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Hey Writers: Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy. Here’s How

Are you your own worst enemy?

If you suspect you might be your own worst enemy as a writer, this one is for you. There’s so much self-sabotaging behaviour out there (especially online, but also IRL – in real life – too).

I thought I would pull together some DOs/DONT’s on how to avoid being your own worst enemy. Do you spot any you are doing right now, or perhaps in the past? Let’s go …

1) Set concrete goals …

I saw a mug once that read, ‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’. Whilst cheesy, it’s true.

If you want representation, then just saying ‘I want an agent’ is not going to cut it. You need to come up with what I call CONCRETE GOALS. In other words, you name your wish, THEN plan for it!

So if you want an agent, WHAT are you going to do to get that agent on the hook? Break it down into steps. For example …

  • Buy a copy of Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook
  • Research agents in there & on social media
  • Find out who is open to submissions
  • Follow their feeds and find out what type of writing they like
  • See if they want cold submissions or query emails first

And so on. Then make your submissions, but also make sure you follow up approximately 8-12 weeks (minimum) later.

2) … AND make sure you evaluate those goals!

As well as breaking down the steps of WHAT you want,  you should also set a WHEN BY date. This helps you evaluate your progress and even decide whether you still want that goal.

Don’t forget it’s absolutely fine to change your mind on a goal. It’s also fine if you think a certain strategy is not working for you anymore. You have not ‘wasted time’, you have INVESTED TIME. Subtle but crucial difference.

3) Stop getting angry

If I had a quid for every time some amateur writer sounds off about remakes and reboots online, I’d be rich. Seriously. I can set my watch by this crap … Whether there’s an announcement or not, writers go ballistic every few weeks about these.

Make no mistake: gnashing your teeth about remakes and reboots is pointless. Hollywood is NOT a patron of the arts. So if it’s remaking stuff, it’s because it SELLS. (If you think it’s story rather than $$$, you need to do some research, STAT).

And SPARE ME the endless BS takes about people ‘only’ watching remakes/reboots because that’s apparently all that’s available. IF that was ever true (it’s not), there’s a literal embarrassment of riches out there in the streaming age. You can have extremely niche tastes and STILL be able to find content that suits you.

Basically you need never, ever watch a superhero CGI-fest ever again if you don’t want to.

Stop being your own worst enemy and go watch whatever you like instead. It IS out there, ready and waiting for you to click a damn button. That’s all it takes.

4) Stop throwing spaghetti at the wall

NEWSFLASH: sending out random submissions at random times (aka throwing spaghetti at the wall) is NOT a submissions strategy. Yes, it *can* work, but it will be by accident rather than design (plus, even if you are successful once, you will find it UBER-difficult to replicate).

So instead of throwing spaghetti, create your own submissions strategy. Research agents and producers. Find out who is looking for what. Make sure they’re a good fit for you. If you can, meet them (online or IRL) and create a relationship with them first. Just make sure you do it authentically and don’t pester them!

5) Stop annoying people whose help you want

There’s lots of writers out there who alienate the people who could help them. In short, they’re the very definition of their own worst enemy! Check this out …

Don’t do what Michael does!

There’s a certain irony to blindly posting loglines in blog comments for articles that detail on what to NOT do if you want an agent. Now, I’m not an agent, nor would I refer this writer without …

  • a) reading his screenplay (which I won’t) because
  • b) he’s doing amateurish stuff like this!

(I also love the idea that war-torn period drama abroad or movies with kids in are somehow ‘low or even medium budget’ … ERM NO. Find out what is possible for what money!!).

Do Not Self-Sabotage

There was a time this site got SO MANY loglines posted to comments. All of them were from desperate writers imploring me to help them find an agent … yet there are SO MANY ARTICLES on the site detailing exactly how to do this. Yikes.

It really does seem like there’s an echelon of writers online who WANT to self-sabotage and get themselves ‘locked out’ of the industry. It’s like a kind of learned helplessness or self-fulfilling prophecy. They could choose at ANY TIME to do stuff that works. The information is not only on this site, but internet-wide. 

Worst Enemy Be Like …

Yet these writers don’t pick up the information. They don’t study it, breaking it down into goals and routes to get there. Instead they do nonsensical, unproductive shit such as …

  • Not following submissions guidelines
  • Spamming people endlessly with links, pleas and demands
  • Not doing any research into how submissions work
  • Not creating their own submissions strategy
  • Complaining endlessly they’re ‘locked out’

Then they reject SOLUTIONS …

Of course, when I say HERE’S SOME LINKS they’ll say, ‘But that doesn’t tell me anything!’

This is is usually because they are looking for THE DEFINITIVE ANSWER. So I say, ‘Okay, do my Submissions Secrets course. It will take you through the process STEP BY STEP. You can create your own submissions strategy.’

Then they say: “STOP TRYING TO SELL ME SNAKE OIL!!!”.

Le sigh. These type of writers are a weird mix of paranoia, despondency, impotent rage and entitlement.

  • They want advice … but only the way THEY want it.
  • They want industry pros’ time … but only on THEIR terms.
  • They want others’ help and expertise … but only ever FOR FREE.

It’s exhausting. They’re also the reason so many industry pros don’t want to talk to new writers. It can be a thankless task.

But more importantly, these types of writer are a time-suck. Industry pros just do not have enough time to persuade writers from being their own worst enemy like this!

6) Don’t destroy your credibility online

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: online is forever. You can use the online space to your best advantage, or you can destroy your credibility here. That’s the choice.

Now very few people wake up in the morning and think, ‘I want to ensure everyone online thinks I’m a dick.’ So how do we avoid this??

Well, first things first: don’t be a dick. Don’t wade into threads and tell everyone they don’t know what they’re talking about is a good start. After all, you never know who you’re talking to.

Also, you can’t account for lurkers either. Who knows what you’ve missed out on, simply because the RIGHT person caught you in the WRONG moment?

7) Stop spamming everyone

This is a simple one. Dropping constant links to your book, website, Kickstarter campaign or whatever is not a good look. Bring value, create a following and ENGAGE with people or don’t bother. (No idea what all this entails? Then CLICK HERE).

8) Stop tinkering endlessly 

A writer who is their own worst enemy tinkers endlessly and never finishes. I have lost count of the number of writers I have seen self-sabotage like this. They love their story and they simply will NOT let it go. Instead they hold on to it, rewriting it and changing it and sending it out in an endless cycle of DOOM.

If you don’t let go of your old drafts, you can’t move on to new ideas. If you don’t have new ideas, you don’t grow as a writer … and writers that don’t grow by honing their craft and learning new things are BORING! MORE7 Ways To Beat Self-Sabotage As A Writer

9) Don’t hide away

The stereotype of the solitary writer hiding away in their bedroom or study typing away endures. This is because lots of us would rather write at the expense of networking, platform-building or engaging with others.

Can writers who ONLY write get ahead? Sure.

Does it take waaaaaaaaaay longer? Absolutely, yes.

Ever heard the phrase, ‘It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know‘?

Of course you have. Lots of people think it is about nepotism and unfair advantages. Whilst it can mean that too, it actually refers to the notion that most jobs and insitutions are built on RELATIONSHIPS.

Writing is no different. So don’t be your own worst enemy and hide away. Get out there and build those relationships!!!

10) Don’t be a naysayer

Lots of writers ask me how to get ahead in this game, then reject my advice. They’ll say they ‘only’ want to write … Or they have various challenges … Or they ‘can’t’ do whatever it is suggested.

It won’t matter what I say, anyway. Those writers will frame it in their own heads as being ‘different’ for me somehow. They will tell themselves I am a professional writer and script editor now because doors were opened FOR me.

But make no mistake …

  • I knew NO ONE starting out
  • I had no money
  • I came from a rural area nowhere near London
  • I was a teen mum
  • I had no support

But I wasn’t my own worst enemy. I decided I would be a professional writer, so I broke it down into the steps I needed.

In short, I created my own career. You can do this too. No it won’t be easy, plus unfortunately it will be harder for some of us than others. But you CAN do it.

BONUS TIP …

… BELIEVE industry pros!

This one is two-fold. First up, the obvious: the kind of writer who tells the pro they’re ‘doing it wrong’.

It doesn’t matter what it is said … A professional writer will be generous enough to share their tips and insights. Within seconds some amateur rocks up and tells them NOPE IT CAN’T BE THAT WAY.

But think on this: WHY would the writer lie or misrepresent their OWN experience?? It’s far, far more likely the amateur’s preconceptions are being challenged and they don’t like it.

Secondly, from the ridiculous to the sublime …

There’s writers who are so afraid of doing a #6 on this list, they are TOO humble. This means they don’t believe good feedback, even rave reviews. They feel certain the agent or producer is ‘just’ being kind. They may even get feedback like ‘Send me your next one’ or ‘keep me in the loop about your career’ and STILL think this!

REPEAT AFTER ME … ‘Industry pros do NOT say kind things just for the sake of it!!!’ 

So, if you receive good feedback from an industry pro on your writing, BELIEVE IT. If they want you to keep them in the loop or send your next script, DO IT. Seriously! MORE: Top 10 Tips To Get Your Writing Out There

Good Luck!

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2 thoughts on “Hey Writers: Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy. Here’s How”

  1. I recently joined an online writing group on discord. I was new and missed a zoom event. I went on and apologised for missing it and got some snarky presumably meant to be hilarious comment about how in my absence everyone had decided to quit writing and give up on their dreams. It was no big deal but just made me think “why would you want our first interaction to be you taking the piss out of me in front of a new group of people?”. Next thing I see he’s on again looking for collaborators. Guess what? I have absolutely zero interest. Now maybe he doesn’t want to collaborate with me – but there are a lot of people on that site who saw him being a dick to me too. Maybe don’t show you are a snarky douche and then seek collaborators all in one breath!

    1. What a bizarre guy!!! Totally agree with you, plus I also think of those who are more delicate than you or I — what if someone with anxiety or autism got that kind of totally unwarranted response? It could be enough to put them off writing forever!

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