How to Break Through the Barriers That Hold Writers Back

Carol Tice

I needed to get out of the library, but the door was blocked. And I’m claustrophobic.

My kids were acting up and I really needed to get them out of there, increasing my sense of panic.

But a mom with a toddler and infant rolled up to the door of the children’s entrance just ahead of me, reached for the knob, and then lost focus. Her toddler wandered off to explore the book-sale area near the door.

And there this young mom stood, oblivious, for what seemed like eternity, blocking the way.

I felt trapped

There’s something that unleashes the animal in us when we feel cornered, hm?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think straight.

I tried my usual tactics for avoiding a claustrophobic panic.

I looked somewhere else. I took deep breaths.

Finally, I covered my eyes with my hands to block out the sight of the blockade standing between me and freedom. I stayed that way a long time, breathing, praying my kids would keep it together until we could get outside.

I looked again, and she was still there.

It was time to act. I couldn’t stay where I was anymore.

“I’m claustrophobic!” I said, fighting to keep a whine of panic from creeping into my voice. “I need to get out the door.”

And like magic, she moved her stroller and belongings and children out of the way, and I opened the door and was gone.

How to have a breakthrough

This incident reminded me of all the barriers that stop freelance writers from having the career they want. All the fears that hold us back.

And what makes a breakthrough finally happen.

Here’s what does it:

When your discomfort at being stuck where you are becomes greater than your fear of what you must do to move forward, you jump to the next level in your career.

You become willing to do something potentially embarrassing — like announcing loudly in a quiet library that you’re freaking out because your way is blocked.

You take the risk, because you have to.

Your comfort zone is no longer comfortable.

You’ve got to move forward now, beyond this point, or you feel like you’ll bust.

So the question is:

Are you more scared of sending marketing emails, or more scared that you’ll never earn a decent hourly rate?

Are you more terrified of introducing yourself at networking events, or of never seeing your byline in a quality magazine?

If you have the burning desire to make your living with your writing, one day that tipping point arrives where you’re ready to put yourself out there.

We may not do it gracefully or perfectly at first, but we step forward and start to ask for what we need.

And then, the doors swing open.

What’s standing in your way? Leave a comment and tell us what you plan to do to break through.


  1. Lalitha Brahma

    Thanks Carol for writing such an inspirational post. It is interesting to learn from the comments that there are quite a few persons, experiencing fear.
    What’s standing in your way? Leave a comment and tell us what you plan to do to break through.

    Having worked in a Service industry, I could never imagine myself getting paid for writing, even though I do write blog posts and articles for my website and Ezine. Hence, for me instead of fear, it is the mindset. I am willing to change.

  2. Adeline Yuboco

    For me, the biggest thing that is standing in the way is the surprising low rates that I discovered a lot of writers in my country are accepting for writing gigs. Based on the stats that I saw in the State of the Freelance Nation 2012, my rates are already considerably low. Yet, I still get a number of potential clients that contact me and complain that it’s too high, pointing to the fact that they have spoken with other writers from my country that are willing to charge only a fraction of what I’m charging (most charge apparently single-digit fees per hour and even per article). Still trying to find a way how to overcome that hurdle.

    • Carol Tice

      No matter where you live or what type of writing you do, there will always be lowballers.

      I generally wish them luck finding what they want at the price they’re offering, and move on.

      To earn more, you need to offer more, and go after more sophisticated assignments. Consider learning a specialized area of writing or specializing in a complex industry. Doing quickie SEO articles is never going to pay better.

  3. Karen

    Biggest thing getting in my way is … me… and my fear of leaving a teaching position where there’s set pay check and benefits but where the hours are long, including personal time and, yes, summer time classes and work in prep for new school year. Want out of teaching for a number of reasons. Have a child I need to support. My husband works a full time job, but we need both incomes and I fear not having the replacement income that we would need for me to be able to leave teaching. I need to trust that it would work out. I have faith in my skills. But the unknown keeps me standing still in fear. Hate that.

  4. Karen

    My biggest barrier is being a complete and total introvert. Possibly bordering on a fear of dealing with people. Which really makes life a bit difficult some days! It’s hard for me to call and ask my insurance agent a question about my policy let alone calling to introduce myself and my services to a potential future client.

    I have, finally, made a step to combat that problem though. I recently applied for (and got) a management position at my day job. I feel this will help force me to take steps to expand my comfort zone and so far, it’s been working. This way, I have no way to give myself excuses! I’m slowly carrying that “no more excuses” mindset from the day job into the rest of my life with the goal of carrying it over into my dream job (freelancing).

    Thank you so much for sharing your own barriers and how you overcame or broke through them! It’s inspiring for the rest of us! 🙂

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