How Writers Can Stop Holding Themselves Back

There’s a lot of feel-good quotes and advice out there for writers on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I need to hear this sort of stuff just as much as the next person. It IS important to “believe in yourself,” “just keep going,” and “never give up.”


Sometimes that’s not enough.

Lately I’ve been doing money work. For most of my life I’ve been a disaster with money. I’ve never had enough and when I finally got some it seemed to disappear quickly on I don’t know what. In the past, the topic of money made me feel panicky, ashamed, and afraid. I was lost, confused, and hopeless when it came to even imagining a solution that could help me.

Believing in myself, keeping on keeping on, and never giving up sounded great and all that. But my problems went much deeper and I needed more serious help than feel-good advice.

It’s the same for writers and other creative folks who feel chronically inadequate, paralyzed by writer’s block, and/or terrified of putting their work out there.

The feel-good advice just isn’t going to cut it.

What I found out through doing my money work was that the only thing that really helped was to go deep within myself to examine my own unconscious beliefs, desires, and motivations.

That means that:

I looked hard at patterns I played out in my life that had been handed down to me by my family.

I questioned my own beliefs and asked myself where they came from and if they applied to me in my current life and situation.

I stopped trying to run away from difficult emotions and sat with them (very uncomfortably), letting myself receive their wisdom.

By doing all of the above, I discovered that my binge-spending and money-hoarding behavior was linked to an unconscious cycle of me trying to soothe my fears through compulsive activities.

In fact, it was VERY similar to the way I squandered my emotional energy on psychic vampires for years and hoarded all of the novels I wrote in a file on my laptop. I swung wildly back and forth between giving too much away and not sharing myself at all. It seemed it didn’t matter if I was looking at my finances or my creative life, because I was playing out the same patterns in both.

Most people carry unconscious baggage, that’s a fact of life. But we don’t have to be slaves to it. We don’t have to conquer it all in one day either. Personal growth work takes time and a sustained effort. It’s okay to take baby steps.

So, if you are a writer who:

Writes a lot but never shows ANYONE your writing…

Has written a novel but can’t seem to get started on the querying process…

Is trapped in an endless cycle of revisions and perfectionism…

Can’t seem to feel like a “real writer” no matter what you do…

Then you probably have a few unconscious scripts running in the background that are influencing how you think and feel about your writing abilities.

Some of the most common unconscious scripts we carry are tied to our self-esteem. “I’ll never be good enough,” “I’m not ‘wired’ that way,” or “I’ll always fail,” are just a few examples of limiting beliefs that are easily passed down to us from our parents. If we were raised by people who didn’t value artistic pursuits, or believed that a career in the arts could never be prosperous, those values and beliefs were more than likely ingrained in our psyches as well.

When we begin to examine the unconscious scripts that might be holding us back it’s easy to start blaming our parents, the experiences we had in school, or even the organized religion in which we might have been raised. It’s okay to acknowledge that you feel angry, hurt, or betrayed by the passing down of these unconscious scripts and the way that’s affected your creative life. But the important thing is not to get stuck there. Because, now, today, you DO have a choice. You CAN choose something else for yourself.

So, if you’re a writer who has always told yourself that “you’re bad at figuring out business stuff,” or “you’ll never be a best-selling author,” stop and ask yourself why you believe those things and where those beliefs originated. Take some time to sit and journal about your parents, specifically the statements you heard them say time and time again, as if those statements were verified truths of the world. Make a list of things that you one hundred percent KNOW to be true about your writing abilities and then deeply question anything negative that shows up on that list. Is that coming from you? Or have you absorbed a belief system that’s prevalent in society at large but doesn’t actually fit compatibly with your authentic desires and goals?

The other red flag that will quickly point out unconscious scripts to you is the experience of difficult emotions. If you feel a clenching in your gut or a fluttery, panicky feeling in your chest when you think about publishing your novel, those sensations are trying to tell you something. Instead of running away from them, turn and face them. Sit down with those feelings and let the pain of them wash over you. Once that pain has been allowed to air itself, it will dissipate and that’s when information about WHY you’re feeling a certain way will show up.

Unconscious scripts aren’t “the truth.” In fact, most of the time they’re not anywhere near accurate. And once you can identify the difference between an old unconscious pattern that’s running your writing life and your authentic goals and desires, you can take back the power that was always meant to be yours.

Lauren Sapala is the author of Between the Shadow and Lo, an autobiographical novel based on her experiences as a raging alcoholic in her 20s. She is also the author of The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers. She currently lives in San Francisco.

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