A Writer’s Number One Enemy

Who is a writer’s worst enemy?

In the writing industry we often make agents or traditional publishers out to be the “bad guys” and brand them as narrow-minded, unwilling to take a chance, picky, slow, unable to keep up with the changing times, etc.

But are they really the source of a writer’s angst? With the ease of e-publishing, a writer can bypass agents and editors altogether if they’re frustrated. No longer are agents and editors necessary for everyone seeking publication.

Sometimes we point the finger at the busyness of our lives as our number one enemy. We lament, that if only we had more time to write, we’d finally complete our book, or we’d get around to the manuscript that needs editing.

But we all know that we can make time for the things that are important to us. If we really want to write, if we’re passionate enough about it, we’ll somehow squeeze in the time somewhere. Right?

So what really is a writer’s number one enemy?

I believe WE are our own worst enemies. Yes, I am my worst enemy. And you are yours.

In a recent post, Encouragement for Aspiring Authors, numerous writers mentioned just how much they struggle with their own discouraging thoughts. Here are a few comments:

“I discourage myself all on my own . . . me, myself, and I can really do a number on my ego when it comes to my writing.”

“No one else but myself has been a discouraging voice. I have been my own worst enemy, and I need to squelch all the negative self-talk about never 'amounting to anything, so why waste my time' has just got to stop.”

“I've been wondering after reading the writing blogs lately if I should even try to write at all anymore.”

When I thought about WHO or WHAT discourages me the most, I realized (like these commenters) that I am my own biggest discourager. I send myself negative messages all too frequently. Even as an award-winning author I say things like, “What’s wrong with me that my sales aren’t higher” or “With so many other authors out there, who am I?”

The messages we send ourselves can have a paralyzing effect. We can discourage ourselves so much that we reach a point where we don’t want to keep going. Maybe we feel like giving up our writing career altogether. Or maybe the negative messages get in the way every time we sit down to write so that the story is stuck and the words won’t flow.

How do we battle our own discouragement and keep it from defeating us? I don’t have the perfect answer, but here are some things that keep me going:

I surround myself with people who believe in me, who are there to encourage me when I’m especially down, who remind me of the positives in my writing and in my career.

I write every day, no matter what my mood, even if I’m absolutely down in the dumps. Even when I feel like I’m writing the worst crap the world has ever seen, I get words on the page—every day without fail.

I make sure that I’m constantly learning new things. I pick up a new writing craft book or re-read an old one. There’s something about the process of learning that gives us fresh excitement and renewed confidence that we’re moving forward.

I go back to the reason why I’m writing—because ultimately I love telling stories. I love stringing words together. And I love being able to encourage others through my writing.

What about you? What messages have you been sending yourself lately? Are you letting the discouragement beat you down too much? How do you fight against your own negativity?


  1. I just had this discussion with a group of writer friends. It's so important for a writer to find a way to Just. Keep. Going. We never known when the "aha" moment will come and suddenly we know how it all goes together.

  2. You are very , very right. But it does sometimes feel hard not to just give up when there is so much happening in your life. Not that I will :)

  3. How true. We can be our own enemies. But at the same time, while a writer might be 'stabbing' at him or herself, there's always another writer there to pick them up. This is the common thread that links all writers - the arena of self-discouragement and the support of others. Somehow I believe we grow through this process, not only as writers, but as people.

  4. The writing every day, no matter the mood, is an area of huge failure for me. I'm impressed with those who are disciplined to do this. I often use the last suggestion you made when I need to fight against negativity: to go back to the reason I'm writing. I'd say that's one of the best actions to take for encouraging myself. Learning new things gives fresh excitement, but alas, it also distracts me from what I should *really* be doing, too. Thanks for posting your approach(es). It's always helpful to see how the professionals do it. :)

  5. Very timely post, Jody. I've written posts about this same thing as well. What I actually find helpful is reading comments on blog posts like this one, to know that I'm not the only one out there doubting myself.

    Like you, I also go back to why I'm doing this. I have always loved writing. Doubt and fear have kept me from trying to write a novel before. No longer! With God, all things are possible. :)

    Thanks for your encouragement today and being brave enough to admit that you struggle with these things even though you're already published.

  6. The main reason why I keep coming back to your blog is because I can relate to nearly everything you write. This is a perfect example: I *know* this, but I need to be reminded. Thanks!

  7. Good morning, everyone! I love knowing that I'm not alone in my struggles too! Especially in light of all that's happening in today's industry, it's so easy to send ourselves even more negative messages. I truly appreciate the encouragement I receive from all of you! It helps me to keep going! :-)

  8. I hear you! I'm surprised at how often I have to force myself to write. And writing is my passion! It's weird. :)

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. I think it's important to remember that my worth as a human being isn't tied up in my writing success or lack of it. Writing isn't the end-all and be-all, even if I've told myself that lie since childhood.

  10. You're right, Jody. As much as writers have to accept the need to grow and improve, we also need to surround ourselves with encouragement and a positive outlook.

  11. Excellent post, Jody.

    It took me a long time to learn that I need to keep learning the craft...even when I think that I've got it down.

  12. As a lawyer who writes briefs, (along with my "war stories" from the courtroom), it is difficult to find encouragement, especially from my courtroom adversaries! But it is a pleasure to see such encouragement freely offered to writers in fine blogs like this one! Thank you!

  13. So true! I do feel like we are the ones who get most in our own way. Thank you for the advice and encouragement.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

    p.s. The verification phrase I got for this comment was 'workbra.' Just thought it was too good not to share :)

    What would a writers 'work bra' be anyway?

  14. This is so true, Jody. There seems to be a line in a writer's life where we go from the honeymoon stage straight to the "I stink" stage. And that "I stink" stage doesn't ever leave. :) Thanks for these practical tips to fight it!

  15. Hi everyone! Thanks for all of your input today!

    And LOL, Sarah! I'm not sure what a workbra for a writer would entail! But I can only imagine! :-)

  16. Thank you, I really needed that today :)

  17. Sometimes the best thing for me to do is name it. Just say it out loud: I'm discouraged. There! It's out in the open and now I can a) choose to face it and deal with it or b) I can keep on sulking.
    It also helps to share it with one other person -- my husband is great about listening to my writerly woes &, of course, other writers get it too.
    Prayer helps. Walking away from my desk helps.
    Jelly beans always help.
    Oh, yeah, not taking myself so seriously ALWAYS helps!

  18. I find it amazing that we all live such different lives across the globe but essentially struggle with the same issue - one of the biggest being self doubt and criticism. I know I'm definitely guilty of it but I try very hard to keep it in check - somedays I'm better at that than others!

  19. Self-doubt is always lurking close by, but I'd rather stretch myself and try new things and fail than never having done anything at all. All the things you listed are great for keeping self-doubt at bay :)

  20. Thanks for always being a voice of encouragement, Jody. Lately I've been battling envy of other writers who seem to be getting what I want more easily than I am(I know, I know, it's ugly!), so it was very good for me to read this today.

  21. I am very hard on myself and have kept telling myself that I had no more stories to tell. (I've not written regularly in a very long time - and I feel worse than just "rusty".) I think it's reading/speaking with others who feel the same way. Strength in numbers, y'know? It's realising you aren't alone and you can get past it, but only if you try.

  22. Oh Jody, I certainly needed your wise words today. I am my worst enemy. During the last few weeks, I've almost talked myself out of the vision I have for writing. Thank you for the encouragement.

  23. I have given you an award on my blog, stop by to claim it.

  24. Hi Jody. Another great post.

    I, too, did a post on this very topic because, like you, I think the stuff we tell ourselves is worse than anything other people say to us. I do the same things that you do to combat that voice in my head: support group, write anyway, keep learning, remember why I love writing in the first place.

    I once heard a neurologist speak. She talked about the power of words & how what you tell yourself actually changes the chemistry in your brain for the better or for the worse. I've been careful what I say to myself about my skills/talents since then. :)

  25. When I want to get away from writing or just quit, I remind myself that there's nothing better to do, nowhere to run. In the past, I've quit for two days, and the urge to write pulled me back. I missed it so.

  26. Great post! I really am my own worst enemy!

  27. Been facing this enemy lately ;) Thanks for the encouragement!

  28. spot on.. always love visiting your blog.

  29. You're absolutely right! I liked this article so much I sent the link to all my writer friends. :)


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