If  necessary, adjust your target dates to make time for the additional work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Learn what you need to know in order to accomplish what you want to do.

3. Say NO! to the overwhelm.

Make the conscious choice to not follow those negative feelings and thoughts down the rabbit hole. Overwhelm is merely a feeling. Feelings come and go all the time. This one is no different. Choose to let it go and put your focus on gaining the clarity you need. Before you know it, you will be moving forward once again with power and enthusiasm, writing your project well.

A Practical Application.

I told you earlier that I had an experience with this very thing this week. To let you know that I do practice what I preach, here’s my story.

As you know if you read my blog regularly or watch my videos, I am in the process of creating and producing a weekly podcast. It was an idea that grew out of another idea (a much smaller one!). In discussing things with my coach, the podcast was born. And I was excited and still am.

However, as time has marched along and I began to chip away at the learning curve, I was surprised to find myself yesterday morning sitting at my desk feeling overwhelmed. And just like you, I didn’t totally recognize it for a while, actually a whole day. My day was busy, so I just let it go.

By this morning my mind was hard at work trying to convince me that a weekly podcast was a bad idea and questioning what I was thinking to even consider doing it. (Does any of that sound familiar to you in your project?)

In talking with a blogging friend on the phone this morning, I shared my thoughts and feelings. It was in that process that I said, I’m overwhelmed. When I heard those words come out of my own mouth, I was shocked first, then I immediately saw it for what it was. That feeling had been revealed, and I knew exactly what to do.

My Response to Overwhelm

The first thing I did was recognize it for the emotion that it is. Then I shut down all the nagging, seemingly logical thoughts that came with the feelings. That is a huge start, I’m just saying. When you do that, you are well on your way to victory!

Once that was done, I went back to the basics of what I was trying to do–produce a weekly podcast. What was it about that that was unclear to me? The answer came pretty fast; I didn’t know exactly what each element of my plan should look like. I needed more time to learn and set up the necessary parts.

My next step is to go back to my coach and ask a few questions that will dispel all the guesswork. There’s nothing wrong with needing help. I have already changed the launch date for my podcasts by a couple of weeks so I can produce a quality product that you learn from and enjoy as well.

I am also continuing in my research and learning curve. But instead of feeling pressured and unsure of myself, I am back on top of my project, moving steadily toward my goal. The overwhelm disappeared like a puff of smoke, and I am back on track!


You have the same weapons against overwhelm that I have. Put them to work. Don’t let overwhelm rob you of your writing goals. Contact me if you need specific help with your project in any way. I am always happy to help writers write! Drop me an email and tell me a little about your project and what has you stuck.

I trust you learned something valuable from this post. As always, my desire for you is to write what’s in your heart!

Thank you & God Bless!




Hi I'am Jane Rucker

Writing is my passion. It consumes me. What a blessing it is to work from my home studio tucked away in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri! I enjoy sharing my life, my faith, and the hidden treasures all around me in these beautiful hills.


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