Silent Sabotage

The writing is flowing, you’re accomplishing your daily word counts, you’re in the flow!

Then, without warning, you take a nose dive. You spiral downward to crash and burn. Your writing comes to a screeching halt.


Silent Sabotage

This phenomenon happens when we least expect it. Silent sabotage comes in many varieties. Here are some of the most common forms for writers.

  • You’re doing well on your writing (your output, your class work, your marketing, etc.) Love those productive days! Then a little voice in your head whispers, “You know it’ll never last. It’s just a matter of time before you’re blocked again. Might as well give up now–you’ll never make it.”
  • You plan to write your blog and study online writers’ guidelines, but you realize you’ve been surfing the Web for half an hour of your “writing” time. You only had an hour to write, and you’ve wasted half of it! How discouraging. A feeling of hopelessness sweeps over you. The voice whispers, “Well, today is blown. You can’t get anything done in the little time you have left. Might as well keep surfing.”
  • You’ve finally finished the story or book manuscript. You’ve worked hard, and success feels great. What a high! The voice whispers, “You deserve a reward, a break from the computer.” So you don’t write the next day…or the next…or the following week or month. Your break turns into a full-blown block, and you just can’t get started again.

Voice Message

So what can you do about this silent sabotage, this automatic negative thinking? Remember, where the mind goes, the man follows.

If you don’t want to crash and burn your writing schedule, what voice messages can replace the sabotage? How can you encourage yourself instead?

  • When things are going well, pat yourself on the back. Remind yourself that “slow and steady wins the race.” If you set goals that are truly achievable on any given day, and you persevere day after day, you will succeed. You will finish that manuscript; you will submit it (and re-submit if necessary.) If you refuse to give up despite rejections, if you are willing to revise, chances are good you will sell it.
  • When you’ve wasted your writing time by playing Solitaire or surfing or writing endless emails to friends, tell yourself (like the dieter who splurged), “Well, today wasn’t my best day. I’ll make good use of the time that’s left. Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it. Today’s mistake is limited to today. Tomorrow I will be even more productive.” Stop the slide down that slippery slope of failure.
  • When you’ve completed a project and feel the need for a break, schedule it. Choose a reasonable length of time (maybe one day for finishing a short story, or a week after finishing a book.) On your calendar also schedule time on the day you intend to get back to writing. Enjoy the time off, but gear up mentally for returning to work when the vacation time draws to a close.

Be aware of your thoughts, and counter the negative ones quickly. Change that voice message. Successful writers have learned how to counter the voices of self-sabotage. You can too!

[What are the voices that torment you? How do you counter them to avoid quitting? Let's share strategies!]

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2 Responses to Silent Sabotage

  1. Jennifer Rathe says:

    Wow! That wasted time (surfing the internet) is so me. Lately, if I’ve found myself wasting a half hour while the kids are sleeping, I’ve made up that time and continued when they are awake. Not always possible but helpful, also to learn to keep the practice going when they are not sleeping. Once I’ve started a scene, I’m always intent on finishing it though.

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