What’s Holding You Back?

Guest Blogger: Joanne Kraft

Joanne KraftWalking towards the help desk, I sized up the assistant manager. Skinny jeans, lip ring, black circular tattoos nicely framing his elbows.

“Hi, I’m Barrett” He reached his hand out, “You need some help?”

“Nice to meet you, I’m Joanne Kraft. I live in the area and have a parenting book that’s going to be released through my publisher in a few weeks: Just Too Busy—Taking Your Family on a Radical Sabbatical. I want to make sure the Borders in my hometown has copies on hand before my book launch party.” I smiled, handing him one of the 1,000 colorful marketing postcards my pub house had sent me.

Walking over to a computer, Barrett found my book and confirmed that they already knew about it and even shared where it was going to be placed in their store. “General parenting section, right over there.” He pointed. He went on to explain how they were willing to accommodate a local writer; book signings, book placement in the store, etc.

While hip-bookstore-guy was midsentence, I had this pressing feeling to ask him a question. “Are you a writer?” I asked.

Looking surprised he answered, “Yes, actually I am.” We went on to talk about favorite authors; his was John Irving. He shared the type of writing he loved, and told me about his manuscript left undone and forgotten, a tombstone somewhere on his Mac at home representing his dead work.

“So, what are you waiting for?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” He replied.

“Barrett, you work here around millions of books and sell other writers’ work, some of which I’m guessing you’re not all that impressed with – it must be like living out some Twilight Zone-writer-hell.”

He laughed. “Yeah, actually it is difficult. I’m shocked at what sells sometimes.” He reminisced. “I have thought about taking out my manuscript and working on it again, maybe while my daughter is asleep, but then I think that maybe I need to go back to college and get an accelerated writing degree and…”

Forgetting my manners, I interrupted, “Look at me.” I smiled, recapturing his attention. “I have diagnosed your problem. You suffer from analysis paralysis!”

Looking down and focusing on some unseen object, he agreed. “Yes, I think you’re right. What am I waiting for?”

For the next few minutes we laughed and talked the way writers do, the love of the written word a deep common bond to share. We talked about his manuscript and all the excuses he uses to leave it hidden on his hard drive. I like to think (at least, I hope!) that after our talk, maybe he got inspired to pull it out again. At least to take a look.

So, what about you? What are you waiting for?

  • Do you suffer from analysis paralysis? Do you overanalyze every writer-blog, fiction technique, and social marketing plan? Stop watching everyone else and take the plunge!
  • What is holding you back from your next publishing step? Is your greatest fear a magazine article, query letter, or book proposal? Every published author has experienced the anxiety of all of the above, with one difference: They follow through, despite the fears.
  • What tombstones of your work are lying forgotten on your hard drive, or tucked away in a filing cabinet somewhere? Is it time to take them out, dust them off and give them another look?


JJust Too Busyoanne Kraft is an author and speaker whose passion is to encourage women through laughter. A mom of four children, she has heard and seen it all! She’s married to an amazing man who shares her love of coffee shops and Taco Bell Enchiritos without onions. Joanne has been published by In Touch, Today’s Christian Woman, ParentLife, Kyria, and P31 Woman magazines. She works as a 911 Dispatcher in Sacramento County, California.

Visit Joanne Kraft’s website

See Just Too Busy on Amazon

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  8. Crystal R. on July 11, 2011 at 1:59 AM

    THANKS SO MUCH for this encouraging post, Joanne! I am reading this for the second time, just to reassure myself that I am not alone. I, too, suffer from this “analysis paralysis.” I just didn’t know what to call it! lol But, yes, you’re so right. We can’t look at what everyone else is doing and move forward; it’s impossible. I became paralyzed with fear of failure; that what I’m writing (a middle-grade historical) will never be as good as others, and so I just stopped writing. But I really, really want my book to be published one day so I’m going to just go and finish the darn thing!

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  10. Marney McNall on June 29, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Analysis paralysis…that is so me. I am praying for boldness.

  11. Laura W. on June 28, 2011 at 9:02 PM

    I read blogs about publishing, finding/querying agents, etc., and sometimes have to take a bit of advice from Douglas Adams: DON’T PANIC. Just finish the darned book. THEN I can run around like a chicken with my head cut off looking for an agent. 😛

  12. Marla Taviano on June 27, 2011 at 7:29 PM

    I like you, Joanne Kraft.

  13. AJ Cattapan on June 27, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    All of my familiar members suffer from analysis paralysis. We take *forever* to make decisions.

    Need a new car? That will take at least a year’s worth of research!

    Need a new home? Better starting planning for downsizing the home while the kids are still in diapers!

    In fact, my sister-in-law coined a new term for it several years ago. She said, “All of you Cattapans suffer from Cattapanalysis Paralysis.”

    So, yes, I had to laugh when I read your post today! 🙂

  14. J.L. Mbewe on June 27, 2011 at 1:25 PM

    Thanks for the post, Joanne. Fear is paralysis and I’m fighting against it. It helps to see that others struggle with the same and overcome it. There is so much negativity and self-doubt and as we develop that “thick skin” we so need in order to keep believing, advancing, improving, etc, that it is good to have encouragement from other writers. Someone to point out the good stuff, give you constructive feedback and to cheer you on.

    This blog is awesome! So many times I have been discouraged, being a young mother of a 2 year old and a 6 month old, this blog has encouraged me and helped me keep my priorities straight.

    Thanks Rachelle!

  15. Barbara Koob on June 26, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    Great post! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

  16. Beth K. Vogt on June 26, 2011 at 10:56 AM

    This is one of the things I value you most in the writing world: writers encouraging one another! It can happen anywhere–in a bookstore or via a blog post.
    Thanks, Joanne, for sharing this story and for asking the hard questions.

  17. mark williams international on June 26, 2011 at 3:34 AM

    As the book stores shelves get ever smaller (coffee bars, novelties, stationary, anything but “books” – there’s never been a better time for writers to take the plunge.

    The monopoly of agents and publishers determining what readers will or will not be allowed to read is coming to an end.

    The nightmare of watching your life tick away while an agent or publisher gets around to looking at your submission, and then rejects it with no indication why, is drawing to a close.

    With the e-publishing revolution writers can now go direct to readers as and when they are ready.

    It’s time not just to get that book finished but, once you’re genuinely happy it’s as good as you can make it, to put it before those it was written for: the reading public.

  18. Neurotic Workaholic on June 26, 2011 at 1:20 AM

    I love this post. And I think it’s wonderful that you took the time to talk to this bookseller and encourage him to write; I’m willing to bet that he took your words to heart. I used to work as a bookseller too, so I can relate to Barrett’s situation. I used to spend a lot more time selling books than writing them. Like Barrett, I used to look at some of the books and think, “Who would READ these?” But I also used to look at other books and feel envious of the people who wrote them; I also admired them for putting in the time and effort to write and publish their work.

  19. Happy on June 25, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    This is an awesome post. Seems like sometimes writers can really get immobilized by fear- and caught up with all the other writerly distractions– it’s so important to just sit down and WRITE! I want to be always moving forward– the process and the journey are a reward too.

    I love that you reached out and encouraged this writer- I hope to do the same.

    Thanks for sharing~

  20. Beth MacKinney on June 25, 2011 at 8:29 PM

    Thanks for the great post! It’s true, and I’ve had it for awhile with my MG novel. Just putting it off!

  21. Diane Solis on June 25, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    Whatever my list of roadblock-excuses, I find that the act of writing, sitting down and getting into the story, character, image, poem, etc., is the best way to dissolve it. None of that matters when I am getting a character right, finding the perfect new metaphor or fitting together a plot.

    Writers write. Thanks, peace,

  22. Farmer*sWife on June 25, 2011 at 3:10 PM

    Exactly. What am I waiting for. Well, the outline is holding me back I’ll just try and work around it. 😉

  23. Amanda on June 25, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    I think it’s the common disease of the writer. I know for me, I worry that I’m not good enough, that what I write isn’t marketable even if it is good, that I suck at all forms of marketing myself, that even if it gets snagged, it’ll fail. Etc., etc., and so forth.

    I push through it as best as I can, but it’s hella hard.

  24. Nikole Hahn on June 25, 2011 at 1:46 PM

    I know many writers who yearn to write, but submit nothing because they fear rejection. They don’t think they can handle it. Then, they spend all their life wondering ‘what-if.’ I am working on my manuscript. I do have a tomb at home of a manuscript that stopped on chapter 3. The idea hasn’t been fully thought out yet, but I am 44,000 words into my current book and having the that half critiqued by my critique group.

  25. Christine Rains on June 25, 2011 at 1:26 PM

    Fantastic post! I tend to overanalyze things. I try to make myself relax, but I’m frightened about missing something!

  26. Gracie on June 25, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Wow, awesome post. It was very encouraging, thank you!

  27. Lynn Nicholas on June 25, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    Well, this one certainly kicked me in the butt. To my left is a basket with folders filled with fits-and-starts, a few printouts from finished shorts published on FanStory (under allinmyhead), and two draft novels. What stops me from focusing on my writing? — wandering into Barnes & Noble and being overwhelmed by the number of books on the shelves. Does the world really need another writer? Maybe not. But I realize, reading this post, that it’s more about my needing to create, to expound, and to see my words take substance in print. Must focus!

  28. Loree Huebner on June 25, 2011 at 11:23 AM

    I’m working on one of those tombstones now. Thanks for this post.

  29. Rebecca Bradley on June 25, 2011 at 11:09 AM

    Great post. A reminder that as writers, we should be writing.

  30. Susan Panzica on June 25, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    Once again, you are masterful at getting right to the heart of the matter. I’m so thankful for you and for your encouragement. I’m picturing the tombstone on my computer and am about to resurrect the dead!!!
    Blessings to you,

  31. Mary Ruth Pursselley on June 25, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    I am very much an analyzer. I analyze and re-analyze everything, and I love it. In some ways I think it’s part of what makes me good at what I do. On the other hand, I can also analyze myself and everything else to death, just like you talked about here.
    I’m learning that sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and take that next step, even if you haven’t analyzed the exact repercussions that will follow. The Wright brothers didn’t know for sure that their plane would fly and land again safely, after all. But they did it anyway.

  32. Michelle DeRusha on June 25, 2011 at 10:23 AM

    Joanne, This is wonderful. First I just want to say kudos to you for helping a writer take the next step. I had someone do that for me, and it changed everything — I wrote a book! Then another friend did it again when I was hesitant to launch a blog. Sometimes it takes a nudge (or a full-out shove, in my case!).

    Second, congratulations on your book! My friend Dawn (at Everyday Ordinary Dawnings) introduced me to you, and I am so glad she did.

  33. Tracy Antonioli on June 25, 2011 at 9:50 AM

    For me, the key sentence in this post was ‘stop watching everyone else and take the plunge!’ I definitely suffer from analysis paralysis, though I’d add one more symptom to the list: do you read piles of books on ‘how to___’ (publish, write a book proposal, sell your writing, etc…), attend countless workshops and conferences on those same subjects and then suddenly find you don’t have time to do the things those books and conferences suggest? I sure do!

    Thanks for the kick in the butt!

  34. Sandra Kucinich-Horn on June 25, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    Thanks. Life sometimes gets in the way. No responses from agents, or being told over and over how busy agents are because they receive so many queries….Sometimes gets very old. Being told a book is not what they are looking for could be changed so easily by incorporating what they are looking for.

    Thank you for the encouragement.

  35. Dawn @ Dawnings on June 25, 2011 at 8:48 AM

    Joanne, I just love you. I’m not sure which you are first, a writer or a cheerleader. You are the champion of encouraging other writers. You do the same for me, just a different name and place, and no tatoo.

    You are great at what you do: both write and cheer.

    Thanks for your encouragement. It’s a beautiful thing.

  36. Kristy Ks on June 25, 2011 at 8:33 AM

    Great post!! What’s holding me back is I don’t think I can do my topic justice. There are probably a million other writers out there with this experience who could say it better. Why is God telling ME to do it? Self-doubt stinks.

  37. Heather Sunseri on June 25, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    Great post, Joanne! Thanks for sharing this encouraging story. I am so excited to read your book.

  38. patrice on June 25, 2011 at 7:33 AM

    Great post! I hope the guy in the bookstore took your words to heart and dusted off his manuscript. Often times we only need to subscribe to the saying in the old Nike ad- “Just do it”!

  39. Carrie Ann on June 25, 2011 at 7:29 AM

    Mine is also the fear of the revision process. I have several shorts published, but haven’t been able to take the next step with my book projects.

    Enjoyed this post. It helps to know I’m not the only one.


  40. Jeff O'Handley on June 25, 2011 at 7:17 AM

    I wonder how many people also get held up stymied by the ‘I have no idea how to get published’ hurdle, where they’ve written the book or story, then just tucked it away because they don’t know what to do next.

  41. Candie Campbell on June 25, 2011 at 6:34 AM

    I needed to hear this.

    Thank you, your timing couldn’t have been better.

  42. Lisa Marie on June 25, 2011 at 5:12 AM

    Joanne, excellent blog! You quite astutely pointed out the various ways “analysis paralysis” can affect writers. I have no problem actually writing. Five years ago, I would have known exactly what I needed to do to get published. Now, I’m not so sure.

    There’s so many voices, so many people jumping into the fray. Published author friends give me advice: “Whatever you do, don’t work with an agent!” “Don’t sign a print contact!” “DO get an agent!” “Hold out for an offer from a big publishing house!” “Query a small publishing house directly.” “Traditional publishing is DEAD!” “Traditional publishing is still very much alive!” Um …


    It’s no one’s fault. It’s just the times, which are a changin.’ I’m just not sure how. I’m a freelancer writer/journalist, so I understand the importance of soliciting the right clients and making the smart career moves. Writing fiction (romance) is an extension of my business – I hope. I feel like my feet are stuck in cement, because I literally don’t know what to do. So I’m entering writing contests and going to critique meetings and conferences while I continue to research all of my options.

  43. Vanessa Talbot on June 25, 2011 at 4:48 AM

    Oh Marion, you MUST ignore that fear and go for it!! I’m a Writers Success Creation coach and everyday, I help aspiring authors get over themselves and what’s holding them back, and watch them blossom with new found confidence and….believe it, new found writing careers!!
    I’ve helped writers so full of self doubt, go on to not only get their book publish, but begin speaking careers and live their dream of inspiring others with their words.
    You have as much to offer as anyone else!! All you need to do is to, believe it.

    • marion on June 25, 2011 at 12:23 PM

      On good days I believe it!
      On bad days I remember that bad days don’t last, although they feel endless.

  44. marion on June 25, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    WHEN my book is published (I can dream!), I would die a thousand deaths before doing what Joanne mentions–walk into a bookstore cold to make arrangements to plug my book. Guess I’ll have to overcome this phobia somehow.
    What’s holding me back? Fear of that little word NO. And fear that no one will like my book!

  45. Jo, East Africa on June 25, 2011 at 4:10 AM

    Hi Joanne, we share the same name! Well written, I needed this. I’m sitting with about five tombstones on my laptop and wanted to send out queries to magazine editors, only this morning! Thanks for the motivation. I’m about to delve into my archives and start! Have a wonderful weekend and book launch. (I wish I was there to meet with you!) Jo, Kenya, East Africa

  46. marion on June 25, 2011 at 3:50 AM

    Fear of the revision monster. The size of the task. The need to confront the imperfections in my first-draft baby.
    Finally, I wrote a new chapter which replaces 2 or 3 wordy ploddy old chapters. A fresh approach. And a lot of words eliminated. So now I’m psyched, & hope I’ll keep working.

    WHEN the book is published, what will hold me back big time is the scenario Joanne describes–having to walk into a bookstore cold & seek some exposure for my book. Salesmanship is not my strong point.

  47. Karen Cook on June 25, 2011 at 2:28 AM

    Well said my friend. And I can totally picture you having that conversation in the bookstore – you are a people magnet!
    I suffer from the fear of failure and it has a choke hold on me where writing is concerned. Being the new kid on the blog-block I find I am constantly comparing myself to other writers. Thanks for the encouragement…looks like I’ll be in our corner booth at Santoro’s this weekend!

  48. Michael24 on June 25, 2011 at 1:57 AM

    I recently overcame the same thing. I had a short story I’d been wanting to write since October and kept putting it off. Finally, earlier this week, I told myself, “You’ve got the house to yourself, just sit down and starting writing. Don’t think, just write.” Surprisingly, I did, and I hammered out about 2,000 words in a little over an hour. Within 3-4 days, I had my short story finished. I didn’t worry about corrections as I typed, and I knew some of the story wasn’t making sense or was conflicting earlier stuff I’d written, but I just ignored it and simply concentrated on writing until I reached the end. It was a great feeling getting it all down, and now I’m just giving myself about a week-long break before I take another look at it and begin the revision process.

  49. Diane Fordham on June 25, 2011 at 1:56 AM

    Loved the post. Thank You. Very positive and motivating. Many of us need to believe in ourselves a little bit more.

  50. Megan Sayer on June 25, 2011 at 1:38 AM

    Joanne this was awesome. Well done on helping pull a fellow-writer out of a rutt. I understand what he was going through – I’m a sufferer of Analysis Paralysis myself.

    Recently I started getting up really early in the morning every day and giving myself two hours to write, regardless of the fact that my synopsis has holes in it still. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to get words down; I ended up turning off the monitor just so I’d get my thoughts down and turn my editing brain off. I’m pleased to say it worked!