If You’re an Author, Be an Author, Dammit!
Self-sabotage, perfectionism, low self-worth; many writers struggle with a minefield of doubt on a daily basis. Whether you experience this particular list of obstacles or other forms of resistance and internal conflict, no author can fast forward ahead to the accolades and laurel lounging that are rewards for working through these psychological blocks.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you had complete faith that your success would be delivered to you? I’m prepared to promise you that. The caveat is that you have to put in the work, both personal and professional.
For many of us, devoting consistent hours to writing and having 100% faith in our triumph as authors ain’t no easy enchilada. This is especially true if you are struggling to feed and shelter yourself and your family with the income from your efforts. Doubt and criticism, from oneself and from outsiders, have probably killed more budding writing careers than any other factor.
For a little pat on your own back, check out how far along the path you already are! Draw a line on a piece of paper with the left-most point being learning to read and write in elementary school and the other end being you, working on your newest bestselling title by the pool of your gated estate. Now draw a little dot representing you on this line. Hey, not too shabby! I bet you’re at least past the halfway mark.
Personally, I’m past the halfway mark. But wait, here come the screaming demons of financial anxiety, passivity, procrastination, identification with flaws, and self-sabotage. You might know these feelings. They suck, literally. They suck time, they suck energy, they suck prosperity away from your life. Really, it’s scary to even talk about these universal undercurrents. Why? Because people might judge you.
If I admit to procrastinating and giving in to fear, everyone will reject me and never read another word I write, or pay me, ever. Right? Not right! That’s not realistic at all. So why do you and I let all this stuff get in the way of our happiness and success? Why do we hide our human nature, day after day and year after year?
Let’s break up this Goliath of inertia that we’ll name Resistance into smaller parts. I’m going in order of my own greatest hits because, hey, I learn through teaching.
Go with the flow, right? Go with the flow, WRONG! Just because you are capable of doing many things doesn’t mean you should do them. Years and years are lost on the path of what many call “least resistance,” but which actually creates the MOST resistance to our goals. Have you ever been offered a job that pays well enough or is related to writing (sort of) and said the following:
“What the hell. Sure, I’ll write content for an online fitness app.”
“Copyediting on Upwork sounds okay.”
“My friends need me to run a monthly write-in. It doesn’t pay, but it’s for the common good of my community.”
“My rent is due and I’m short. I’ll wait tables for awhile.”
Yep… and you’ll publish your books when you are 80 years old, if at all. Stick to your guns; don’t be tempted away from your ultimate objective. Be especially vigilant against what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls shadow artisting. That’s where you do something sort of like your dream career because it’s close enough, or it’s in service to other artists. It’s NOT GOOD ENOUGH! Do. Your. Own. Work. Every. Day.
The exception to this situation is work that is relatively stress-free and takes up less than half your productive hours (for most people, that’s 3 to 4 hours a day). For me, web design is effortless because I have 20 years of experience doing it. Additionally, writing proposals for other authors is easy for me, so I do these things to supplement my income. I’m not telling you to starve for your work, but make YOUR work your priority.
Identification with Flaws
I’m self-centered, obsessed with fame, anti-social, and prone to depression. Ta-da!
You probably have your own list of things that you suppress and hide because they are “bad” traits. Yeah, but none of these things are “me” or “you” because they are in our imaginations.
I’m not going to argue that people are or are not predisposed to depression or anxiety because of their brain chemistry. I believe they are, but this can be worked around or even turned into a strength. The point is, identifying with perceived flaws is way worse then actually having them. It’s all a matter of mindset and framing.
Here’s me reframing:
Self-centeredness can be transformed into: I care for myself and I’m dedicated to my art.
Fame-obsessed ain’t so bad; try “driven to succeed” instead.
Anti-social can be reframed as: I have more time for work.
Occasional depression gives me depth of understanding and empathy.
Now it’s your turn. Are there labels you apply to yourself that make you feel like a bad or faulty person? Turn them around!
All anxiety is an obstacle, but worry around money is a serial killer. According to a recent LA Times article, 67% of Americans admit to experiencing strong anxiety around work or finances. Anxiety is the antithesis of mindfulness.
We believe worry protects us and drives us forward because it prevents repeating mistakes from the past and forewarns us about danger in the future. This ancient instinct can serve us to a small extent, but for the most part anxiety is living outside of the NOW. It is the “flight” part of fight or flight, but soaring we ain’t.
Anxiety will make you give up on your dreams.
Anxiety, in general, wears you down. Preventing mistakes and avoiding danger is overrated. Fight fear with being in the present and knowing what you really want. Relax!
Seriously! I’m 100% telling the truth. I was writing this article up to the Procrastination title header, and then I promptly stopped working on it for two days. Even the suggestion of procrastination is so powerful that I simply closed my word processor and started cruising Amazon Prime! It’s psychological resistance at its most visceral. Whenever the “P” word hits me, I feel like I’m running through thigh-deep water.
Again, this is the primitive part of our brains kicking into action. It’s our caveman selves analyzing whether our actions are going to get us kicked out of our tribe or put us in danger. The caveman in you thinks it’s way better to do nothing than attempt something outside of your comfort zone.
In my case, I’m an intermediate writer. I’ve written professionally for five years. Therefore, it’s easier for me than for a novice writer to push though the block of procrastination and finish, say, this article or the chapter of a book.
If you’re just starting out, you have no such assurances. Whether you will create quality work is not knowable until you actually start publishing. This situation is a recipe for procrastination. That’s why so many new writers take years to get started. The solution? Sit down and write, write, write no matter what; focus, remove all distractions, start typing, and believe, really believe, that success will come.
If you are always sabotaging your own efforts, I can tell you why. That’s right. I can! Something about what you are doing is in conflict with what you really, truly want to be doing. Your deep-down inner self knows better.
While your conscious mind is like a drill sergeant bellowing orders relayed by your expectations, your mom, your third grade teacher, your need for security, and your fear, your subconscious mind is merrily derailing the whole production.
Your deep self knows you don’t want to take the assistant creative director position at Fitbit headquarters. Nooo, sir. So that deep self is going to do everything in its power to prevent you from taking that job.
It’s no easy feat, but you must get all levels of your consciousness in agreement.
Align and you will be fine. Ha! I just made that up. Good one…
Anyway, get in agreement with yourself, and it will be smooth sailing.
You, my friend, are an author, so be an author!
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