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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: self-sabotage

Kristen Lamb, self-sabotage, self-help, sabotaging our success, tips for success

Self sabotage is so common in our Western culture, I think we’re almost oblivious to how much we actually do it. We’re even more clueless about specifically WHY we do it.

The answer is pretty simple, but I’ll add in something special to spice it up a bit.

*jazz hands*

#YouAreWelcome

Whether we want to become a best-selling author, start a blog, get in shape, or drink more water, the foundation for all success looks pretty much the same. Yes, foundation.

Ever seen a foundation?

Foundations aren’t sexy. Rebar, concrete, maybe some pipes and pylons. That’s pretty much it. From skyscrapers to that shed in the back yard, if we want that sucker to remain standing long-term, we must have a foundation.

Same in life.

The foundation for finishing a novel, running a 5K, rearing well-adjusted children who don’t grow up to be serial killers, all looks fairly similar. There are no MASSIVE, HUGE actions that determine the outcome. Rather, it’s the compilation of countless small (and consistent) actions that makes the difference.

Those unsung moments no one sees or cheers. The boring parts. Oddly enough though, this is part of why we’re so prone to sabotage success.

#1: The Foundation of Success is BORING Kristen Lamb, sabotage, self-sabotage, success, why we self-sabotage, self-help

If you haven’t figured this out already, then let me be the one to drop the truth bomb. Most ‘success’ is a complete and utter snooze-fest. I have a soft spot for the folks who build foundations. They don’t get the sexy part of the skyscraper, mansion, or house. Nope.

They get the ugly, sticky, repetitive and unsung work.

Work that, oddly enough, is the part NO ONE sees or ever compliments. Nobody walks past the Chrysler Building in NY and exclaims, ‘WOW, I bet those buried pylons, pillars and rebar are AMAZING!’

No, humans admire all the stuff that isn’t nearly as critical and we’re all but oblivious to the very thing that’s keeping everything standing.

This is part of what makes sabotage so appealing, especially in our modern culture. Foundations aren’t fun. We could post or tweet about our foundation-building, but we’d annoy ourselves and others in less than a week.

Here’s a pic of my eggs and kale juice…again. Just like the last twenty days.

I threw my clothes in the hamper instead of on the chair!

Paid a bill as soon as it came it! GOLD STAR!

Made sure I flossed.

Calmly but firmly corrected my child for being disrespectful.

Wrote another five hundred words on my novel.

Sure, we might post on this stuff now and again, but seriously. Who wants to hear about this? Probably no one. And, since foundations are dull, we sabotage and fixate on other ‘activities’ that deliver more zing.

Insta-Fame seems so much more fun than waiting on a darkroom destiny. 

self-sabotage, Kristen Lamb, sabotage, social media addiction, codependency and social media

Successful relationships, businesses, parenting, gardening are all pretty much a lot of wash, rinse, repeat.

Want to be a great writer? Write every day. Read as much as possible. Study. Get professional feedback, help, training so you can improve.

Start the book and finish the book.

Write, revise, revise, revise, edit, revise, edit again, publish, repeat. Simple.

Not glamorous…at all.

One exception—NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

One month out of the year, writers excel at getting words on the page—November. Why? Because what the professional does in the dark eleven months out of the year is suddenly a big brouhaha. The unsung mundane drudgery of the author is suddenly ALLURING and EXCITING.

Hey, I am NOT dissing NaNo. Quite the opposite. I LOVE it. Heck, it’s why I DO NaNoWriMo! ONE month out of the year I get freaking BADGES and AWARDS for doing…well, pretty much my JOB.

We gather our friends and tweet our drama and struggles. People actually give a rip about the best line we wrote that day. There’s a counter to display word count and if we’re close to ‘WINNING.’

Now Let’s Talk About the REST of the Year

But once NaNoWriMo is over, how many writers finish? How many sabotage? We keep going back over those first chapters ‘perfecting’? There are so many good reasons why we’ve not finished that novel—and there ARE—but the truth is that often WE ARE BORED.

Sabotage brings back the sizzle.

Remaining committed to a novel until ‘published do us part’ is HARD. Sabotage? Way funner (yes, ‘funner’ is a word…today). Start a NEW book, with an even BETTER idea. It’s HARD to figure out how to write my way out of a plot problem. It’s exhilarating to begin anew.

I know this from experience. Every book I’ve ever finished (and published) I never wanted to read AGAIN.

EVER.

This is the paradox of progress. The more miserable it feels, the harder it is? Likelier the closer we are to achieving the remarkable.

But…it…so…suuuuuucks.

Yep. All of it. I agree. I’ve been on both sides. Still am. I have SO many cool ideas for new books, but I’ve banned myself from writing any of them until I FINISH what I’ve started.

*primal screams*

Same in a lot of other areas. Sticking with one meal plan and exercise routine is a GRIND. Seriously, how much broccoli can a person eat? We allow tedium to have too much of a say and start a NEW plan.

Me? I’ve been RIDICULOUS here. I have LITERALLY begun a day with a plan for fasting in the morning but then by about 10:00 a.m.? Bacon sounds too good. So helloooo…um Keto? Keto is totally perfect. Until late in the afternoon when I really, really want some carbs and then ATKINS IT IS (because even induction lets me have some carbs).

By the end of the day? I’m eating marshmallow fluff with a spoon because, well…marshmallow fluff is ‘fat-free.’

*hangs head in shame*

Accept the boring parts, because the duller it is? Likelier the more vital.

One way to stop sabotage in all its many forms is to set our mind and keep it set. Accept that building foundations isn’t exciting…unless we fail to build them properly (or at all). Then it gets REAL exciting…and ugly, painful, and costly.

#2: Most of Success is Invisible

Sure, there are foundational behaviors that lead to success in all areas of life. We get that. But, foundations aren’t foundations unless we build something on top of that foundation. Otherwise? Unless we construct something meaningful on our foundation, we don’t have a foundation.

We have a really sturdy/well-plumbed parking lot.

But think about buildings, whether it’s a new strip-mall, sky-scraper or housing development. Aside from when we initially notice something is different—Hey, didn’t that used to be a scrap yard?—we pretty much zone out and go back to our lives.

We don’t pay attention to the framing and the drywall and the bricking and windows that are all being systematically added on top of the foundation. No one sees the grind (unless you’re the one in the grind). It isn’t until the builders are finished that we might even notice.

In our increasingly codependent world, we might sabotage because we crave attention and reassurance. This has only gotten worse, and is even impacting the groups who were initially the most resistant to participating on social media.

When I first started trying to get authors on social media, I thought they’d burn me as a witch.

Authors, historically, tend to be reclusive, anti-social, and prefer imaginary people and worlds over the real thing. We suffered and bled in silence. Braved rejection and wept and no one gave one single fig about our despair.

Once social media went mainstream, this ALL changed.

If one looks at the Myers-Briggs personality test, the INFJ is the author personality. It’s one of the rarest personalities. Yet, once social media went mainstream, I couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting some ‘author’ posting about being an INFJ.

They couldn’t see the irony that the TRUE INFJ was more likely to be the Unibomber than to be posting countless memes on Facebook about being an INFJ.

Alas, the personality least likely to even BE on social media seemed to never get OFF of it.

Maybe these folks are INFJs and social media is simply their NEW personal holodeck where they can remain in their own minds. That IS part of what made INFJs such prolific authors.

They wrote TONS of novels because they had to put words on a page if they wanted to experience a world they built and controlled and could live in most of the time without having to deal with people they hadn’t created themselves.

Me? I think Facebook Myers-Briggs tests aren’t entirely accurate. Also I’m pretty sure I was not Cleopatra in a previous life (well other than fab makeup, clothes, cats, worship and a hot Roman boyfriend…but no…okay on the fence if I believed in past lives).

In fairness, I am NOT an INFJ. I’m an ENFP and everyone expects me to be hopped up more than a toddler on cocaine-laced Pixie Sticks.

***As a note, for those who care. The ENFP is the most introversive of the extrovert classifications. I require long periods alone without people to recharge.

Sabotage gives short-term gratification.

I understand why we are so prone to sabotage this way (regardless of personality). First, just being a functioning adult is an utterly thankless job. No parties for the person who (correctly) loads the dishwasher. Zero compliments for using our blinkers when changing lanes.

I’ve yet to get a You Didn’t Go to JAIL Today! sticker. Not even any stickers for, Hey, Your Kid is Still Alive! Another Day NOT Worshipping Satan! GO YOU! You’ve had 4,973 Days With NO Underground Pit Bull Fights!

Oddly, the better we are at something (like NOT going to jail), the less likely others will notice and compliment.

People don’t compliment punctual people for being on time. Strangers don’t compliment us for waiting our turn in line at a store. Thanks to the People of Walmart, no one gives us a pat on the back for wearing pants when we go outside.

Utilities companies never send extra letters to people who always pay on time.

***I can, however, attest, they send a LOT of letters—ones that even change color—to those of us who are prone to forget or procrastinate.

Sabotage and the Thrill that Kills

As a long-time author, I can appreciate why writers are increasingly prone to leaning on social media for assurance. With the implosion of traditional publishing and rise of self-publishing, the goal posts and mile markers we used to celebrate—that used to actually MEAN something—are pretty much extinct.

When I first started, I would imagine getting the agent, the book deal, seeing my novels on B&N shelves, the book-signing, the accolades and praise for gutting it out long enough to be one of the chosen few. I envisioned my novels leaving top book critics and reviewers gobsmacked.

Not once did I ever envision how book reviews would be a popularity contest. That our books would be open to just anyone who wanted to say something, even if it was cruel, stupid, or untrue.

Did I mention STUPID?

I couldn’t conceive of a world where ‘people’ who’d never bought or even read my books would be permitted an opinion—an opinion that directly impacted my life.

***FYI, this is why Goodreads is dead to me.

Our rites of passage are all but gone. Publishing participation trophies have replaced authentic triumphs.

Before Amazon, to even be able to claim one was a published author inspired awe from strangers. Why? Because it wasn’t something just anyone could do. Even if our book sold five copies, we held a title most people would never attain.

We’d suffered years in private and made it through gate-keepers when most gave up. Now? I admit it’s hard for me to dream. The dreams are so much more daunting.

I could reasonably imagine landing an agent, getting a book deal, seeing my books on shelves.

To imagine being a NYT best-selling author, or that my books would be movies or HBO series was just bonus. In the realms of mythos. Sure, I’d have loved it to happen, but it wouldn’t have been necessary.

Now?

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I think the only way I’ll believe I’m a good writer is if I hit the NYT list and have my stories made into HBO series. Even then…

I already had ‘Imposter Syndrome’ like most creative people. But these days? In the digital paradigm?

*weeps*

Which brings me to my final point about success.

#3: Success is More than Vanity Metrics

You guys are smart, so you might see there’s been a bit of a theme running through this post. It is madness to define ‘success’ externally.

In regular life, we might find ourselves caring too much if people liked a post on Facebook or Instagram.

We can also fall into the comparison trap, judging our raw footage against other people’s highlight reels. I have family members who make Martha Stewart look like a slacker. They post pictures of their child taking art classes in London and the family trip to Lake Cuomo in Italy—which is FABULOUS and I am genuinely happy for them.

And then remind myself they LIVE in Europe and that a trip to Italy is like me going to Galveston for the weekend.

As for me and my life?

I just figured out the white bits on the bathroom wall are my cat Izzy’s art project. She’s very creative. I took away her yarn because she’d made the entire dining room into a God’s Eye/safety hazard.

So now?

I thought we just had a TON of nicks in the paint on the one bathroom wall…then I looked closer.

Apparently, Izzy has taken to tossing rolls of toilet paper into the bowl so she can scoop out the wet bits WHERE SHE THEN PASTES THEM ON THE WALL AND WISH I WERE JOKING. I had to clean up an entire wall of ‘Cat TP-Mache Art.’

This is what an evil genius looks like….

*breathes*

Metrics don’t make mega-authors.

When I teach writers, far too many want to learn how to be mega-marketers instead of brilliant/skilled storytellers. As if George R.R. Martin became one of the most influential authors in modern history because of his social media marketing and NOT because he’s penned a gazillion short stories, novels, and series.

Not because he’s practiced and studied and worked to hone natural talent into awe-inspiring genius.

Nope. Had to be his ad campaigns and mastery of Hootsuite *face palm*

Sabotage and busy-work.

Granted, mega-authors like George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King were already household names before the major shift in our world and in publishing. Alas, there are other authors who’ve ‘come of age’ in the modern era and the reason they are successful is because they focus on what matters most.

Finishing books.

Yes, as a branding expert, I will tell you that if you want to do this writing thing full-time and be paid and have any hope of success, you must have a platform and brand. This is no longer optional unless your last name is Kardashian.

For those of us who don’t already come from famous and uber-wealthy families, we have to cultivate our audience because discoverability is a nightmare.

Ah, but here is the catch. A platform and brand is only useful for an author that writes and finishes and then publishes books.

***I have one finger pointed at y’all and three at myself.

Yet, far too many writers are fixated on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, building a newsletter, improving their metrics, and all this is a distraction. Worse, it’s a socially acceptable form of sabotage.

Even blogging can be self-sabotage. One has to be careful. Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I’ve not been posting as much. I needed to be focusing more on other areas of my writing (and recovering from multiple rounds of dental work).

***Though, to be fair, prolific blogging will vastly improve our writing skills, our speed, self-discipline and ability to make self-imposed deadlines. Facebook and Instagram? Not so much.

Just DO IT

We might chat more on this another time, but all this frou-frou stuff is best summed up by the famous Nike slogan—JUST DO IT. Sure, we’ll talk later about our why and motives and all that other jazz. For now? Just DO it.

We all self-sabotage. There is no need for us to journal about or fears, to learn our triggers, or uncover all the reasons we feel like frauds. Granted, it’s good work…just do it AFTER the hard work.

Pretty much everyones self-sabotages. Why? For the same reason we eat junk food and binge watch Netflix. IT’S FUN. #Duh

But if we can simply accept that sabotage, while a great high in the short run, seriously sucks long-term (much like living on Twinkies and hard liquor). If we can just deal with THAT truth? Everything else becomes easier to endure.

If we can appreciate success (however you define it) is a lot of same ol’ same ol’ and that most people won’t give a fig about what we are doing or not doing…then we can move on with it and enjoy a life rich with meaningful accomplishments.

We can rear non-serial killer kids, build enduring friendships, find joy in small moments of mundane…and we can keep writing sucky books. Write sucky books and finish sucky books and eventually the sucky books start being less sucky and maybe even one day are GENIUS.

Won’t know unless we finish.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you find yourself getting stuck because every day looks so much like the day before? It seems so far to the finish line that you start taking a break here and there only to wake up and realize you’ve not written in months? Do you change your mind, diet, goals, plans, more than my kid changes socks?

***Hint: That is A LOT.

In the modern world of publishing, do you struggle with celebrating accomplishments because—short of landing your own HBO series—being a published author doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal?

Do you struggle with feeling like a fraud? Wonder if your writing really is any good or if maybe you should consider learning how to do medical billing instead?

Are you frustrated with the world of popularity contests? With the push to be plugged in ALL THE TIME? I am.

Business idea. Someone PLEASE open a salon that forbids electronics. I miss going to get my hair done and chatting with other women. Now they all stare at tablets like zombies.

I LOVE hearing from you!

Really, I do. Y’all give me fresh perspectives. But if I don’t hear from you? That’s cool, too, because I have books to finish. And now that I am FINALLY through all my dental surgeries (I hope), new classes to create.

In the meantime, here are some FABULOUS On Demand offerings… ((HUGS))

SABOTAGE-PROOF with some ON DEMAND CLASSES!!!

On Demand Fiction Addiction: Write the Books Readers CRAVE!

On Demand for a limited time. Watch all you like from comfort of home. $55

On Demand Story Master: From Dream to Done (A.K.A. Fast-Drafting 101) 

On Demand for a limited time. $55 for basic/$349 for GOLD

On Demand: Harnessing Our Writing Power with THE BLOG!

On Demand for a limited time. $55 Basic/$165 for GOLD

ON DEMAND: A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

 

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

There are SO many reasons why being a professional author is TOUGH. Much of what authors do is counter to human nature. It is NOT natural to sit still and write a 100,000 words. It’s human nature to avoid stress, pain, and trauma, while an author’s job is to inflict as much suffering as possible.

Good writers are death dealers, anguish agents, and pain peddlers (which probably is why we freak ‘normal’ people out). Yet, we know torment is necessary for the greater good. A ‘story’ without seemingly unbeatable odds, terrifying stakes, and white-knuckled tension isn’t a story.

It’s self-indulgent tripe.

The ultimate objective of any author worth their ink cartridges is to create so much pressure we might just give our readers the bends.

Yet, this is not ‘natural.’ It is also not simple. There is nothing about being an author that is easy, and thing is?

Most of us fear we don’t have what it takes.

We’re also terrified to admit this. So what do we do? We become our own worst enemies and self-sabotage. And, since writers generally are smart, we self-sabotage in ways that appear to be REAL work to the untrained eye.

Thus, today, we’re going to discuss some of the clever ways writers self-sabotage. Since I’ve been guilty of ALL of these (because I’m a ridiculous overachiever), I can speak from experience. When it comes to self-sabotage, I would have been top of the class…but didn’t study for the final until the night before.

Self-Sabotage—Give Me Liberty OR Give Me DEATH!

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

This writer longs to be completely FREE! No boundaries, restrictions, or rules. Total liberty. They throw caution to the wind and GO!

In the writing world, we refer to folks who write by the seat of their pants as ‘pantsers.’ Many new writers start out as a pantser, because we are dying to WRITE. We love ALL THE WORDS and want to get them down and on the page. Planning takes TIME! Ruins the spontaneity. Who needs a plot? *rolls eyes*

My story can’t be forced. Plot will reveal itself. Like, it’s totally ORGANIC.

***Know what else is totally organic? Bull$#!t. Just food for thought 😉 .

Anyway, this type of writer might (mistakenly) believe that an outline or anything remotely resembling a structure equals ‘formulaic writing.’ I know, because I claimed that nonsense at one time as well.

Truth was, I wanted to play with my imaginary friends, and learning craft was hard and boring and looked way more like HARD WORK than I was comfortable with.

Also, obviously, I was an ‘exception’ due to my superior, innately born, and gifted-from-angels ‘talent.’ Thus, the rules applied to everyone but me, because *hair flip* I was smarter.

Yep, sure.

All excellent stories have structure, because a story is akin to a living organism. It needs BONES, because guess what had no bones? The Blob. If we want a squishy creature that just keeps getting bigger and bigger by absorbing more characters, descriptions, plot bunnies and adverbs?

Meet BLOB, not BOOK.

If pantsing is your jam, that’s fine. But authors who are excellent pantsers took time to learn and understand how story structure WORKS. Sometimes this is a person who’s read a gazillion books. They’ve read SO many novels, structure is almost ingrained into their marrow.

Perhaps they wrote a crap ton of bad books that fizzled and died. After years of writing utter crap, eventually they didn’t.

These authors are like the self-taught musician who plays by ear.

Problem with this approach is a writer is more likely to give up than be successful. A creative can only endure so many stillborn stories, before we just give up.

Been there.

A person who learns to play a guitar by listening to music and plucking around can possibly be AMAZING. However, classes covering even basics like finger positions and chords can help…a lot. The would-be guitarist will get to making something that sounds like actual ‘music’ far faster.

Thus, the self-sabotage is not the writer’s choice to be a pantser, rather the almost savage reaction to any suggestion regarding learning structure.

Deep down the reason the writer won’t consider a log-line, outline, basic plot points is because of two false beliefs. First, they believe if they ‘succumb’ to *shivers* structure, they therefore lack talent.

Only amateurs need paint-by-numbers. <—me

Secondly, they might also believe they really DON’T have talent/ability. Thus, if they actually read the books and took the classes, they’d have no reason NOT to write amazing stories. <—totally me, too

Fearing authentic failure, the Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death crowd makes certain to always pick the path that leads to ‘something other than them’ being the source of failure. This could be failure to ever finish, or failure to write a book that sells (either to an agent or an audience).

I’m not writing the right genre. The idea wasn’t as good as I thought. Nobody is reading BLAH genre. My book isn’t bad, it’s ‘literary’ and agents/editors/readers just don’t ‘get’ my story.

Whatever.

Any excuse other than to admit fear of not ‘having enough talent.’

Self-Sabotage—The Craft Class JUNKIE

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Knowing Amazon is chock full of ‘novels’—self-indulgent personal fantasy fulfillment tropes with no plot—this writer goes to the OTHER extreme. They hit the books, blogs, classes, conferences and do all the exercises. The Craft Class Junkie is a near relative of the professional college student.

This writer is perfectly okay, so long as their ‘knowledge’ is never actually put to the test. While brilliant regarding theoretical, they cave when it comes to practical application. Writers like this are always exploring various ‘methods.’

In fact, they likely never choose any method, or at least not long enough to finish and see it through. To practice with it until they are skilled.

See, writing is really, really freaking hard. Like the Give Me Liberty or Death group, Craft Junkies believe (again mistakenly) that if they were ‘good’ enough, writing a story would NOT be hard.

Which is total bunk.

Thus, the Craft Junkie might start out with the Snowflake Method, hit the inevitable second act slump, then shelve the story…because you know, snowflakes are flaky and it just wasn’t working. The story really needed this method or that method.

The Write A Novel in a Week By Channeling Your Spirit Animal! Now THAT’S the ticket.

Envision your story squirrel and merely describe what your story squirrel sees in as many words as possible.

The Liberty or Death and the Craft Junkie are two sides of the same coin.

The pantser is at least willing to write…a lot. Even if they have no idea where the hell they’re going, they at least GO. This writer actually NEEDS the craft training.

Conversely the Craft Junkie is incredibly educated, but it’s all theoretical. This author needs actual practice.

Writing is actually a trade/artisan skill which requires training AND loads of practice, practical experience, and yes…failure.

Self-Sabotage—The Background BOSS

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Maybe we wrote some ‘stories’ or ‘novels’ and realized we had a bunch of paper dolls, talking heads, and kept writing ourselves into a corner. Eager to get to writing (with or without an outline) we jumped the gate. We failed to take time to really know and understand our characters.

Thus, we commit to knowing every character intimately from their favorite cereal to the name of their first kitten. We will open every psychological door!

Problem is, we can fall in LOVE with the background.

Backstory is to the novel what crossfit is to sports.

Seems close to the real thing but isn’t. We can self-sabotage with planning and more planning and adding more layers.

Backstory is fun because we have no skin in the game. It isn’t our NOVEL, which will actually test our mettle. It’s the intensive activity that permits a thrill of storytelling without any of the commitment.

Like doing crossfit, I can become extremely fit, which is fantastic if my goal is to simply be super fit.

It is only when I commit to applying this crossfit training to something else (a sport) that my ‘activities’ become more than rolling around large tires and swinging kettlebells. Application is the only place my strength, endurance, and dexterity can truly be measured.

Backstory is CRUCIAL. In fact, Cait is teaching a class on backstory I STRONGLY recommend. But if we aren’t vigilant, it can end up the writer equivalent of dragging around a tractor tire and believing this is progress. Backstory is to help make us the best at writing great novels, not number one at creating character profiles.

Backstory is IN THE PAST

Meaning it’s already happened. The true test of a storyteller is to use the past create an unknown future.

Sure, Fifi has had a bad life, but when presented with a problem that pokes her wounds, HOW DOES SHE DEAL/OR NOT DEAL?

Yet, the Backstory Boss isn’t comfortable going forward because that’s scary, and the past has passed and is safer.

Just as the crossfitter knows she can do cherry-pickers all day, she’s possibly afraid that, if she played field hockey or soccer or started doing roller derby, she might be terrible. Same with the writer who’s self-sabotage manifests in a ton of busy-work.

They’re endlessly tweaking backstories or even trashing perfectly good backstories and starting over…and over.

And over.

There is an insidious addiction to preparation and yet never enough preparation to commit to the ACTUAL GAME. Fear of failure, rejection, success all powers the self-sabotage cycle. #AskMeHowIKnow

Self-Sabotage—The Research Hoarder

self-sabotage, how writers self-sabotage, writing and productivity, writing tips, how to get published, write more books, Kristen Lamb, procrastination, writers and procrastination, fear and creativity

Research MATTERS. Granted, some genres require more research than others. Cupcake Cozy vs. Epic Historical. Totally different levels of research, but might want to know a little about baking even for the cozy.

Trust me, I’m writing a horror set in the Old West. I can affirm that learning how to write historical has been an @$$ beating. I’ve read everything from Mark Twain to St. Augustine, to Goethe. I’ve watched countless documentaries, studied food, weapons, cooking, clothing, idiomatic expressions, medicine, global politics, *taps out*.

Yes, I HAD to research to make dead certain this story could reasonably happen. Granted, it is a Western Horror, but the speculative angle doesn’t give me a free pass on history/research.

As my coauthor (Cait) has lectured me, my characters cannot be riding train cars not yet invented or passing through towns not yet imagined, let alone established.

Yes, ma’am *whimpers and fetches ice pack*

In fact, research is critical for my world-building (I.e. the barber having a corner chair at the saloon pulling teeth while patrons eat and drink nearby).

Yet, there is a fine line between wanting the details to be correct ‘enough’ versus wanting them to be PERFECT. Perfect is the enemy of the finished. We will never write a perfect novel, so don’t try.

Remember the AUDIENCE

Yes, please research. It’s part of our JOB to know and understand the world we’re writing about. We’re also wise to appreciate that readers will gravitate to our novel because they LOVE the subject. It is prudent to appreciate our audience might even be knowledgable.

Thus, if we’re writing a mystery-suspense with a homicide detective as our MC, we BETTER know how that all works, because our AUDIENCE likely does. NOTE: Unless this is OUR professional background, our audience is probably NOT law enforcement (because they can’t watch Miami CSI without suffering an aneurism).

Much like if we write medical mysteries, medical personnel probably NOT our audience because they watched House once, and nearly died…of laughter.

Relax, Already

Sure retired lawyers, detectives, doctors, etc. write stories that even people who share their profession might enjoy…if they enjoy reading about WORK in their free time. But even the pros must take liberties for fiction.

Our audience generally will be people who know the broad strokes of these worlds (the ‘interesting parts’), but know them very, very well. They know about blood transfer, blood spatter, ballistics, Luminol, body lividity, etc.

Suspense, mystery, thriller readers are people who’ve watched so many episodes of Forensic Files they yell at murderers on Dateline the same way men yell at football games.

Seriously? You PAID the hit man with a PERSONAL CHECK under the video cameras at Taco BELL? You deserve the needle.

Or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, the audience will (likely) know who does what job when and where and how. This means we (the authors) should know this stuff, too.

But, in the end, fiction is NOT reality.

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To paraphrase Hitchcock, ‘Fiction is life with the boring crap taken out.’ Accuracy, to a degree, draws readers into the fictive dream.

Yet, if we were completely accurate, then a murder mystery would be 400,000 pages long and detail excruciating paperwork for warrants, multiple interviews, polygraphs, interrogations, months waiting on DNA, CODIS, filing MORE paperwork, and answering every crackpot tip on the hotline.

Also gotta make sure the unit secretary Brenda Baffleghast’s retirement party is included because, you know…authenticity.

Oh and remember to include the local psychic who saw the murderer’s face burned on her toast!

Research is vital because the better we do this scouring, the easier it is to work seamlessly within our world without interrupting creative flow. The deeper the well to draw from, the richer the story, the more opportunities to create magic.

Beware of paralysis by analysis.

It is OKAY not to know everything…so long as we nail the major stuff.

I cannot have my MC traveling through the Fort Worth Stock Yards in 1860 BECAUSE IT DID NOT EXIST UNTIL 1876. 

This is a major point and something I reasonably should have researched and know while plotting.

Alas, expect some research troll to appear, majorly miffed who will write a detailed two-star review saying crap like, ‘Well, I couldn’t get into the book. The railroad didn’t use the gringle-doffer-doodle-mabobber until 1875 and the author has it in 1874. After that? I was totally thrown out of the story. I mean did the author even TRY?’

Sure did. Just not nearly as hard as you tried to be a total @$$…

At the end of the day…

All these ways of self-sabotage are not in and of themselves BAD or WRONG. It took me starting and never being able to finish 27 ‘novels’ for me to get a clue and maybe read a craft book…or ALL OF THEM. I ended up going to the OTHER extreme and was terrified to WRITE until I knew…EVERYTHING.

I’m not a plotter or pantser, I’m a plotser 😀 .

I have a hard-drive bursting with fantastic backstories I will likely never use. Not to mention I’ve listened to over TWO THOUSAND hours of audio books in less than two years. This is NOT counting time spent reading paper books or e-books on my Kindle, articles, papers….or the books taped behind my toilet.

Suffice to say my ‘research’ might have gone a tad…okay completely off the rails.

But I am much better now…. *drools*

So if you’ve been hiding in any of these self-sabotage safe spaces, it’s okay. The one leaving cookie crumbs? Probably me.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Did you see yourself in any of these ‘profiles’ or maybe…ALL of them? *hangs head* Have any to add? How do you struggle? If you’ve overcome one of these self-sabotaging habits, do you have tips, suggestions, war stories?

And if the BOG OF BACKSTORY is where you get stuck, remember Cait is teaching how to do this well…without needing safety line to make sure you return to your loved ones 🙂 .

Backstory—The Yarn Behind the Book

June 8th with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds

NEW CLASSES! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.

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