How Your Grand Vision Is Holding You Back


If you’re a writer, you have a vision. Possibly you daydream about hitting it big with fame and money like Tom Clancy or Stephen King, or you want a cult following that develops into a huge fan base like Neil Gaiman or Chuck Palahniuk.

Or maybe you see yourself sitting in a quiet room writing poetry like Emily Dickinson, your genius talent never to be discovered in this lifetime.

Writers need these dreams. What we’re trying to accomplish takes so much sustained energy, and bullheaded determination, that we have to have a grand vision to get us through. But our inner vision has a direct influence on our outer vision, that particular way we see the world as individuals and interpret our circumstances. Although our brains only recognize a tiny slice of the vast amount of stimulus surrounding us, we still tend to believe that we hold a complete and accurate perception of reality at any given moment. Simply put, you will usually see what you are looking for.

Each one of us believes in the story we see as our life. As we travel through our days, we will notice and seize upon the people, interactions, and themes that reinforce our belief system. So if you believe that you really have no talent and you don’t deserve success, you will bring that to every situation you enter. Someone may critique your novel and say, “I saw room for improvement in this and this chapter” and you will hear, “This novel is garbage. Why are you even trying?” No matter what words or tone your critique partner chooses, you came into the situation with your own agenda, and your brain will rationalize a way to carry that agenda out.

This is perfectly normal. We are all human, and we all do this. We are all self-absorbed and intent on following through on our own agenda. You can’t wipe out the agenda. But you can shift your perspective in such a way that the agenda is more helpful to you. You have the power to examine the story you’re currently telling yourself about your life and your potential as a writer, and choose to see things in a different way.

If you have the passion to live a life in which you go after your writing dreams with everything you’ve got, then you also have the courage to take a long, hard look at your personal belief system to discover what might be holding you back. It is not easy. In fact, it feels extremely uncomfortable at first. You might find that you rely on the belief that no one understands you, or that the world is unfair, in a way that helps you stay a victim. You might realize that you’ve been making flimsy excuses for years about submitting your work, or why you can’t finish your novel. It is very likely you will feel ashamed, embarrassed, and defensive about the ways you’ve been putting off living the writing life you know you’re capable of living.

I am no exception to this. I frequently tell myself that I have to wait for a certain thing to happen before I can go after another thing. It’s because I struggle with low self-esteem too, and I get really scared that if I go after something, I might fail. You see, I hold the belief system of the persecuted artist. In my grand vision, it’s necessary for me to toil unappreciated for years before my contribution can be recognized. That vision helps me rationalize procrastinating on my writing dreams in the present. After all, what kind of persecuted artist would I be if I was actually successful and happy right now?

If there’s anything a writer knows how to do, it’s tell a good story. As gifted storytellers, we can choose whether we use that gift to tell ourselves a story that serves us, or one that holds us back. If you’re interested in learning more about shifting your creative perspective, you can also check out these posts:

How Meditation Can Help Your Writing Career
Secrets Your Inner Critic Would Kill to Keep
What Every Writer Should Know
The Beast of Self-Judgment
Lies Writers Tell Themselves

As writers, we thrive on plot twists and characters who take the unexpected plunge. Let’s use that same energy in our own lives to move forward through the twists and be the character who takes the plunge.


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  • Reply K.M. Alexander 30 September, 2013 at 10:33 am

    “I get really scared that if I go after something, I might fail.”

    Me too. It’s terrifying.

    But…I haven’t found the potential of failure to be a good enough reason to not pursue something. After all, if you’re writing because you love it I’d wager you will keep on writing even if you fail.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 September, 2013 at 10:39 am

      I totally agree. I’ve experienced a lot of rejection and still keep going with it. I must love it 🙂

  • Reply Ty Viner 30 September, 2013 at 10:55 am

    This is a great entry. Our ideals and dreams push us in so many directions. Facing them and moving past is part of how we grow. I love the idea of seeing it as a plot twist, or a character’s unexpected growth.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 September, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Thank you! Sometimes when I’m having a really hard day, I do try to imagine myself as a character. And that this is all just a story. So I thought, well, maybe I should try to do that most of the time and see where things lead me.

  • Reply Ty Unglebower 30 September, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I think most writers are particularly susceptible to things like this, because by and large it is an endeavor which eventually needs validation. Someone is going to have to read what we have written. Within that goal, there are many sub-goals, but for 99% of us, we write because we hope one day someone will enjoy what we have written in someway. That truth can drastically effect a personal believe system, in bad as well as good ways.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 September, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      So VERY true. It is an endeavor that eventually needs validation. Writers NEED readers. Thank you so much for adding these thoughts to the discussion! I particularly like this from you, “Within that goal, there are many sub-goals, but for 99% of us, we write because we hope one day someone will enjoy what we have written.”

  • Reply Catherine North 30 September, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Lovely inspiring post again, Lauren. I’m avoiding submitting my work because I’ve put so much of my own feelings into the story and characters, and I’m afraid of people judging it as boring or pathetic. On the other hand, I loved writing it and want to share it in the hope of reaching like minded people. I know, it doesn’t make any sense! 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 September, 2013 at 1:49 pm

      I have definitely gone through that myself. I am always terrified that people will find my work boring. And although no one has ever told me that to my face, I know there are readers out there who don’t connect with my work. It’s an ongoing process of continuing to submit and putting your work out there, regardless of the expectations or approval of others. It is so hard to do it though!

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 1 October, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    A great insightful post. Research has shown that successful people experience a larger number of failures than unsuccessful people. counterintuitive, but it makes sense as you think it through. (Apologies if I have already mentioned this research on this site before).

  • Reply EA Lake 2 October, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Great post Lauren. I absolutely love your advice and insight into the sometimes strange world of writing. Lake

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 2 October, 2013 at 8:32 am

      Thank you so much! I deeply appreciate all the support you give me here and on Twitter 🙂

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