Writers: How to start feeling comfortable with discomfort

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Some tasks — like writing — can be hard to do. That’s why it’s important for you to start feeling comfortable with discomfort…

Does the act of writing ever make you feel uncomfortable?

Perhaps it bores you just a little. Maybe it makes you feel frightened. Possibly, it frustrates you.

These are all perfectly normal feelings and emotions, by the way.

You shouldn’t feel ashamed of them or try to just barrel on past them. In fact, trying to suppress feelings like these is only likely to make you stop writing.

Instead — bear with me here, because I know this is a strange idea — you should welcome these feelings and let yourself really experience them. Here are six strategies that will help you start feeling comfortable with discomfort.

1-Don’t try to overcome your discomfort with tactics

Writers are really good at coming up with strategies to get work done. “I’m going to turn off my phone and work for the next three hours,” you might tell yourself. That way, you figure, you’ll finally be able to finish the report that’s due tomorrow.

I’ve even heard of people who tied themselves to their chairs to start a piece of writing. (Sounds horrendous to me, but if I’d known about that technique I’d have probably tried it when I was a die-hard procrastinator back in my university days.)

Such techniques might help you meet your immediate deadline, but they won’t help you with the longer-term problem. That’s because you haven’t addressed your underlying emotional state. So, you’ll probably just return to avoiding writing again.

2-Identify the emotional state causing your discomfort

Most of us tend to resist pain with every fibre of our beings. We express this resistance as distraction — we surf the web mindlessly, get ourselves to inbox zero, engage in unimportant busywork or obsess with LinkedIn or Facebook.

Pain rears its head, and we run in the opposite direction.

But here’s the thing about pain — it offers us a chance to learn something about ourselves. In the book Principles, author, investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio argues we should “go to the pain rather than avoid it.” That’s because it will lead us to valuable life/writing lessons. “I saw pain as nature’s reminder that there is something important for me to learn,” Dalio says.

If the emotional state causing your pain is boredom, say, “I feel bored.”

If it’s fear, say, “I feel scared right now.”

If it’s frustration, say, “I’m out of my mind with frustration.”

3-Surrender to the emotional state

It’s human to resist emotion, so don’t blame yourself for the resistance. But understand that as long as you resist, the emotion will continue to hold power over you. Sit still for a few minutes — that’s all it takes, just a few minutes — and let yourself really feel the boredom, fear or frustration. Then, relax.

Most feelings last for no more than a couple of minutes. If it’s too much for you, understand that you can stop. (Distract yourself with a song, a coffee or a chat with a friend.) Then, whether you could sit with the feelings or not, give yourself a few minutes to recover. Now see if you’re more capable of the writing you’ve been avoiding.

4-Understand that our lives are always complicated

 Many people tell me that they’ll start writing as soon as they finish something else, whether it’s another project or a family event. But here’s the deal: Our lives are always messy and complicated. To expect them to be anything else is totally unrealistic.

Instead of waiting for life to calm down, decide what you want to do, and start doing it. Don’t let the messiness of life get in the way of your writing.

5-Set a gentle and easy-to-achieve plan for yourself

When I suggest that people start with just one to five minutes of writing every day, most of them express shock. It feels too small, too easy. It doesn’t seem serious or substantial enough.

And that’s exactly why it works.

Starting small allows you to move in the right direction — accumulating words every day instead of procrastinating.

It also gives you a positive sense of achievement. Your feeling of accomplishment from writing yesterday will help give you the fuel for writing again, today.

6-Wash, rinse, repeat

I have friends who are sober alcoholics and friends who are ex-smokers. Most of them have had to give up and start over again several times. But they’ve done it.

We all make mistakes. We all try, and sometimes we don’t succeed. But if people can keep on trying to battle drinks and cigarettes, surely the rest of us can keep on trying to write.

The real lesson from discomfort

We all feel uncomfortable at many points in our lives. But we don’t need to squash those feelings or try to outrun them. Instead, we can welcome them like houseguests and learn what we can from them.

As the writer Nicolas Sparks puts it: “Emotions come and go and can’t be controlled, so there’s no reason to worry about them.”


My video podcast last week addressed how to deal with competing creative interests. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


How do you help yourself start feeling comfortable with discomfort? We can all learn from each other, so please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by March 31/24 I’ll put you in a draw for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


Scroll to Top