S1E009: Am I a Writer? (aka: binding and gagging your negative inner voice)

Show Notes:

Unpopular opinions (again!), a soap box moment that gets a little intense, I must be talking about Negative Self-Talk!

In today’s episode, personify those nasty inner voices and learn three techniques to effectively bind and gag them.

Links and things mentioned in this episode:

  • Episode 1
  • Plan for Anything Episodes (1 & 2)
  • Please rate and/or review the podcast on Apple podcasts. Help me get to 10!
  • My crude illustration of the siblings is below

Don’t forget about the Quick Start Guide to Writing More in Less Time!

Intro and outro music from Uppbeat (free for Creators!): https://uppbeat.io/t/hartzmann/clear-sky

My crude illustrations

In order from left to right: Fear, Impostor Syndrome, Perfectionism, Inner Critic, and Self-Doubt at their feet, waiting to throw rocks at you.

Have a question? 

If you have questions about the podcast content, content in any of my freebie resources, blog posts, books, website, etc.

Full Transcript:

Transcripts are created by Descript. Please forgive any spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors!

Hey Toucan! Happy holidays and season’s greetings. It’s officially eggnog season and candy cane season and cookie season. So much to be excited about. Including the fact that this is episode nine of the podcast. The last single digit episode. And I feel like what you learn here today. It’s especially important around this time of year.

 I don’t know about you, but I sometimes get a little down on myself at the end of the year, because I look back at all the plans I had at the beginning of the year. And I look at what I accomplished, but I also look at what I didn’t accomplish, because you know, you can’t have the sweet without the sour.

So with that in mind, let’s get into this week’s episode all about negative self-talk and how to effectively bind and gag it.

Writers come in all variety of flavors, cherry watermelon, strawberry.

Just kidding.

What I mean is we have plotters we have pantsers, plotsters, linear writers, nonlinear writers, for every one writer, there’s a different way to write a book.

This list is not exhaustive by any means.

Then there’s the way writing fits into our lives.

Writing could be a hobby or a passion or a calling. There are writers who only write during November and national novel writing month. There are writers who are ruled by their writing. It’s something they must do. It’s a solid part of their identity when they don’t write, they might feel incomplete. There are writers who write for themselves as a way to make sense of the world or to escape this crazy world we live in. There are writers who do this because they love it and they probably have success, but it doesn’t own them.

Again, the possibilities of types of writers and how they write are limitless.

Now it doesn’t matter what kind of writer you are. There will be days in which you question yourself.

“Am I a writer?” You might ask.

The answer is yes. Yes, my friend, you are a writer. That’s all for this episode. See you next week and you’ll learn. Oh, aaaaaalll about—

*record scratch*

Oh, wait, wait, wait. No, that’s not all for this episode. There’s so much more to it!

Because no matter what kind of writer you are or person for that matter negative self-talk will still find its way into your mind and whisper, nasty little things that you.

I like to think of them as my annoying siblings. It takes some of their power away. So allow me to introduce to you the negative self-talk siblings.

  • Self-Doubt
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • Perfectionism
  • Inner Critic,
  • and Fear


After this introduction, in which I’ll tell you about how I envision these different negative self-talk voices and personify them to take some other power away. I’ll give you some tactics to effectively bind and gag these meddlesome kids.


First we have Self-Doubt. Self-Doubt is your annoying little brother or sister. For the sake of keeping pronouns, easy to follow. I’m going to say brother. Because I envisioned him. As this little toe head kid. Who’s just annoying as all get out.

Not only is Self-Doubt annoying, but he’s the little brother who gets away with everything.

Throwing dirt on you kicking you and the worst saying mean things to you. Things that make you second guess yourself or make you feel like you aren’t good enough at anything, especially writing.

Self-Doubt has one of those old metal Tonka trucks. He likes to push it up and down the hallway, blocking your path. It’s full of rocks because while it’s a dump truck and he likes to throw rocks.

He doesn’t let you pass, calling you names saying mean things running over your feet. And all you want to do is get to your room at the end of the hall so you can shut the door and stop hearing his annoying voice and cutting words.

In this metaphor, your room at the end of the hall is your book.

You have to get to your book and to do so you have to get past, or at least placate, Self-Doubt, no lolli-pop or ice cream will do. It might help a little bit, but ultimately bribery does not prevail.

Impostor Syndrome

Next up is Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is Self-Doubt’s older brother. He’s probably like 13 or 14 in that gangly pimple faced stage, but you know what? He has a really awesome head of hair, which he styled in such a cool way that no one notices he’s wearing a nerdy t-shirt and jeans that are too short. And not in a cool way.

He’s a complete poser.

He wants you to believe you are worthless because that’s how he feels.

Especially when the cool girls walk by giggling behind their hands and looking at him like he’s grown an extra arm. His diva sister, by the way is totally in that group. She just rolls her eyes at him. No support there.

Impostor Syndrome tells himself they’re looking at his amazing hair. Maybe he even runs a hand through it with some sort of debonair flourish of some sort.

But as soon as he’s around the corner, he notices he has ketchup all over the front live as a nerdy t-shirt.

Impostor Syndrome seeks you out to make you feel bad. About yourself because putting you down makes him feel superior and better about himself. But really he’s just a kid trying to fit in just like you.


Now on to Perfectionism. Perfectionism is Impostor Syndrome’s, older diva sister.

She and her friends are the Plastics and she is the Queen Bee. She is essentially Regina George, you know, from Mean Girls?

Just as every eyelash on her gorgeous face is in order and in place, she wants the same for your manuscript.

Every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word must be precise and exact. If it isn’t perfect. Oh, she will judge you. And in judging you, you will begin to judge yourself.

You will spend endless amounts of time tinkering with your sentences, moving the same comma in and out and around the same sentence over and over again, changing a word back and forth. Maybe even writing a new sentence only to find you already wrote that sentence in a later paragraph.

Perfectionism not only forces you to stay in the safety of your first or second or 30th draft. But sometimes she lets Self-Doubt tag along. And once he comes into the picture, you know, your effed.

Because then you start to doubt your supposed mastery of the English language or whatever your native language might be.

Together they mock you, And that’s when Inner Critic comes down the hallway. You can hear the condescension and judginess in his footsteps.

Inner Critic (aka: Curtis)

Inner Critic is the eldest of the siblings. To me, he’s a guy named Curtis. So for the sake of this argument, he’s their big brother.

Inner Critic gives the others permission to speak into our psyches and essentially muck up our creativity.

Like I said, my Inner Critic is a guy named Curtis. He’s not a real guy. He’s completely fictional, but maybe Curtis has the voice of those who ever doubted me or questioned my ability as a writer or mocked me for being a writer or whatever kind of feedback you got that was negative from people around you.

Curtis wears glasses that have lenses that are so shiny. You can’t see his eyes. He doesn’t want you to see his eyes because his eyes are full of fear.

He has a comb-over and carries a clipboard and a clicky pen that he insists on clicking repeatedly. He does a lot of throat clearing, but in that way, in which, you know, he’s writing something about you on his clipboard. He wears a white shirt with a red tie and black slacks and shoes with soft soles. So you can’t hear him coming. He’s a sneaky bastard.

He wants you to fear him, but you shouldn’t.

He’s just another average human who is just trying to do his best with what he has. In fact. He might fear you more than you fear him. Maybe he wanted to be a novelist or write a book about Self-Doubt.

Maybe he gave up his dream of being a creative because his parents told him you should focus on education that will actually make money.

Maybe they scoffed at his creations.

Are you starting to feel sad for Curtis?

He’s just like us. Isn’t he?

With all the inner trappings of being a person with an active brain that sometimes has a mind of its own.

Don’t feel sad for him. He is not your friend. He’s a backstabber.

The moment you think he’s on your side. He’ll give you some backhanded compliment that’ll at first, make you feel good about yourself, then question yourself, then feel bad about yourself.

He analyzes everything you say, do think, feel all of it. He scrutinizes every word you write, not the way Perfectionism does, but in a different way. In a way that says. “Are you sure that’s what you want to say?”

He’s the one that makes you censor yourself and delete bad sentences, Even during first drafting, when everything and anything goes.

He tells you you’re writing as rubbish.

He might sound a little bit like Self-Doubt.

But while, Self-Doubt, just jabs and pokes in is a meanie, Curtis The Inner Critic is precise, focusing on one thing, your perceived weaknesses as a writer.

And seeing weaknesses in the eyes of your Inner Critic is what triggers fear to show up.


Fear is the middle child of the siblings perfectly positioned in age between the oldest Curtis, the Inner Critic and the youngest Self-Doubt. Fear holds the siblings together. She has the ability to play on either side of the age fence. Not only does she bring the siblings together, but they listened to her because she has a commanding voice.

Fear is the one who holds us back makes us play small, makes us tinker and toil instead of moving forward.

While Curtis allows the other siblings to talk, Fear is the one who allows Curtis to talk.

She shows up as the fear of failure, the fear of success, the fear that no one will like your writing, no one will buy it. And your dream will be demolished. Or maybe even worse. Fear that people will actually like it and it will be a big deal. And you’ll have to come out of your little hermit hole where you write and face the light of day and hear kind of words that make you feel uncomfortable.

I love to hear how people enjoy my books. But it also used to make me really uncomfortable. Let’s be honest. It still makes me uncomfortable to get praise for my writing.

I used to gloss over their words with hardly a cursory, Thank you. But I’ve actually stopped doing that, and I take the time to personally think them and spend time on their praise and tell them how much I appreciate them for reading my books and telling me that they enjoyed them.

Because the people who love our books and stories are our people.

We need to make sure their praise is appreciated.

On the other hand, there will also be people out there who will read your books—they may know you personally, or know of you like a work associate who recognizes your name because you got an award at work. That seems really specific because it is—read your books, whether or not they usually read the genre.

And then they’ll tell you, “I read your book. I don’t usually read this genre…”

And then they pause here and you think, “Are they going to shower me with praise, and say something about how I’ve opened their eyes to a new world of stories in a new genre?”

No, that’s not what they’ll do.

They’ll say something like, “It was…”

And here they’ll pause for far too long.


I should record an entire podcast episode in which I vent about how dumb it is to listen to people like this.

They don’t even read your genre.

They don’t know Jack squat about what makes a good book in that genre or not.

Furthermore, if they don’t read your genre, why even read your book in the first place and why must they tell you that they read it If it’s not something they usually read?

Let me just tell you this straight up now, listen up, come back to me from whatever you’re doing while you’re listening to this podcast and listen up.

Someone’s love of romance or thriller or fantasy or some other genre that isn’t the one you write, does not mean your book is trash.

Let me say that again.

Someone’s love of a genre that isn’t the one that you write does not mean that your book is trash.

In other words, just because so-and-so from work only reads romance and she read your horror novel, That does not mean that your horror novel sucks

All right. I’ll put my soapbox away now. Got a little intense there.

So now you have, you have met the negative self-talk siblings, and you probably knew them before I even brought them up in this episode, maybe you knew their names. Maybe you have different names for them. Maybe you don’t even know what to even begin to call them.

And now that you do know what to call them, you can see them. You can be more aware of them and recognize them for what they are.

From there, you can effectively bind and gag them.

I don’t use the word defeat when it comes to moving past negative self-talk because unless you have reached some enlightened state, chances are you’ll come across these lovely siblings time and time again. Throughout your writing career.

I even know, bestselling authors who still battle with them.

To effectively bind and gag our negative self-talk siblings. You only need to do three things.

  1. Know your purpose
  2. Trust yourself
  3. Keep writing


Know Your Purpose

What is your purpose? I know that’s a huge question. Like what is the meaning of life? So, let me whittle it down a little.

What is the sole purpose you want to write this particular story? I’m not asking why you are The One to write it. I’m asking what was that little spark that spurred you to take on this challenge of writing a book?

That little spark will give you the fire to ignite your flame thrower and blast those sons of biscuits out of the inner trappings of your mind, freeing you up to turn that flame back over to your passion and keep going.

If the little spark isn’t enough. Remind yourself, why you write.

What do you get out of it? What is your reason for doing it?

As, you know, if you listened to episode one, I’ve been writing since I was six years old. For me, my ultimate Why is because I have a ton of stories to tell and I love to write. And if I don’t write, my life is almost meaningless.

I say almost here because there is more to life than this. Even for someone like me who has always, since the Dawn of Time when I could pick up a pencil and scrawl letters, wanted to be a writer. And if I could not be a writer. I wanted to be an ice cream store owner. A candy store owner, a zookeeper, or a ballerina.

But always at the top of my list was writer. I have an immense imagination, a very strong inner child. And if I can’t write to share that with others, it’ll just go to waste. Or it could potentially send me the, to the nut house because I love to live in imaginary worlds. And according to my husband, 50 to 70% of the time, I already live in an imaginary world.

He gets me.

Writing for me is akin to breathing. I might just die if I can’t do it. Okay with breathing, yeah, I would totally die if I can’t do it.

What I mean is it is such a huge part of who I am, that when I don’t write for days and days or work on some creative outlet, I feel the effects physically and mentally.

So, what is your, why? It doesn’t have to go back over three decades. Like mine does. It could be, “Yesterday. I was walking along and I found a dead body and I wanted to write about what happened to it.” Or even simpler, you were struck by an idea and you thought it would make a cool story.

Don’t think too much about your, why it’s not rocket science. I mean, unless it actually is rocket science and then, why not?

Just jot it down somewhere. So when Curtis the Inner Critic comes around with a smug little attitude and his glasses and clipboard containing to list the mean things to say to you, to beat you down until you’re paralyzed with Self-Doubt sitting on your chest, you can turn to him and say, “Curtis. Why don’t you get the heck out of here? Because here is my why.”

And Curtis will skulk away, mumbling and grumbling about how mean you are and the cost of gasoline.

He might even shuffle off to think about doing taxes because he’s just that miserable.

Just like the trolls on the internet. They’re all just miserable people who want you to be just as miserable as them. There are enough trolls out there who will knock you down. Why do it to yourself?

And if Self-Doubt sticks around, despite you telling Curtis your Why, and maybe Impostor Syndrome joins him in sitting on your chest. Well, my friend keep listening. Because the next way to battle these guys is to trust yourself.

Trust Yourself

Contrary to what your inside voice might tell you, you do not need to seek validation from anywhere except within yourself.

And I know that this is probably not a popular opinion because we always want to share our work with others at some point. And there is a time and a place for that.

And in the beginning stages of your writing journey or during your first draft, Now is not the time. Whenever you think, “oh, I should get so-and-so’s opinion of this to see if I’m heading in the right direction.”

Don’t look to so-and-so, look inside yourself. You know if you’re heading in the right direction. Your meticulous outline if you’re a plotter, or your gut if you’re a pantser, will tell you.

When I write a first draft, I know I’ve made a not so right choice in the story when I hit a brick wall and there was no way around, over, under or through it. All it takes is a writing session to look back at some of the big plot points so far and see where I might’ve gone wrong.

And because I have so many novel length manuscripts written by now That sounded really pretentious, didn’t it? I have learned to also take both forks in the road or all of the forks if there are more than two. I will even spend the time exploring the different paths before deciding which one is the best.

Now we don’t mean I write, like, the entire story for each path. But what I’ll do is I’ll step away from my pantsing ways and do a little plotting. I’ll list out what could potentially happen in each scenario and pick the one that has the biggest impact on the story and the plot. This is a great way to test out your gut, to know which one feels the best.

As a writer, you’re likely also an avid reader at the very least, I’m sure you watch movies and shows. You know, at your core, what makes a good story.

So trust your instincts, trust your gut and trust yourself. So-and-so? They don’t know the story you have inside of you. They may have a completely different idea of what your story is or should be.

I actually have a future episode planned in which I’ll be talking about critique groups and getting feedback from others and I’ll delve deeply into when is the right time and when it’s not the right time. So look forward to that in next season’s podcast episodes.

The point is: Trust.

Trust that you have a good story to tell.

Trust that you can tell it the best way you possibly can.

Don’t let others try to tell you what your story should be by seeking their validation.

Trust yourself.

And treat yo’self.

Keep Writing

And finally keep writing. It is the best way to get those negative self-talk siblings to pipe down.

As Vincent van Gogh said:

“If you hear a voice inside you say, ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

The same goes for you, dear writer. If that voice says you cannot write then, write, and it will be silenced.

You are a writer.

Don’t let anyone, not even yourself, not Curtis the Inner Critic, not the Self-Doubt little bully brat, not Perfectionism, not Impostor Syndrome. Don’t let any of them tell you that you aren’t.

We battle with ourselves in the form of negative self-talk day in and day out. There’s no way to silence these inner voices because let’s face it. Even though I turned them into characters, you can visualize, they really are just us.

They are our own brains, trying to protect us from some perceived threat. So use the tactics from this episode, use the tools from the plan for anything episodes and for the love of everything Holy: set your timer and go write.

That’s all for this episode next week will be a lot of fun. Okay. And it’s also, can you believe it? The last episode of the season! Oh my gosh.

So you’ll learn the five myths holding you back from writing and the mindset shifts to overcome them.

I’ll also have some exciting news to share at the end, so stay tuned. But before I leave you, I have a quick request.

Maybe you were feeling generous since it’s the holiday season and if you’re enjoying the podcast, I love, love, love for you to give me a rating on apple podcasts. I only have three ratings so far, and I would love to get to 10 or even more by the end of the year. So would you please help me if you’re feeling extra generous, generous.

Generous. Please consider reviewing it too. I will be forever and ever grateful to you, my dear friend.

Now set your timer and go write!

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Claire L. Fishback

Author coach, project manager, published author, amazing wife, dog mom, artist, twin, and your host and guide to discovering your path to the writing life of your dreams!

Youcan the Toucan


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