Are You an Anti-Writer?

"I'm not good enough."

"I'm not smart enough."

"I'll never be able to write like so-and-so."

Have you ever said something similar to yourself?

In her book Thinking Write: The Secret of Freeing Your Creative Mind, Kelly L. Stone talks about what she calls the "anti-writer" part of your brain.

It works against you being successful. Its job is to create doubt and fear in you so that you will fail or never reach your true potential as a writer.

This kind of talk tends to affect you in the following ways:

  • You resist writing – You plan to write at such-and-such an hour, and you don't show up.
  • You sabotage your writing efforts – You look for every opportunity not to write. Maybe it's a drive into town to run some errands or a phone conversation with a friend. Your attention is easily diverted from the job at hand.
  • You set yourself up for failure before you try – Constant negative thinking causes you to doubt everything you want to accomplish. "Can I really become an expert white paper writer? Can I really help Company XYZ improve their email marketing? Can I really write a great novel or screenplay?" The answer is always no.

So how do you counter the anti-writer in you?

Stone suggests the following four-step strategy.

STEP 1: Keep an anti-writer notebook

For two weeks, write down all the negative, success-killing thoughts you come up with. In her book, Stone uses the example of a writer who dreams of writing a bestseller. Every time this aspiring writer sees a new writer on the New York Times bestseller list, she thinks, "They must have known somebody in the publishing business." This reinforces that the only way she will be successful is by having key industry connections.

STEP 2: At the end of two weeks, get yourself a blank piece of paper and put a line down the middle.

On the left, put "anti-writer," and on the right, put "writer." Put everything you wrote during the two weeks under "anti-writer." Then put a statement under "writer" that counters the negative thought you had.

Here is the example from her book:



Why bother? I'm never going to get published anyway.

I love writing and will be successful as an author

I can never relax.

I am learning to be a relaxed creative person.

I just don't have time to write with my busy schedule.

I know there is time in my day to write and I will find it.

This essay has been rejected four times already. What's the point of sending it out again?

If I persist, I eventually will find an editor who likes my work.

Finally, transfer the positive "writer” comments to 3x5 index cards, and carry them around with you at arm's reach when you write.

STEP 3: During the same two weeks, you also need to keep track of all your sabotaging actions.

Do you stay up too late at night, hindering any chance of getting up early to write? Is your attention easily diverted? Do you take too many needless trips into town to run errands that could wait? Do you surf the Internet too much during prime work hours? Whatever you do, make a note of it.

STEP 4: Next, turn the things you listed in Step 3 into an action plan.

For example, you might make a new rule for yourself. You'll go to bed by 9 or 10 p.m. at night so you can rise at 6 a.m. and start writing. Or you might decide that you're no longer going to take personal calls during the day or check your email more than twice a day. Whatever you’re doing to prevent your success, either eliminate or counter those bad habits with more positive, productivity-boosting actions.

Can you identify with being an anti-writer at times?

If you have any tips or comments on how to put the anti-writer that exists in all of us out of its misery, please post them here.

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Published: September 18, 2012

4 Responses to “Are You an Anti-Writer?”

  1. Thank you for writing this article: it was a pleasure to read about your ideas.

    The anti-writer mindset has plagued me for the longest time, but I always knew I wanted to be a writer.

    As a child, I read novels and books written by authors I admired and thought how someday I would also find one of my books on a library shelf or bookstore.

    However, the negative self-talk needs to be replaced by positive affirmations if you ever want to achieve your dream.

    To this end, simple meditation daily can be an antidote to constant anxiety and stress. I would recommend it, to be sure.

    Archan Mehta

  2. I am suffering from the anti-writer mindset. I tend to get easily distracted, specifically as deadlines are looming. I have been really trying to set five hours a day for myself that aren't about errands or Facebook or phone calls but just writing, yet so far, no luck. I'm anxious to hear some additional advice to complement the great article.

    Guest (Angie Yoder)

  3. everyone goes through anti writer moments. it's something we all deal with only we think no one else has these same feelings. They are always with us but knowing how to keep them at bay are lessons we all need. of course getting something publish pushes them into hiding but that's not going to happen all the time. I like to remind myself when insecurities began creeping up that Stephen King's ms for Carrie was rejected 18 times.

    Guest (julie canfield)

  4. Very cretive; work ethic needs improvement - but I'm working on that; but don't know beans about where to try and sell my writing for legitimate payment. Not to business savy while executing; but great at standing back and interpreting the problems and directing for achievement. Result: make lost of subconscious excuses to work slowly and just plod along getting nowhere fast. Subconsciously fearful and scared.

    Guest (WritingGuy)

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