Self-Sabotage and the Writer

Self-Sabotage and the Writer

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” ~Nelson Mandela

Writers practice self-sabotage for all kinds of reasons, most of them stemming from fear. We’re afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing ourselves or family, afraid we aren’t good enough, afraid of what others will think. Most of us are afraid we will fail, and afraid we will succeed.

There are many ways in which we sabotage ourselves:

Perfectionism: Seeking to make a piece perfect is a great way to make sure it’s never done.

Jumping the gun: Sending work out before it is ready.

Taking it personally: Taking rejections as a rejection of ourselves rather than our work.

Unrealistic expectations: Impossible goals and standards set us up for failure.

Lack of commitment: Missing appointments to write or putting writing last in our lives doesn’t allow us to improve and grow.

Writing without feedback: You need other eyes, fresh opinions, and critique.

Great expectations: Comparing our first attempts and first drafts to someone else’s experience and finished work will always leave us feeling our words suck.

Ohh, Shiny: Chasing the next idea instead of finishing and polishing what we start doesn’t allow us to learn to finish, polish, or submit.

Quitting: Stopping work on a piece when it gets hard or uncomfortable is quitting. Some writers are serial quitters when they first begin.

 So how do we prevent self-sabotage?

Well, that’s the hard part. The best way is to face up to the fear. Determining we will take the risk in spite of our fears, or even because of them, is a special act of bravery that tells self-sabotage “I will not let you beat me. You will not win.”

Another important element is to go over your goals with someone you trust. Realistic, attainable goals and written steps to get there will go a long way toward alleviating fear.

Most of us, with honest self-examination and the support of friends and family, will overcome those fears with time and experience. Once in a while, awareness alone does the trick. In extreme cases, counselors are helpful to resolve deep insecurities or issues of self-esteem. (Hey, this is your life and your creativity. It’s worth getting it resolved.)

What matters is to ask yourself if self-sabotage has gotten you when you feel you aren’t progressing. If you think the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Take the time to work on it.


What experience have you had with sabotaging your own writing? How did you address it?