Against All Odds: Writing Despite Setbacks

by Amy Ayres
published in Writing

The through-line for this column is motivation despite setbacks. I want to encourage writers to be authentic, but to also no longer make excuses for procrastination. I always want to broach that from an empathic, non-judgmental place, so I sat down and made a list of the excuses I use for not getting my writing done.

Then I wrote Five Ways to Fit Writing into Your Busy Schedule and Honoring Your Writer Identity

In this post, I hope to address some of the seemingly insurmountable things on my list that don’t feel like excuses but literal roadblocks. 

I hope that you will be encouraged to no longer see these things as immovable as you try to inch them little by little and get your motivation back.


This one is tough, so why not address it first and get it over with?

One of the most difficult setbacks in life is the loss of something valuable. While the death of a loved one is so hard, we can experience similar feelings to varying degrees after the loss of a job we loved or the ending of a relationship. As writers, it’s important we “Honor our reality” and give ourselves space and self-care. 

Yes, we need to take care of ourselves but also remember that our writing can take care of us too. Our writing is an abstract thing that is part of us, and it will always be there waiting for us when we return to it.

For the sake of helping you out, I will put myself out there and say I suffered a loss-setback myself a few years ago. It was one of those really bad ones. But as I was going through my grief, I realized that writing was the only thing keeping me going. 

So I started up again and it was working. But one thing was missing. I felt I needed to interact regularly with other writers. I wanted to go back to school, but then I found DIYMFA, which was a much more manageable route to getting back on track.

By signing up for DIYMFA and embracing my writing life, I was coping much better with my loss. It pulled me out of that grief cycle and gave me something to work on and through which to channel my creativity. It also helped me meet lots of great new people who gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. 

My advice: go through your stages of grief, but don’t give up. Free-write/journal about your experiences until it all comes out. Then shift gears and focus on something new.  Cry and rage, but always come back to the page.


Another rough thing to experience and address is illness, which can also happen in varying degrees. Whether it’s the shock from an unexpected diagnosis, the coping with symptoms, or even a chronic illness you’ve had for years (been there), it might be tempting to put your “writing hobby” on the back burner. 

Don’t do that. Of course, if you are suffering so much you can’t function, your writing will take a backseat, but like with grief, you can have good days and bad. On those good days, let yourself experience the joy of writing. Say “No” to things that don’t bring you joy and focus on writing. It’s obviously not a cure-all, but like laughter, writing can be great medicine. 

My advice: use a calendar to track the days you feel like writing and the days you don’t. Give yourself a sticker/smiley face/treat or something more fitting to your personality on those days as positive reinforcement for trying. The more you do this the more you will associate your good days with writing and associate the writing itself with positive experiences.

Rejection/Bad Critique

This one is more writer-oriented, and “isn’t as serious” but tell that to any writer who just experienced it. The best way around this one is the mindset shift of realizing that it happens to ALL WRITERS.

Yes, it does. And, once you embrace that getting bad critique or receiving rejection from an agent and so forth is all part of the process of writing, it makes it easier to swallow it and persevere. It also makes you a better writer. Remember, even the best quality writers still aren’t perfect. 

Lots of famous authors have different stories of how they dealt with rejection. No one is an overnight success. Debunk myths around writing and educate yourself with the process. The more knowledgeable you are about this industry and what it takes to be successful, the more resilience you will have as a result. 

My advice: give yourself a reason other than publication to submit something. Sure, that’s your goal, but if you don’t get that, what else do you receive? Free writing advice from a knowledgeable source? A better understanding of your genre and who your readers are? A push to do better and know better and write better next time? Keep asking yourself those difficult questions and hold yourself accountable. 

So those were “the big 3” reasons why writers stop writing. And they happen to everyone.

The moral here: life can really suck, but don’t give up on the one thing that makes it better.

Amy Ayres

Amy Ayres is the Tech Fairy at DIYMFA. When she is not in her office writing about terraformed planets, multiple personalities, and Irish folklore, she is hanging with her awesome tech-hubby, stepson, and RubyCat. Visit where you can find out more about her private writer’s group Fill the Blank Page. You can sign up for her Newsletter where she sends out motivational tips for new writers and her special brand of humor. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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