Gremlins wait in the wings because writers have a naiveté, an innocence, a sense of wonder and adventure. When we acknowledge and understand our Writing Gremlins, it makes it easier for us to show up as creative powerhouses for our writing.
"Writers are like silent actors playing all the parts." ~Heather Dakota
Who are the Gremlins
Gremlins are the bane of our existence, our limiting beliefs manifesting in the world. When we bring a new awareness to these little buggers showing up, it helps us show up for ourselves and stop sabotaging what we really desire to manifest into the world.
One way of looking at our Gremlins is to see them as a habitual way of thinking that started in childhood. When you were little, your Gremlins helped you stay out of trouble. They protected you by repeating what they saw and heard from adults and authority figures—in essence, teaching you to stay safe by doing well and avoiding displeasing those who were critical to your survival. But, while you’ve grown up and moved on, your Gremlins haven't. They still bully, judge, and criticize to “keep you safe.”
Your Gremlins date back to when adults knew best and were always right, and children were wrong. This is how your Gremlins still view the world.
However, you’re no longer a child.
As an adult, you have your own values, set of beliefs, and ways of doing things. You can think for yourself and decide what is best for you and what will protect you. You no longer have to please others to survive.
Let’s look at each Gremlin individually to identify your Gremlins and see how they hold you back and how you can move forward in your writing with wisdom and knowledge.
Gremlin 1: Fear
Our writing exposes us for exactly who we are. Yikes! When we don’t feel competent, it ramps up our insecurities, and the demons in our past reemerge and want to be seen. Hello FEAR! Fear tends to be made up of stories we believe about ourselves that aren’t based in truth. We may have taken on these stories from our parents or past experiences.
When Fear begins to keep us from writing, we might:
Feel frozen, not able to take action.
Make excuses for why we aren’t writing.
Do anything but write. (Fear masked as Procrastination)
Begin many projects, so we don’t have to face the scary part of them being completed. (Fear masked as Overwhelm)
Feel as if you aren’t good enough or know enough to write. (Fear masked as judgment)
Troubleshoot Fear by
Make a list of all your writing fears. What are you afraid will happen? Why is that?
Journey to your past. How did you overcome fear back in the day?
Take small steps to get back into the flow.
Practice, Practice, Practice build confidence and skills.
Whose voice do you hear when Fear is present? Sometimes, it’s not your story but the story of someone else who is holding you back.
Fear has us asking these questions:
What if I’m not good enough?
What if I fail?
What if I succeed?
What if I’m wasting my time and money for nothing?
What if I think an idea is great, but it really sucks?
What if I lose friends and family for being myself?
Am I too old?
NEVER let your stories or the fears of others get in the way of your dreams.
Gremlin 2: Perfectionism
Uh-oh! Your project just became a chore because of unrealistic expectations. Congratulations! You’ve just met Perfectionism.
If Perfectionism is standing in your way…
Your worth may be caught up in your writing’s quality or success and not with who you are.
Your standards and expectations may be unrealistic or unattainable.
You may be relying on the validation of others.
There is no joy in the process because of all the pressure you put on yourself.
You’re comparing and judging everything harshly.
You may think there is only one right way. (black or white thinking)
You value being faultless and cannot tolerate mistakes, blunders, detours, and unexpectedly wonderful ideas.
You're editing before you finish writing.
Troubleshoot Perfectionism by
Relax your expectations. Make them recklessly low.
Allow the writing to suck. We can make lemonade from those lemons.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone. The only person you can compare yourself to today is the you from yesterday.
Get Real. Perfect isn’t possible.
Give yourself credit for what you have accomplished, even the tiniest of things.
Let go of “all or nothing” approach. There’s always a third choice.
Repeat to yourself, “It’s good enough.”
Imagine what it would be like to be reckless, imperfect, wildly happy, and free.
Tell Perfection to come back when you’re editing. You’ll need perfection then!
Writing cannot be mastered. You will ALWAYS be learning.
Note: Troubleshooting Perfection doesn’t mean accepting sloppy. It means do the best you can. Then, let that shit go.
Gremlin 3: Procrastination
You are experiencing a snowflake of excuses for why you should be doing something else rather than writing. Then, you feel guilty for not doing the writing. It is the “Squirrel” Effect. Meet Procrastination!
Procrastination is so common. We often succumb to other activities because they are way easier than doing what we need to do, like write your first scene or topic.
If procrastination is standing in your way...
You start projects but never finish.
There are a million other things that are more important that writing.
The project seems like a waste of time.
You get excited about starting a project, but lose momentum when it gets hard.
You're easily distracted by a shiny, new project.
You pick up your phone to check social media instead of writing.
Troubleshooting Procrastination can be tricky, try these tricks:
Have an accountability partner to help you stay on track with your intentions and goals.
Dare yourself to write for 20 minutes without a distraction. Then, give yourself 5 minutes of playtime.
Take a minute and let your intuition decide what next step to take.
Set small deadlines, but make it dramatic, as if the floor will become lava or there will be snakes on the floor. Did you play that game as a kid?
Set realistic writing deadlines, goals, and tasks.
If distractions are your way of procrastinating, turn off all devices or use an app to help you focus. With the Forest app, each time you start a focus session, you plant a tree in the app. While you work, it grows on the screen. If you leave the app during the session, your tree dies.
Procrastination is often a mask for Fear of vulnerability or embarrassment, so dig a little deeper if you’re having trouble getting over Procrastination.
Gremlin 4: Comparison
Oh, look at that beautiful Instagram feed! That’s way better than my old photos. That person is so much farther along in her business than I am. Oh, look! That person just put out the exact same words that I was going to write. Your Comparison Gremlin is raising its ugly head.
Comparison usually shows up with a companion, like Perfectionism or your Inner Critic. Comparison rarely goes anywhere alone. Comparison can also grow Fear.
If Comparison shows up, you might...
Think that every other writer is farther along that you are.
Follow the crowd to attract more attention to your writing.
Feel like you're too old, don't know enough, or aren't worthy to write like you want.
Think your writing isn't good enough.
Take a lot of writing classes, courses, or workshops and feel bad about your writing afterward.
Troubleshoot Comparison with these tricks:
Self-Compassion, please. You are exactly where the Universe wants you at this moment. Your time will come.
Repeat after me. “I’m good enough to write what I want.”
Compliment the other person instead of comparing yourself to them.
Understand. There will always be someone better. ALWAYS.
Focus on your strengths. Write them down. Post them on your computer.
Writing is not a competition. It wastes a lot of energy to compare yourself to others. How about be inspired by them instead.
The only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday.
Gremlin 5: Overwhelm
You know that feeling of spiraling out of control, then feeling helpless and stuck in quicksand? Overwhelm is the drama queen. Everything is off the rails on the crazy train, but you can’t move, like a deer in the headlights. You might just cry, and you haven’t had a shower in at least a week…or maybe longer.
If Overwhelm is hanging around, you may be thinking...
I need to do it all, be-all, right now.
There’s so much to know and do.
Writing is so hard.
I don’t have enough time.
People are blowing passed me in their writing careers.
Help! I’m drowning.
I really want to write, but (fill in the blank).
Let’s troubleshoot Overwhelm with a few of these tricks.
STOP! Take a deep breath. Step away from the project…slowly.
Break things down into itty-bitty steps. Forget about the big picture of writing a novel. Can you write for 5 minutes today? Can you write 100 words in 10 minutes? Start there!
Bring your thoughts back to one small step.
Tap into curiosity and compassion. Perfectionism and Overwhelm are bosom buddies.
Make a list of what needs to get done. Then, set priorities (no more than 2 or 3 each day) AND not everything is a priority.
Use “I get to” in front of each item.
Take a clarity break. What’s really going on here?
Gremlin 6: Self-sabotage
Self-sabotage, also known as Chaos, can throw up a giant roadblock on your writing endeavors. If you can refrain from blaming it on a lack of skills, knowledge, or wisdom, you’ll be able to move forward past self-sabotage.
When Self-sabotage shows up in a writing projects, you may:
Start but not finish your writing project.
Have other Gremlins show up, too. Perfectionism, Overwhelm, Procrastination often mask themselves in Self-sabotage
Feel frustration, distractions, fussiness, or stuckness.
Find it challenging to bring your ideas to fruition.
To Troubleshoot Self-Sabotage, try these tricks:
Vary your writing process. Creativity is not static. What works one day may not work the next.
Go play. Yep, childlike wonder and exploring the absurd and silly can put Self-Sabotage in time out.
Break it down into tiny bite-size steps—something doable in this moment.
Lower your expectations. Write that shitty first draft and let it suck!
Don’t quit before the miracle. 85% of writers quit before reaching the mountaintop.
Take a Break. Step away from the project. Fresh eyes will reduce Self-sabotage.
Gremlin 7: The Inner Critic
If within your beautiful, extraordinary, creative mind, you hear things like “too old,” “not good enough,” and “it’s too hard,” You have met your inner critic. I always see my inner critic as the Wicked Witch of the West or my second-grade teacher, Ms. Welch. We all have one of those.
When you meet your inner critic, you’ll feel...
Discouraged and give up.
Very little joy when you succeed.
Resistance and Rebellion to get back at your Inner Critic.
Cranky, envious, and moody where your writing is concerned.
Comparison sneaking into the mix.
Troubleshoot your Inner Critic by being conscious of how you’re talking to yourself. Show yourself some extra compassion.
"If writing were easy, everyone would do it."
Gremlin 8: Rebellion
In our quest to defy the norm and be original, we meet Rebellion. This rebellious nature can lead you to innovation and uniqueness, but it can also steer you into refusing to heed your sacred calling.
Your inner child is a big player in rebellion.
Sooth Rebellion with these tricks:
Make your project a game. Promise small rewards along the way.
Rebel against one of the other Gremlins, like Procrastination or Perfectionism.
Focus on being on your own side instead of rebelling against yourself.
Team up with a friend, working on different projects at the same time.
Day after day, repeating your determination and intentions will bring Rebellion down to size.
Gremlin 9: Resistance
The twin to Rebellion is Resistance. If you aren’t rebelling, you’re probably saying, “You can’t make me.” This is especially true when it comes to structures and planning. Yeah, I see you out there.
Yep, your inner child is at play in resistance, too.
Resistance kicks in when we feel mistreated. The Gremlins mistake the adult YOU as the ones who crossed your path in the past.
To troubleshoot Resistance, try these tricks:
Pretend you are one of your characters who is ruthlessly committed to writing.
Take gentle, small steps to soothe Resistance.
Be kind to yourself. This, too, shall pass.
Break out your determination button and push on through resistance with “Yes I can.”
If you're having trouble with your Writing Gremlins, check out this article with the Gremlin Banishing Spell.
It’s important to take a stand against your Gremlins to do battle when they attack your Writing Muse. Sometimes landing on your face isn’t such a bad thing. At least you’re falling forward and moving forward with your writing and that's all that really matters.
Remember that you climb stairs one step at a time. It’s the same with writing.
If you are overwhelmed by the self-publishing game, I'm here to help.