My Twisted Writer Brain…

Writers! Do You Self Sabotage? Here Are The Top Three Reasons And What To Do

As writers, we’re told to be creative…

be yourself…

work your magic…

BUT we’re also told to have thick skin… rejection is part of the game… and don’t take it personally.

Geez, I’ve used many of those lines myself, but lately my overly tightly twisted writer brain ain’t buyin’ any of it.

ONE: The Constant Self Doubt

I know intrinsically within me that I am a talented writer (if you don’t agree…just shhh), but that doesn’t mean doubts don’t creep in.

The most sure-footed writer I ever met and chatted with is Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander Series. Diana has this amazing ability to rise above the doubt and focus specifically on her work.

I fall down when my focus is weak or distracted.

Hey you’re not alone as a writer who’s spending more time on Twitter or Instagram than on that darn chapter where the main character needs to do something to make the story worth reading.

photo by pixels

Things like social media and the anonymity of the platforms is like going to an amusement park.

You can go read about others who can’t get organized or focused. You can privately compare yourself and think…well, at least I’m not that bad. Or you can slink around watching the talking dogs, the sob stories of life, or dive into politics–all while hoping that the damn chapter will wondrously resolve itself and you won’t actually have to scrap it and do some more work.

I get it. Believe me…I get it!

The thing about self doubt is that it’s all yours. Yuppers. Think about it–self doubt is:

  • all in your head
  • a way to get out of doing something because it’s…
  • all in your head
  • an avoidance tactic just in case ’cause it’s…
  • all in your head
  • a way to prove to yourself a failure even though it’s…
  • all in your head

So tell me, who’s controlling that head of yours?

Just curious. Don’t get mad at me for asking such a deeply personal question. Geeeeesh!

TWO: The Constant Rejection From the Industry

Well, this is awkward.

Go back to self doubt as it is clearly reinforced by the industry in which you choose to spend all your time.

Oops… maybe it’s not great trying to chase people down when we’re bare footed and the entire street is paved in jagged glass, thumb tacks, and swinging axes.


Too many times we hear “Be thankful for your rejections… It means you’re in the game.

Um…what a crock.

Actually all it means is that someone kicked you down and now you need to work at getting back up on your knees before that boot hits you in the head and knocks you further down.

When dealing with rejection, you need to take some control. While rejection is part of the industry, it doesn’t need to define you.

Let’s consider:

  • switching up what you’re doing for something different. Now I’m not talking about ditching your writing. No way… sorry, not an option. BUT as you lick your wounds from a rejection, write something completely different…. a poem, a short story, a different outline for a novel…don’t give up, just do different.
  • or totally keep writing what you’re writing and keep sending it out. One rejection is equal to one opinion.
  • you can’t hit the bullseye every single time. Keep track and take another shot.
  • a rejection in this industry is usually a stranger saying no. They don’t know you. You don’t know them. There’s absolutely zero personal commitment on either part. Let it go.
  • print them off and keep a file. Do a collage and embrace their idiocy for letting you escape.
  • take the control back, if you’ve had enough. Do up a business plan and start learning about self publishing and starting your own empire. You can help others too.
  • know that if you’re a writer then it’s not a choice of stopping and starting… it’s a need to continue the journey. Accept that what you write may not be for everyone and move on.
  • the fact is that rejection sucks. Ask yourself if you want to continue.
  • be willing to always learn and grow. This is a huge part of life really. It doesn’t matter who’s doing the rejection or giving the criticism, if you’re in a knee jerk defensive stance, then no advice can penetrate your world. Let it in.
  • take an online course. A master class. Go to the Wine Country Writers Festival and reconnect with other writers and hear what the professionals have to say.
  • get off your high horse and get writing. Don’t allow anyone or anything to have all that power over you.

So, did we deal with rejection? Meh, idk. It’s a creeper… and sometimes just a creep!

Photo by Bich Tran on

THREE: Fear. What Are You Afraid Of?

Seriously, this is a huge question to consider when it comes to self sabotage. Have you thought of it?

You may think… nah, I’m not afraid of nuthin’, but your actions may be telling you something completely different.

Fear can manifest its ugly little head in many different ways. It can be:

  • avoidance–well, hello social media.
  • isolation–hello closed door
  • lack of communication–I’m fine, just fine…I said I’m fine.
  • addictive behaviors–food, alcohol, exercise, whining…any sound familiar?
  • never finishing–omg…I don’t wanna hear it.
  • taking on more and more projects so you can’t finish any

So fear is not only about the negative things that can happen but it could also be fear of success.

Imagine if you got that agent and she started giving you deadlines. OMG! Now you have to work and be accountable… how frikken scary is that?

Or, if you tell someone that you’ve started a blog and you’re going to write everyday (I would highly discourage that btw). If you don’t do it, all of a sudden you’re a failure in your eyes and down that awful rabbit hole of self doubt you go. The fear of follow through is real.

How can you deal with Fear?

  • being aware is a key factor. It can explain a lot about your actions and behavior. Keep that knowledge tucked away and when things start to spin out of control ask yourself “what am I afraid of right now?”
  • work in a different environment. Over the last couple of years of the pandemic, we’ve all become pretty isolated and dare I say a bit apathetic. Routines have been interrupted and we need change. Go work somewhere where you can’t raid the fridge, scrub the toilet, or lay on the floor with the cat. This may help with some accountability. Energy begets Energy.
  • make a plan to finish one project before starting another.
  • do self affirmations daily and self care
  • hang a note at your work station as a reminder … “I am a writer. I am worth it.”
  • keep a schedule for working in blocks of two hours. This can give you a break to do other things like walk the dog, check facebook, or have lunch. Just make sure you show up for the next work block.
  • meditate. I find this really helpful. Just short mediation on my phone for one or two minutes clear and calm the twisted writer brain. It can be tough to get things done when your mind is going off in several different directions. Take the time to breathe.
  • like breathing, exercise and stretching are really important. It doesn’t have to be a lot as it’ll add up on its own.
  • read a book… remind yourself why you want to write.

How does your fear show through and what do you do to calm your fears? Tell me… What is scarier? Fear of Failure or Fear of Success?

Source: Unsplash: Matt Flores

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4 thoughts on “Writers! Do You Self Sabotage? Here Are The Top Three Reasons And What To Do”

    1. Hi Sally! YES!! Goal and reality need to meet in the realm of your writing world. You can’t write a novel (or a good one that’s been edited properly) in two weeks… You can write and write and write but you must be realistic about what comes out. It’ll need work–lots of it.
      There will be days when your twisted writer brain doesn’t want to write 500 words. It may be stuck on a sentence–that’s okay. It’s been said that a goal is dream but with a timeline. Don’t push the limits. Be real about what can be done otherwise you give yourself too much excuse to go back to that negative self talk of –see, I knew I couldn’t do it.–So unhealthy. Be realistic and then DO IT. Take back that control. You got this! Thanks for the reminder Sally! xo❤️🤗

  1. Sometimes I am so proud of myself for finally getting my collection of short stories together in book form. And for having it on sale at indigo. And then there’s the times I wonder if people will like my stories. A few of them are on the dark side and I fear people will say I don’t want to read that kind of thing. But I write what comes to me. I guess I can’t help that.

    1. Hey Heather! Thanks for stopping by. You’re so right… those creeping thoughts. We (You) must stay out of your head! You’re a wonderful writer and if people don’t like what you write then they can go read something else. You’ve worked hard and should be proud of yourself. Keep going! ❤️🥰

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