Writing Stuck? You May Be Too Close To Your Subject

Decorative photo of crumpled up paper in and near a trash can.

Does this happen to you?

You want to write the most beautiful message in a card for a beloved family member and… you get stuck.

You want to write the most compelling About Me section the world has ever seen (because you’re amazing!)… and it falls flat.

You want to tell your family about the incredible thing that happened today… and you have to start over five times because you keep tripping on the details.

It’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands in frustration!


We’ve all heard that old advice: Write what you know.

Writing what we know is a great rule for writing fiction, because it allows us to share those finicky details that bring a story to life in a realistic way.   When a story lacks this type of colour, it can sometimes feel a little… inauthentic. Maybe even boring!

But there’s a secret flip-side to writing what you know, especially when we’re writing about ourselves and our loved ones:

It’s Capital-D Difficult To Write When You’re Too Close To Your Subject

Imagine looking at a painting with your nose pressed up to the canvas.  It doesn’t work.  You don’t have the right perspective to make sense of it all.  Now imagine trying to paint that way – stupid right?

Same goes for writing.

If you’re stuck writing a personal bio, eulogy or toast, it might be because you’re too close to your subject.

And that’s because good writing is more than just filling a page with words.

Like any art, writing is all about making decisions – around tone, structure and content prioritization.  What do we absolutely need to say?   Where do we start? What is our angle? Can we weave in a theme?

Being too close to our subject can make these decisions a lot harder.

(And don’t even get me started on the difficulty of revising your beautiful, clever and hilarious baby…!)

Here are some of the conscious and unconscious challenges that come up when we’re writing about ourselves or someone close to us:

  • Discomfort tooting our own horn
  • Uncertainty about our own or a loved one’s openness to praise and celebration
  • Anxiety about portraying ourselves or a loved one “correctly”
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Complex feelings about complex individuals (uh, family dynamics anyone?)
  • Dislike of “mushiness”
  • Rapture with every single detail… despite time and space constraints.

Ring any bells?

If so, you’re probably too close to your subject.

Luckily, the solution is simple:


Don’t Go It Alone – Get Some Outside Perspective!

Get the advice of a trusted friend or relative to help provide a little objectivity. Talk it through before you start, or ask for honest, objective feedback on an early draft.

And don’t forget to leave yourself enough time – writing in a hurry always adds extra pressure. You want to be in a flow, not a panic.

Plus, your feedback buddy will appreciate the chance to help out on their own time… without some weirdo breathing down their neck.

Writing is supposed to create space and breathing room, not worry and anxiety.

That second set of eyes will help you identify relevant points you may have forgotten, and they can help smooth out rough edges that aren’t obvious to you.

Don’t think of these notes as “corrections” so much as a little polish.

Instead of throwing your hands up in frustration, you’ll be striding to the podium with your best foot forward.

Then you’re gonna nail it!

I promise.




P.S. If you need an objective sounding board – or someone to hold the pen entirely –  I’m here to lend a hand. I’ll take care of your notes, you go pick up the flowers.  Or draw a warm bath. Or whatever else you might wanna do with all that glorious free time…  You do you!

Book your free 30-minute virtual coffee to get started.

Photo by Steve Johnson, Pexels

Leaf - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Shannon Marshall

Hi - I’m Shannon, a speechwriter for all occasions, and owner of Centrepiece Writing Studio. I write heartfelt speeches, handcrafted just for you.

If you need a hand finding just the right words for your toast, eulogy or milestone celebration, I've got you covered. I'll help you tell your story.

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Shannon Marshall - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC

Centrepiece Writing Studio is grateful to operate on the traditional lands of the Lekwungen people, now represented by the Songhees and Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) nations...
The glorious land commonly known as Victoria, BC.

With great respect for the earliest residents of our shared coastal home, CWS strives to uphold our mutual values of storytelling and environmental stewardship.

Flower - Centrepiece Writing Studio - Shannon Marshall - Victoria, BC