28. Six Emotions that are Hurting Your Writing

In my last blog, I talked about six emotions that can help you write. In this blog, I’m going to talk about six emotions that are not helpful when you’re trying to write a book or build your author platform.

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The reason why I'm doing another blog on feelings–and the reason why I'll probably do many blogs to do with feelings–is because feelings are what drive every single action that we take. You have to pay attention to them. You have to learn how to use them and you have to learn how to spot the ones that aren’t working for you. Your feelings drive your actions and your actions create your results.

This means that how you feel is going to determine how many books you write, how much money you make, and how successful you are as an author.

When it comes to unhelpful emotions, these are the emotions that drive us to take action that we don’t want to be doing. Like buffering with shopping, tv, social media, or anything else that doesn’t bring us closer to our goal.

Which brings me to today's lesson: indulgent, unhelpful emotions for writers.

What makes these six emotions so unhelpful is that they pretend to be necessary. At the time when we are thinking them, we usually don't realize that we are indulging in these negative emotions because they feel productive or important. But these unhelpful emotions will stop progress and won't move you forward towards your goal.

A good example of this is the emotion “anxiety.”

1. Anxiety

Anxiety can come from thinking thoughts like: “I have to produce the perfect series outline before I start writing so I can avoid mistakes.”

This seems like a helpful thought. But what happens?

You feel anxious. So you spend a lot of time making outlines, and character bios, and not actually writing your story.

It’s certainly okay to make an outline, but when it’s fuelled by anxiety, the anxiety actually stops the action of writing the book you want to write.

2. Confusion

When you’re trying something new, like writing a novel, it’s normal to be confused by aspects. That’s why this emotion is important to understand because it will happen, the same as anxiety. Confusion is normal, and expected, and yes, also indulgent.

Confusion pretends to be necessary because it makes you think there is a right answer.

If you’re confused about what should happen next in your story, it’s because you think there is a right answer.

If you’re confused about whether or not you should self-publish or send more queries, it’s because you think there is a better option. And if you could just spend some time thinking about it, if you could just do some more research, just get some more opinions, then you’ll know what to do and you’ll finally get to be happy.

But let me tell you, this is not what actually happens.

When you get confused about your story, you stop writing it. When you’re confused over self-publishing or sending queries you don’t do either. Progress halts.

If you find you’ve been spinning in confusion, the best thing you can do is to make a decision. And expect it to feel scary and uncomfortable because the confusion was lying to you that there is a right answer. Making a decision will save you a lot of time. There is no right answer. Make a decision and go all-in with it.

The other thing you can ask yourself is, "what would you get to feel if there was a right answer and you chose it?". Whatever you answer is the feeling your hustling for. That's the feeling need to create for yourself right now.

The next emotion can sometimes come from confusion, as confusion often spins to self-doubt as you inevitably start doubting yourself because you’re so confused.

3. Self-Doubt

Self-doubt can show up in a lot of different ways, but you can always find by looking at your results:

  • If you’ve written multiple books but have not published them because you don’t think they are good enough, the unpublished books are a result of self-doubt.

  • If you have an idea for a book but haven’t written it because you don’t think you can commit to it, the lack of that book is a result of self-doubt.

If you want to find areas where you are indulging in self-doubt, look to your results and ask yourself why you have that result. What you will find is that it’s because of a thought in your mind.

Self-doubt is created by your thoughts, not by anything else.

If you want to learn more about self-doubt, I encourage you to listen to Episode 17: Your Self-Doubt is Stunting Your Story.

4. Overwhelm

Overwhelm comes from thoughts like, “there’s so much to do,” and, “there’s so much going on,” or, “nothing is working.” It’s an emotion that’s very easy to get caught up in, and to just spin in for days, weeks, even months because it can feel so outside of your control.

Overwhelm pretends to be driven by what’s going on outside of you. It pretends it’s being caused by everything that’s going on in your life.

But what’s actually causing the overwhelm, is what you are thinking about all those things. It’s caused by your negative thoughts about these events. That’s why you might not even realize that you are spiralling in overwhelm. Because you haven’t you noticed it’s being caused by your thoughts.

The other reason you might be stuck in overwhelm is because overwhelm is a feeling that many people try and fix by doing a bunch of things. We try and solve for a negative feeling by taking a lot of action.

If you’re caught up in taking a bunch of action from the feeling of "overwhelm," you might not realize that these frantic actions are not moving you closer to your goal.

You’re doing a lot of things, but they’re not giving you the results you want. You’re frantically rewriting the same pages you wrote yesterday, taking a lot of action, and yet you’re not closer to the published novel you want.

If you’re overwhelmed about the prospect of trying to work a full-time job, write a novel, and see your family, you might find yourself being run off your feet, doing all the things, but not enjoying any of it and not actually moving ahead in any of the areas. You’re not working mindfully, you’re not spending your time valuably at work, and you’re not connecting with your family the way you want to because you feel overwhelmed.

The biggest problem with overwhelm is that the more overwhelmed you are the more you find reasons to be overwhelmed.

The more small things derail you – everything becomes a bigger deal. Then when you start thinking that you’re overwhelmed you become overwhelmed about being overwhelmed. There is no way out of that. There is no winning when you are overwhelmed. That’s why it’s indulgent.

If you are overwhelmed now and want to stop indulging in it, the best thing you can do is to break everything down to the facts.

Remember, overwhelm is caused by your thoughts. There are facts, and then there are your thoughts about them. Break events down to just the facts (that means it’s something everybody would agree on, no opinions). Then take that fact and decide what you want to think about it, and if it’s worth being overwhelmed about.

A fact might be, that you have a job, and you have 1-hour scheduled on your calendar to write. Now, what do you want to think about that?

Another thing you can try is offering yourself fewer options. Instead of spending the day trying to do all the things, this day you are going to spend with your family. No drama. Limit your options, and manage your mind to help with overwhelm.

5. Righteousness.

This is a sneaky emotion that takes a lot of self-awareness to recognize. Acting from a place of righteousness, will not give you the results you want.

If you sent your book to beta readers and review their feedback from a place of righteousness, you are going to miss valuable information that could make your book stronger.

When you think you know better than everyone, you close yourself off to growth.

If you are righteous over the idea that your book must be traditionally published, you might miss the chance to build your platform with self-published novels that will then go on to help you get a traditional publisher. It can work vice-versa as well. If you’re righteous over the fact that you should only self-publish, you may miss opportunities to work with others and expand your platform in ways you couldn’t have done as one person.

Being righteous is sneaky because it pretends it’s coming from this high place of moral stature. It seems very important. But if you spend time sitting with it, it really doesn’t feel good. It feels rigid and closed. And if you look at the results it gives you, they will be much the same.

6. Pity

This emotion can seem necessary as self-protection. If you’re feeling bad that an agent turned down your book, and you’re having a lot of self-pitying thoughts, it can stop you from getting your book out there to another agent, or deciding to self publish.

Because if you’re pitying yourself, and indulging in that pity, it means you don’t have to move forward and take risks.

But again, like all the other emotions, pity is caused by your thoughts, not by the fact that the agent rejected your book.

To me, pity is one of the most indulgent of all these emotions, because while you are spending that time pitying yourself, you are not serving anybody. Including you.

You are not showing up in the world to make a difference, you’re not getting your book out there for others to enjoy, you are not challenging yourself to grow. You are expecting it to be easy all of the time.

You are going to have disappointments in life, you are going to have negative emotions. So if you have to have to feel bad sometimes, you might as well feel bad going after your goal – and not from spending time indulging in self-pitying thoughts that help no one.

It’s okay to take time to process disappointment (actually, I recommend it), but don’t let it turn into self-pity because won’t move you forward.


This is certainly not all the unhelpful emotions out there, there are many more indulgent emotions that writers experience every day. I encourage you to be on the lookout for them because they are costly.

You will know if an emotion is indulgent because it will not be giving you the results you want. It will halt your progress.

Finally, remember that indulgent emotions are optional. Emotions are caused by your thoughts which you can choose.

If you'd like to learn more about processing emotions and managing your mind, sign up for our 1-1 coaching program.

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