The Craft: How to Avoid Self-Sabotage in Fiction Writing

[This is part of a continuing series on the art of writing fiction.]

This writing gig can be hard at times, Folks. But along the way, you start picking up little tricks to keep you going and stay productive. Here’s a big one I’ve recently learned…Let’s see if I can explain…

A while back I was tearing through my latest story, just ripping through words. Adding up word counts, keeping the plot arcs going, all that. I hit a new section, things slowed down and then slowly, almost imperceptibly ground to a halt. Don’t know why. Was I burnt out? No. Did I not outline the story properly or enough? Don’t think so.

Then, what was it? What could it be? I forced my way forward for a bit, but faltered. What was going on?

Meh Eminem

I went forward a bit more and got my minimum 1,000 words down for the day, but it got me to thinking. What was up? Well…after a few long walks, some more thinking, some sleep and time to give my subconscious time to work…I figured it out.

I was sort of, honestly, jinxing myself. Perhaps even self-sabotaging. Turns out, this story was in a really good place and was humming along really well. This was near the end and was the last point in the story where I didn’t clearly know where the story went. If there was any final, last place where the story would fall apart–this would be the last possible moment it could do that.

As soon as I realized that, I realized I was self-sabotaging, pulling out at the last moment just as things we’re coming together.

So, I said to myself: “Don’t do that.”


“Stop. Stop. Stop.”

And having realized exactly what I was doing, I was able to stop my behavior and calm down. As soon as I did that, I took a few deep breaths. And later, when I returned to put pen to paper, I was able to dig in and start writing the story again. The barrier I had created was, in fact, totally false. An illusion. But with time and experience, I realized what I was doing. Before, this would have taken me longer to resolve, but now it was as if I said to myself:

“No. This is bullshit and you know it. Let’s stop this and finish the story. If it’s crap, so be it. You can come back later and rework it. What you need to do now is power through.”

And that’s what I’m doing right now. So, what I’m trying to say (to you writers and artists and musicians and creators out there) is this: Realize the signs you might be self-sabotaging. Are you stuck in a rut? Well, step away, let the piece breathe a bit. Figure out if there really is a logical or artistic reason the project isn’t going the right way. But if you’re mostly pleased with something and nearing the finish line, there might be some other reason you’re stalling. It might be that somewhere, deep down, you’re afraid to finish. You want the creative act to just keep going on and on and you’re loathe for the show to end.

I get it, I do. But, unfortunately, that’s not how things work. Even the biggest job, or the best one, has to come to an end sometime. Let it go. Get back in the studio, the cafe, the writing shack and finish the bastard off.

Some day, you’ll be glad you did.

Until next time,





%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close