Writer's Block

Emotions can hit us when we least expect them

Every day we are caught unawares by our emotions; a song comes on the radio, someone walks past wearing a familiar scent or a storyline on a TV show strikes a chord and from nowhere we are crying. 

Surely when you are writing you are in control of what appears on the page and you can keep our emotions safe? 

You would think so, but it’s not always that simple.

Whatever you are writing, but particularly with life writing; memoir, autobiography etc, you often have to revisit challenging situations, upsetting memories and the heartbreak of the past. 

It is important to care for our wellbeing generally as a writer, things like eating well, keeping hydrated, not sitting still for long periods, are all things we have to be aware of, but we are often less prepared for the emotional wellbeing challenges of this occupation. Don’t worry, we have some great tips to help you navigate this minefield safely.

As a writer it is vital you include lots of emotion in your writing. Without emotion writing can feel flat and lifeless. It is difficult enough navigating the internal emotions you will almost inevitably face; self doubt, imposter syndrome etc. Having to, not only face these deep emotions, but put them on the page and send these emotions out into the world take real courage. 

Why emotional challenges might we face?

  • Guilt – Many writers experience guilt because when writing about our lives, whether in life writing, or using our lives as a reference point for fictional writing, we often inadvertently expose those we love. it is impossible to write a memoir without talking about your friends and family and you can change names but often it is all too clear who we are referring to. 
  • Fear of repercussions – we may be worried about the impact our writing might have on our relationships. It is important to balance truth, story telling and privacy if we want to protect those we love. Of course we may also have to write about things that have never been discussed with our loved ones. All these things can be scary, and we have to work out whether it is worth the risk of including certain anecdotes.
  • Fear of the past – When we write about our lives we have to revisit some of the toughest times we have experienced and often we think we have processed these events, but when we come to write about them again, there is often still something that catches us out. 
  • Fear of humiliation – It is one thing to put your writing out into the world, but to put both your writing and aspects of your life out there for the world to read and assess. It requires vulnerability, you may even question choices you have made in the past and acknowledge that you have evolved and grown as a person. Putting that past version of yourself out into the world to be analysed is a brave and beautiful thing.
  • Fear of misinterpretation – When we write anything from a text message to a book, there is always a worry that the reader will misinterpret what we have written, this can be even more catastrophic when we are writing about our opinions and life story and putting it out there in a permanent form. 
  • Fear of criticism – All writers worry about being criticised, but when you are writing about your own life experiences, the criticism can be very personal and an attack on your core values and your life. This is much more difficult to process.

How do you protect yourself?

Acknowledge your emotions

The most important thing when it comes to your emotions is to acknowledge them. It is so easy to paint on a. smile and pretend that you are ok, but that is neither healthy or helpful. If you try to lock away these feelings they will re-appear and often when you least expect it and at the worst moment. 


I know, I always recommend journaling to process emotions, but that’s because it is such a simple and effective way to work through things. Write about how you are feeling, write until you think you can’t write anymore and then keep writing and see what happens. It might be that you are scared. That is a perfectly normal emotion, but if you know that you are scared because you are exposing someone else’s story then you have to decide whether it is worth the potential loss that may result from your writing that story. (If you have never tried journaling, here is blog to help you get started.)

Talk to the people involved

Talk to the people involved, you might be surprised at their reaction. They might be incredibly supportive. If they really don’t want you to write it then you have to make a decision. What is more important telling your story, or your relationship with this person.

Remember: This is your story and you are entitled to write it from your perspective (as long as you don’t slander anyone).

Have you really processed the past?

If something comes up that you thought you had dealt with and it becomes clear that there are still issues around this situation, it might be that you need some therapy to help you work through the events of the past. 

Ask yourself; what’s the worst that can happen?

If you are worried that people will misinterpret your writing or judge you for your choices, ask yourself; what’s the worst that can happen? It doesn’t matter how perfect your life may have been, or how brilliant your writing, there will always be someone who hates it. It’s inevitable. There has never been a book written that everyone loves. I love Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities. My mum loves Tale of Two Cities too, my daughter, who loves reading, hates everything Charles Dickens has ever written (and yes she has read a few). We will never all agree on what a good book is, and we definitely won’t ever get everyone agreeing on how we should live our lives. Take a big deep breath, acknowledge the fact that writing about your life is courageous and vulnerable, and that you are incredible for having written something true and real. 


Ultimately the question you need to ask yourself is; is my fear of facing all these emotions greater than my fear of never sharing my story? 

Have you always wanted to write your life story but you have been stopped by some of these fears? Why not let us hold your hand through the whole process. In our annual programme, The Book Forge, we support you with the wellbeing challenges of writing, and also guide you through the technical challenges. We will be opening our doors again later in the year so are sure you sign up for our newsletter to make sure you are first to find out when you can join us.