Blog

Learn how to become the author
you were meant to be

writing your book

Overcoming Self-Criticism and Writing Your Book

“Well, that was a breath of fresh air!”  

 I’d just taken my seat at the table where I was going to sign copies of The Book You Were Born to Write, after my reading at the Boulder Bookstore last week. The first woman in line was speaking to me, looking very surprised.

“You seem to think writing a book can be fun!” she said. “Most of the writers I know are not having fun. They’re constantly beating themselves up because they’re not doing a good enough job.” 

Cue Kelly’s heart sinking. It sank, because I knew she spoke the truth. 

The most important words aspiring authors need to hear are some of the least often spoken. 

You can do this. 

There is no failure except not trying. 

Writing is so much fun! 

And—most important of all: 

You are doing such a good job. 

Turns out these are not just trite little phrases. They are the honest truth. Moreover, they are incredibly important affirmations of the evolutionary impulse we feel as aspiring authors of transformational books. Not hearing them can be as bad as hearing we aren’t good enough. 

But from whom should we expect to hear these words? 

Sure, your bestie or your partner or a loving relative might have a few encouraging words to share.  

Sure, a writing teacher or book coach can (and, if they’re one of ours at KN Literary artswill) love bomb you on your way to finishing your project. 

And. 

There’s an even more important person who has to affirm your inner writer.  

Yep, I’m talking about you. 

The would-be author at my reading had walked in the door weighed down by self-criticism. Her own, and that which had been modeled to her by the other writers in her writing group.  

I’m not good enough. 

Who would want to read this anyway? 

I don’t have what it takes. 

I never finish anything I start. 

My talk—full of enthusiasm, encouragement and “let’s do this!” energy—had landed in her system as dissonance.

You think I’m good enough to write a book? 

This can be a joy-filled experience? 

Anyone who’s actually writing counts as a “real writer”? 

Does. Not. Compute. 

Perhaps you could have been this same woman. Perhaps you’re running some of the same lines of thought mentioned above.  

Just in case that’s true, we need to have a chat. Because what I know is that books don’t get written—not really good and useful and transformative books, anyway—when the author is being mentally and emotionally abused.  

And for most authors, the #1 perpetrator is…us. 

Granted, in most cases we’re just repeating things we heard throughout our childhood years. Back then we were like thirsty little sponges, soaking up information about how the world worked from everything we saw and heard.  

Parents trying to teach us the ways of the world…teachers trying to keep us in line…other kiddos test-driving their power trips on the playground. However these self-hating thoughts found their way into our operating systems, they’re cemented in place all these decades later.  

For most writers I know, self-demeaning, abusive thoughts are the norm. 

There’s something that seems…almost safe about them. After all, they’re familiar. And familiar feels good, especially when we’re taking a big leap into the unknown.  

(Pssst…writing a book? HUGE UNKNOWN.) 

We might start persuading ourselves that it’s safer to not write 

We might start thinking it’s safer to not put ourselves out there in a way that might attract attention.  

(Especially if we unconsciously believe ourselves to be defective, problematic or just plain broken. “Then everybody will know!” 

So we set this bar of writerly perfection. And we tell ourselves we can accept nothing less.   

What if this word or phrase is not perfection in print?  

Better close the laptop—for good.  

What if our first reader doesn’t absolutely swoon?  

Better never pick up a pen again. 

This is how the inner critic becomes the executioner of our writing dreams.  

There is only one way out of this conundrum. We must write. 

We must write our way past the inner critic. 

We must set ourselves small writing goals—and we must keep them, even when the self-hating trolls start doing their trolly thing.   

And once we succeed, we must affirm—out loud is best—“What a success!”  

We must declare, loudly and often, that we are doing SUCH a good job. 

(And we must support other writers to do the same.) 

I know it sounds hard, maybe impossible. There are so many hardwired stories that tell us the opposite. 

But overcoming those fear-inspired stories is the only way. The only way to write that book and accomplish our goal of serving others by sharing our wisdom and our stories. 

This is the only way, but I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s hard to pivot toward self-love and self-encouragement, after a lifetime spent swaddled in the safe cocoon of self-criticism.  

Self-love and self-kindness requires a new identity. We must build a new understanding of who we are, now that we’re no longer in a life-or-death attempt to be better than who we are. 

Said another way: 

We must walk our talk as transformational authors. 

We have to actually transform our self-talk so it mirrors the reality we want for our readers. 

It’s not about us anymore, it’s about them. To help the people you want to help, you have to start by being kind to yourself first. 

Let me say that again: Be kind to yourself. 

Make yourself a cup of tea. Say sweet things to the little one inside, even when she’s kicking and screaming about writing—or about not writing.  

Keep doing this until your book is written. (Then, just keep doing it, k? Life is better this way.)  

 Because if you’re on the journey of writing transformational books, you’re on a journey of serving the world.  

Your heart is in the right place. (Trust me, it is.) 

Your book will help people. (I’m a professional, I know these things.) 

And I happen to know on great authority, because God told me and wanted me to pass along the message to you (YES YOU!) right here, today:  

You are doing such a good job. 

Love + Books, Kelly

Share:

19 thoughts on “Overcoming Self-Criticism and Writing Your Book”

  1. Thank you Kelly —I needed that boost. Just sent back my manuscript to correct a design error and it should be ready for approval next week. Now it’s getting real and I bounce from euphoria to terror at least three or more times a day. “Cosmic Door” is nearing completion. Your words inspired me that no matter what happens for here on end I am proud to have reached my goal and can’t control the “life of the book”.

    Reply
    • Beautiful, Margaret! Getting this far is a huge accomplishment–you have made it beyond where most aspiring authors arrive! Well done! May your “baby” be ushered into the world with grace and be received with love. –Kelly

      Reply
  2. Thank you, Kelly. When I read the last line, tears welled up. It did feel as if God was saying that to me. I’ve been working with Annie Wylde on the book proposal for Hay House’s writing contest, and it’s been an amazing experience. I am very grateful for Annie’s supportive, positive comments along the way.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear this, Alice! I believe “God” (as each of us understands God) IS indeed saying this to us all the time. But sometimes we need another human to whisper it, so that we can really believe it’s true 🙂 Love, Kelly

      Reply
  3. Hi Kelly – I know all about the “inner critic” in my own case. I self sabotage often by getting side tracked by needing to get to something else on my “to do” list done and the deadline of two months for the completion of the manuscript becomes “maybe four to six months?” It takes focus as I have heard others, like yourself, say to set three hours a day for writing for example and stick to it. Right? It might also be called procrastination! Thanks for your great advice and ideas in your newsletter. I am looking forward to The Book You Were Born To Write which I just purchased at Chapters Indigo books here in Canada. All the best to you Kelly. Beth MacKinnon.

    Reply
    • YES YES YES! The first step to ending self-sabotage is to recognize it for what it is, haha. AND, I always say that books get born on a schedule; it’s not always OUR schedule, however! Wishing you the best as you enter the next phase of the dance with your book! Love, Kelly

      Reply
  4. Hello Kelly,

    Thank you for your message it is exactly what I needed. It is a very powerful message God told you to pass on and he has been helping me so much to move forward giving me these messages right when I need to him them.

    Kerrie

    Reply
  5. Thank you Kelly for your beautiful energy and knowledge! I received your book a few days ago and instead of writing like a maniac, everything is on hold. My book will wait for its final chapter. I am reading first “The book you were born to write.” I have a lot to review, remove and integrate. Back paddeling and I am so very willing to do that. My book is taking a new form in my mind and in my heart. Thanks Kelly.

    Reply
  6. Thanks Kelly my manuscript is with the editor for assessment and I’m relieved but also a little scared to get this book out there! (What will people think etc.) Thanks for the sweet encouraging reminders to drop the fears and negative self-talk, remember that it must be born into the world and hold my head high – I know I’ve got this. Congrats on your book and launch too!!! Xx

    Reply
  7. What a truth bomb! (Paraphrase) Impactful books don’t get written when the author is being mentally abused. Whoa! 😳 Let’s see a stop to it for sure! Thank you! I also think it’s helpful to not overthink the future of our readers, as our imaginations may suggest a worst case reaction scenario. Great blog! Thank you!

    Reply
  8. This is a fantastic boost of confidence, thank you. Just finishing a novel is enough of an achievement and something to be proud of. Self promotion is something else which requires an author (often introverted) to out themselves in front of a camera and talk about how wonderful they are. I think this has been my biggest hurdle and is something I plan to work on this year. I absolutely love writing and even editing has been enjoyable this time, knowing its getting me closer to getting my story out there. Hopefully I can convey my enthusiasm with a camera in my face. Thank you again for your blog and youtube channel, it has been very helpful 😊

    Reply

Leave a Comment