Stop Sabotaging Your Writing!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hello! My name is Chynna and I am guilty of sabotaging my writing.

::Hello, Chynna!::

You name it, I've done it: Comparing my work to my peers'; melting into a puddle of tears from a rejection; refusing to write in a specific genre or on a specific topic out of fear of leaving my comfort zone; giving completely up on a project I'd worked on for months because one (heartless) editor said it was crap; taking every criticism to heart; turning jobs down because I questioned my own talent. But I'm on the right track now--two months sabotage-free! And I'm working hard to stay there!

::Yay! Chynna! Keep moving forward; it works!::

Okay, seriously. We are all guilty of sabotaging our writing. There are many different areas we do this, some of which I jokingly listed above. From my experience, I'd have to say one of the biggest ways we sabotage ourselves is allowing rejection, or the fear of rejection, to make us question our abilities. Even I've done it. Here, let me share my recent story with you:

Last year, I queried a very well-established publisher with an idea for a reference book. I was asked to submit a proposal, which I worked my butt off on, and within a couple of weeks was made an offer. The contract was signed, the plan was set and things went along swimmingly. The book was supposed to have been out this past January but things went really wrong.

In a nutshell, the editor assigned to my book project was awesome. She and I worked together like a fine-oiled machine. After five months, we'd finished the rough draft of the manuscript then she went away on holidays. That's when things went down the crapper. While she was away, there were several other editors working on my project. There were so many different 'updated' versions of my manuscript that no one was sure which version was the current one. The project went all the way up to galleys and I asked to have it put on hold until my assigned editor came back. After almost a month, I was contacted by one of the head editors who told me my assigned editor, ' longer works for us.'

Essentially, I refused to put my name on something that was so inaccurate and that was nothing like I'd envisioned. I asked for the project to be cancelled and be given back my rights. The head editor complied with my request but not without first telling me that she would have pulled the plug on the project anyway. She called my writing sloppy, amateur, inconsistent and grammatically messy. She said I had no business writing reference books, or any books for that matter, and that she wasn't sure why the contract had been given to me in the first place.

Nice. And, well, ouch!

This was, of course, after I'd written my award-winning memoir, 'Not Just Spirited: A Mom's Sensational Journey With Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)'. But no other accomplishment I'd made up to that point made the sting of that editor's words go away. I stopped writing. No blogging. No articles. No visits to my usual authors' pages or blogs. I literally became afraid to write. What if that lady was right? What if I'd just been lucky up to that point and someone was finally being honest with me? Then I had the most amazing thing happen: A 'fan' wrote thanking me for writing my special needs books, blog posts and articles. She told me my words inspired her and looked forward to seeing more of my work. That's all it took for me to get off the self-pity train and keep moving forward.

The point here is all of us get kicked in the butt once in awhile. The writing/authoring arena is extremely competitive but there is room for all of us in it because we are each good at our own unique area. Each of us contributes something different to the writing world that no one else can. If we gave up, there'd be a tiny hole left behind that no one else could fill. And, besides, new opportunities are always around the corner. Look at me: After wallowing for several months, I got offers on not one but three of my shelved projects!

Stop sabotaging your writing! Keep moving forward, take the criticism you get with a grain of salt--keeping what you need and chucking the rest--and never give up.

(OH! And as a tiny extra piece of advice, always make sure you have your hands in every step of a writing project. Never be afraid to voice your concerns at any stage. This is your work. Be proud enough to stand up for it!)

Happy writing!


(Picture borrowed from


Unknown said...

Ah yes, self-sabotage is the most painful. May I add the horrible "what-if" variation to the list. I like to torture myself with "what if" questions: what if I had never stopped writing; what if I never finish this novel; what if, what if, what if! We truly can be our own worst enemy.

Chynna said...

I am all too familiar with the 'What If's' too, Jennifer. I try counteracting that with a, "...but what if I DO _____". Sometimes it works. LOL!

Thanks for commenting! =)

Sioux Roslawski said...

Chynna--Would it have killed the editor to simply accept your pulling the plug, instead of aiming at you and spewing out bile?

I think I sabotage myself sometimes before I even start. I occasionally have a kind of "fear of failure" thing going on.

Thanks for the post. The uplifting ending was encouraging.

Elenya said...

Two months ago I had a number of started novel projects which I'd never finished. I wondered why I couldn't finish anything. I thought I was rubbish and that I was destined to be a failure forever. Until I realised it was sabotage - I was letting fear get the better of me. So I carried on plugging away until I wrote "The End" on one of them. It was a beautiful feeling.

Sabotage is so easy and so self-destructive. Harder to avoid, but not impossible. Thank you for your encouragement. :)

Robyn Chausse said...

Chynna-There is nothing wrong with your writing. This editor was afraid of being a failure in her job so of course she had to turn the table back on you--she wasn't about to admit the company was to blame for the sloppy work. It amazes me how many people in "power" position have absolutley no real power (sense of self). How sad that in our respect for other people's positions we lose trust in ourselves. I can not tell you how many times I've done that!
Thanks for sharing the story and reminding all of us of the importance of believing in ourself--especially when it seems no one else does.

Chynna said...

Hi guys!

@ Sioux...I know, right? I was just as shocked. But, in retrospect, I learned alot from that experience and now I have the BEST editors and publishers a writer could ask for. (Their loss. LOL!!) And, I have that fear of failure thing too. Just keep writing on through it. ;)

@ Elenya: Good for you on finishing those novels! You are alot further ahead than many writers! Now hold onto that and go get them published!!

@ Robyn: Thank you so much. You are so right about that editor...I totally realize it now. It was very easy to make me go lower when I already felt awful about how things turned out on the project. She just drove the stake in. LOL! I STILL have those feelings from time-to-time. But I'm the only one who can hold me back and I'm the only one who can keep pushing me forward. =)

Thanks for all your comments. I hope others share their thoughts and stories. Talking about it can sometimes clear out the negative stuff.


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