The Fine Art of Self-Sabotage

Today’s required reading: Rachelle Gardner’s “7 Bad Habits of Successful Authors.” Excellent stuff throughout, but one that resonates with me is 5: Insecure.

From the post:

It’s a well-known fact that all writers think they can’t write. One book in, six books in, 47 books in… every writer is convinced, over and over again, that it was a fluke, they’re not a writer, they’ve lost it, they can’t possibly do this again. Ah, insecurity is beautiful, isn’t it?

Although I’m not published, that’s me all over. But I’m working on fixing that. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you join The Insecure Writer’s Support Group for assistance with this affliction.

Coupled with insecurity was the belief that I didn’t deserve to have good things happen for me, particularly where writing is concerned. How dare I think I can get an agent? Who am I to daydream about book tours and signings and school visits and being on the BEA Buzz panel? The nerve of me believing that my work is worthy of public recognition!


All of these self-doubts worked in concert to cripple my creativity and stifle my aspirations.  I said I wanted to be a writer, yet I did things that ensured it would never happen. Hel-lo, lizard brain!

If I could add anything to Ms. Gardner’s list, it would be 8: Getting In Your Own Way. Namely, doing stuff like this:

  • Not writing
  • Writing, but not revising
  • Revising, but not querying
  • Querying, but not submitting pages
  • Submitting, but not re-submitting revisions
  • Re-submitting, but not accepting representation

Sounds improbable, yet it happens all the time. I did a some of those things on that list like it was my job. I let fear make me afraid to even try.

Last year, I realized I was my own worst enemy. I needed to back up my lip service with action, so I came up with the 5 A’s: Acknowledge what you want. Accept hard work and rejection. Allow big dreams. Advocate for your desires. Admit it’s okay to fail and succeed.

It’s not a perfect philosophy and is subject to revision (cuz that’s what writers do), but so far it’s working for me.

Do you get in your own way? How do you resist self-sabotage?


16 thoughts on “The Fine Art of Self-Sabotage”

  1. This is such a fabulous post. It’s so, so true too. It is okay to fail, but it’s not okay to stop trying. The whole writing process is great, I love it, but I have up days and down days. Some days I dream big and think Oh, yeah! That can totally happen! and the very next day I ‘ll think, I’m never getting an agent … or a book deal … or going anywhere with this whole writing thing. I just have to ignore that and keep writing and keep trying.


  2. When I signed my two-book deal for Touch of Death, I was so happy, but then I panicked. I wondered if I could write another book good enough to sell. It was terrifying. I did get over it, and I’ve written five books since then, but I had to get over that initial doubt. It was a scary feeling.


  3. Thanks for the link to Rachelle Gardner’s post AND for adding your own 5 A’s. I know you and I have talked about this a bit. I still can’t understand why I’m afraid to A) have dreams and B) try to go after them! I’m guilty of many of the behaviors you listed above. Especially the writing but not revising and revising but not querying.


    1. I think it’s fairly common to feel like you’re not as good as the people who get the things that you want. But what I’m learning is that I am enough. Seriously. Even though I’m not immune to occasionally feeling “less-than”, I am determined to not go down in some horrific doubt spiral.


  4. I think we all have to fight self-doubt. But sometimes, if a gut instinct says you shouldn’t do something — you should listen to it.


    1. I’m all about trusting gut instinct. But for me, the difference was that I recognized my gut was always saying “don’t”, and that can’t be the way to go EVERY time. I’m trying to learn the difference between instinct and fear.


  5. Oh man… if this isn’t the truth??? I’m *getting* better, but it’s definitely a daily struggle of whether or not I can really do this. Up and down and up and down. Oh the joys of writing! 😀


    1. It’s always a work in progress for me. Some days it’s like, “Doubts? Where?” and then others I’m ready to crawl into a cave and never come out. Thankfully, my cave-dwelling days are becoming fewer.


  6. Prevailing over self-doubt is difficult for me, but thanks to IWSG I’ve discovered I have company. 🙂 Great company, in fact. I love the five ‘A’s–will keep those in mind.
    Thanks for another great post, and the link to Rachelle Gardner’s insightful blog.


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