Writers: Nip Sabotage in the Bud

by limebirdmichele

Sabotage, that familiar word of dubious etymology — ‘some say it derives from the Netherlands in the 15th century when workers would throw their sabots (wooden shoes) into the wooden gears of the textile looms to break the cogs, fearing the automated machines would render the human workers obsolete’ — arrives in many forms. Especially insidious and as familiar to writers as sharpening pencils is the strain of sabotage aimed at oneself.

We do it every day, and most of the time we do not admit we are doing it.  We call it other things, like cleaning the house, playing with the children, paying the bills or mowing the lawn. Or even staring into space, which unlike those other frivolous pastimes I endorse as being the very ground of creativity.  I recommend a ratio of 2/3 staring at the chickens to 1/3 writing, followed by 1/3 other work and 2/3 more staring at the chickens. Don’t be tempted to fix the chickens or gather eggs. Sit on that impulse till another time when you can do it wholeheartedly.

For now, here’s a recipe for subverting self-sabotage. Like most wake-up calls it is brimming with profanity so if strong language offends you, steer away. I find it bracing.  I know I should pin it up on the wall because every thing he mentions is something I forget I am doing 1/25th of the time, when I am not doing the other 25 things. I know I should tape it to my windshield except it might cause an accident, which would provide me with another neat excuse for not writing.


20 Comments to “Writers: Nip Sabotage in the Bud”

  1. What if you don’t have chickens?

    Nice article.

  2. Wow, that’s a lot of swearing. He has some >i>really good points though!

  3. Big fan of Chuck Wendig and this is full of so much good advice.

    A chin up, toughen up approach has value, but I think it’s also important to remember, we’re all human and sometimes we get knocked down. The key is to get back up as soon as possible, but I think if we force ourselves to bounce back too quickly, we might overlook some of key things that could be setting us back in the first place.

    Stop the shame (#12) reminds me of a recent TED by Brene Brown.

  4. Reblogged this on teschoenborn and commented:
    I just have one thing to add—Amen—oh, and please check out Limebird Writers…

  5. You were right about the swears, but…a lot of comedians do that…it was funny AND true!!

  6. Absolutely agree – it’s too easy to procrastinate, do the housework, find something else that needs doing more urgently. The computer is filled with distractions too. I think Jonathan Franzen writes sans internet for that reason. Oddly, the problem I get isn’t that – it’s interruptions. Takes me 5-10 minutes to reorganise my thoughts, just in time for the next interruption.

    I just took a look at Chuch Wendig’s post – wow. Spot on, and necessarily robust. Hopefully will knock a bit of confidence into people.

    Matthew Wright

  7. My favourite is “Stop writing in someone else#s voice.” I think doing so would reduce or even negate the authenticity of one’s writing.

  8. I good swear word in the right place is an effective communication tool!

  9. I like the idea of taping reminders to the windshield – it’s the one place it might make me remember something! But yeah, not so safe. Followed @tschoenborns’s link here and now heading over to the link you mentioned…

  10. Excellent post – thanks for sharing. It helps to be bulletproof, as much as possible, in this business.

  11. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the self-sabotage business!

    • tell me about it! but then again writing about self-sabotage is its own micro-industry which only works when so many of us understand what it is…

      so as the young people say, it’s all good

  12. Chuck Wendig is The Man! I have a number of his ebooks and can’t recommend them highly enough! Great post and reminder that the only thing stopping us writing is ourselves…

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