Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ch 3.6 Four (Nasty) Lies We Tell Ourselves About Writing

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)

Ch 3.6 Four (Nasty) Lies We Tell Ourselves About Writing

There are positive lies we tell ourselves to make life easier (we think): I don't need a critique partner; I can only write when I'm inspired; I don't need to learn the Rules, I'll just break them. But these lies will only allow you to be lazy or not move forward. The lies that are truly dangerous are the ones that knock us down and keep us from accomplishing what we could.

1. The Lie: I'm a talentless hack who will never be able to write anything worth reading.
The Truth: You have great taste and you have great aspirations for creating wonderful works. But you're early in your writing career and still have much to learn. Even if you've got a few novels under your belt, you have much to learn. It's the nature of the craft that you will always be learning and improving - otherwise you will stagnate as a writer.

If you've told yourself this lie, watch this Ira Glass inspirational video.

2. The Lie: I'll never be as great as {insert famous author's name here}; I might as well quit now.
The Truth: This is a lie we often tell ourselves after reading a fantastic book. It's important to note that you will never be {insert famous author's name here} - you can only be yourself. And that self has a unique perspective to share with the world. But in terms of writing as brilliantly as your writerly heroes, it's important to remember the great equalizing forces of the writing process. Every writer starts with a blank sheet of paper. Every writer struggles with plot points and character arcs. Every writer has to work hard to get the words on the page to reflect the ideas in their heads. Accomplished writers wrestle with this as much, or more, than beginning writers. Because they must always be as good as, or better than, their last book - and this is relatively easier to do when you are starting out.

If you tell yourself this lie, read this article about the writing processes of great writers.

3. The Lie: If I keep writing this one chapter/paragraph/sentence over and over, eventually it will be perfect.
The Truth: There is no perfect, there is only finished. And only authors who finish will be successful, no matter how you measure that. There is a difference between rewriting to improve and rewriting to endlessly fiddle because you're not sure what should change (if anything). If you're not in pain or euphoria during the edit process, you're not learning anything and should move on. It will never be perfect, and besides, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And of the writer.

If you tell yourself this lie, read the Six Steps to Writing Success, and commit to getting through Step 2 (finishing). It will set you free.

4. The Lie: I am not a writer unless I'm published.
The Truth: If you write, you are a writer. When someone is willing to publish your work, it means that they think they can make money off your writing. This is not a bad thing! But you were a writer before that happened, and you will be a writer afterwards (unless the publishing process drives you around the bend, which is entirely possible). Self-publishing means that you think you can invest your own money in your writing and make a profit, or at least have a shot at it. Even 7 in 10 traditionally published novels don't out-earn their advance, breaking even or losing money, so there are no guarantees with any of the paths. The real difference between self-pub, small-pub, and large-pub is the size of the bet made on the future success of your book and who the people are making the bet. Before, during, and after those publishing adventures, you are always a writer.

If you tell yourself this lie, see Owning the Writer Title.

And be nice to yourself and lie no more.

(This is an excerpt from my Indie Author Survival Guide, available on Kindle and Nook.)


  1. This post is beyond fabulous! Thanks so much Susan. I needed to to see this (will bookmark for future inspiration) right now. I'm revising the second in a trilogy (the first was my debut) and well, my confidence is flopping at my feet. I'm hitting the negative 'lies' away like flies around (insert your choice of word for something smelly and a delicacy of flies). So I'm off for more inspiration via the rest of the Indelibles and your links. :)

  2. Wonderful post! For me, I tend to go between 1 and 2 for the lies, but I still keep writing. It's also so true that the more I do write, then the harder it seems to write. I guess knowing too much can sometimes slow the process. LOL!

    1. I think there is a real hindrance to so much writerly knowledge stuffed in your head. It's tougher to simply let loose and write, but when you do... the result can be even better than all your conscious knowledge at work!

  3. All good food for thought, and similar to my Indie Life post on how to build confidence. It's all related.

  4. I needed to read this. Thanks, Susan.

  5. Good post, Susan.
    I need to stop exhausting myself by going for perfect. I didn't feel like a writer until I was published, but I encourage other writer to think of themself as such before the contract arrives. I need to read the other posts in the series. Good stuff.

  6. This is a perfect reminder! And worth a tweet! :)

  7. It's like you've read my mind- freaky. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. I recently went through a few days of the "I'm a talentless hack" thing. It's a sucky place to be.

  9. Good stuff. I tell myself the lie that blogging is the same as writing:)