Sarah Painter is a bestselling author of magical fiction, including the Crow Investigations urban fantasy mystery series. She also writes non-fiction for introvert authors, and runs The Worried Writer podcast and website. Sarah lives in rural Scotland with her family, loves the work of Joss Whedon and is the proud owner of a writing shed.

Stop Worrying; Start Writing by Sarah Painter

Do you want to write but can't seem to get started? Are you struggling to finish your novel or frustrated by your slow progress? Perhaps you are starting to worry that you aren't cut out for the writing life…

Let bestselling novelist and host of the Worried Writer podcast, Sarah Painter, show you how to skip past negativity, free-up writing time, cope with self-doubt, and beat procrastination.

Along with mega successful authors such as C.L.Taylor, Mark Edwards, and Julie Cohen, Sarah will show you how to:

•Smash writing blocks to finish stories faster
•Manage self-doubt so that it doesn't stop you creating
•Trick yourself into being more productive
•Schedule your time to maximise your writing output and satisfaction


Plus many more tips and tricks!

Packed with honest, supportive, and hard-won advice, this is your practical guide to getting the work done.

Don't let creative anxiety kill your writing dreams: Stop Worrying and Start Writing today!



  • "If Stephen King is your writing godfather then Sarah Painter is the writer's best friend – kind, honest and full of wisdom."

    – Annie Lyons, author of The Choir on Hope Street and Not Quite Perfect
  • "Inspiring, comforting, warm and wise. Both new writers and established authors will find something helpful here."

    – Keris Stainton, YA author
  • "The best book on writing and productivity I have read in a long time… Offers solid, actionable advice that will inspire you to approach your writing with enthusiasm and renewed determination!"

    – Lily Graham, author of The Cornish Escape and The Summer Escape




Hello and welcome. Thank you for picking up this book and, if you are a fellow worried writer, I hope you find it helpful.

Almost four years ago, my dream came true and I became a published author. Through denial and mind tricks and sheer stubbornness I had weathered seven years of rejection to reach the fabled land. I had what I had dreamed of my whole life; a publishing deal. I had achieved the goal which had consumed my every spare second and had kept me awake at night with desperate longing and the fear that I would never 'make it'.

However, instead of riding high on a cloud of happiness (although I had lots of moments which felt like that) I felt exposed and frightened, fraudulent and beset by doubt. My fear and anxiety didn't disappear the moment I was 'chosen'. In fact, in some areas it grew. Plus, I had a whole new set of worries to contend with: Was the book really good enough? Would people hate it? Hate me? On the night before publication day I was so terrified that I actually considered phoning my publisher and begging them not to release my book.

Also, I discovered that there were layers within the publishing industry. It was one thing to be intellectually aware there was a hierarchy which spanned from six-figure advances reported in the Bookseller and appearances on daytime television to low first-time author advances and digital-only distribution, and quite another to be inside it. Having said for years that I 'just wanted to be published' and I didn't care about the rest, I found, to my irritation, that I did care. It mattered because I had bound-up my sense of self-worth and success with my publishing deal. A cruel voice (spoiler alert – it was my voice!) whispered that I still wasn't a real author.

I had a tight deadline to deliver the second book and, through misery and self-doubt, I managed it, but it was not a joyful experience. After that, tired and anxious, my old habits of procrastination reappeared. These were closely followed by extended sessions of self-flagellation. ('Why are you so lazy?' 'You don't have what it takes.' 'You will never be a real author.') And I finished each day defeated and guilt-ridden.

Having always needed a certain amount of 'busy-ness' to keep procrastination at bay, I decided to add something else to my working week of writing fiction and blogging. I had become mildly obsessed with podcasts – particularly those which discussed the creative life – and I fancied the challenge of learning something new, so I decided to start The Worried Writer: A podcast to help writers to overcome fear, self-doubt, and procrastination. I figured I had some experiences and tips to share and a whole lot more to learn. What better way to do so than by asking other authors, most of whom were far more experienced and successful and productive than I?

The following two years, with many conversations both public and private, have been a revelation and I can hardly believe – or overstate – the difference in my writing life. Yes, I've achieved some external success in terms of new publishing deals, books sold, money made, but if my early experiences have taught me anything it is this: external rewards are never going to be enough. External validation will never silence your inner critic (and it shouldn't) and a fancy agent or big book deal or a nice review will never be more than a fleeting moment of 'yay'. If you don't clean up your own head-space, develop productive and healthy work habits, and value your own creativity and work before you are published (or get a massive deal or agent or win an award or whatever your own personal definition of 'made it' might be), it won't magically appear after. In fact, you may find that your insecurities grow in proportion to the size of your success.

I know.


Which leads me to my point… The external successes of the last four years make me very happy and proud, but I would not be writing this book (or, possibly, writing for publication at all) if I hadn't transformed my internal landscape. I am a work-in-progress and always will be; I still compare myself to others, get hurt by negative comments, and waste hours online when I should be writing but, and this is the key, I do all of those things a LOT less than before. And I'm happier and more productive in my writing life than I have ever been.

I hope this book can help you make similar changes, and that it makes you feel less alone in this writing lark.


Before we get started, I want to talk about some of the language used in this book (no, not that sort – I've kept it pretty clean!). I am both a worried writer and a generally anxious person. When I speak about worries or anxieties (which I think of as 'worries with teeth') I am not referring to clinical anxiety.

I also have experience of living with an anxiety disorder and it is a different beast. It is not something that can be cured by positive mental attitude (although that can definitely help in the recovery stage) or something that you should take lightly. If you are suffering with panic attacks, uncontrollable negative thought patterns, or other symptoms that might be more than just 'worry', please do seek medical advice.

If you have already received a diagnosis for anxiety or depression (they often go together), please look after your mental health first. See your healthcare professional, locate a support group or counsellor, and talk to trusted friends and family.

Writing can be a wonderful escape, and even a type of therapy, but the last thing I want to do is to make anybody suffering with an illness feel worse, or as if they can cure themselves by 'forming a writing habit' or 'changing their mindset'.

Also, although I am sure this is obvious, I am not a doctor and nothing in this book constitutes medical advice.