Challenge,  On Writing

Writers Often See The Dark Side…

At Least Beginning and Early Stage Writers…

I have noticed this over the years, but a couple things over the last few months really brought this concept home.

This functions in two ways. For example, in the Depth workshop, one of the assignments is to see an ex-spouse at the end of a setting assignment. 99 out of 100 of those assignments are negative, hateful, full of loathing or disgust or fear of the ex-spouse.

Fiction folks. You have a choice to move away from the cliche and the negative.

Writing topics in other workshops go along with this trend. If there is a choice between positive outlook and a negative one, the early stage writer will go negative. Almost every time.

This also moves over into real world stuff as well. Early stage writers feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing and publishing. Granted, lots of learning curves, not making much money as the myths say you should, too much bad advice from promotion idiots, so I understand why almost everything I hear from early stage writers is negative.

It is a way of thinking that lets critical voice some tumbling in as well. Critical voice has one job and that is to stop you and it will if you let it.

The longer the writer has been around, the more millions of words through their fingers, the more positive they become. Learning becomes fun. Writing is fun. Keeping up with publishing changes a challenge.

And choices in fiction also tend to swing positive in what we write, decide to write, and so on. Negative and ugly just gets tiring after a while.

Sure, there are a billion things that go wrong all the time to every writer, but later stage writers just roll with it, deal with it, and often try to use what happened as a teaching example to earlier stage writers around them.

Most of the writers I have been working with for the last numbers of years are past the everything-is-negative look and are just doing what they do and producing. Everyone rolls with health issues at times, like I did, like Kris did, but we get back to it when we can. Writing and publishing is just what we do.

But at times I am shocked at how negative some people can be toward something they claim they want to do. If you really want to be a fiction writer, then my suggestion is never make fiction writing work or a negative thing.

If you hear yourself saying, “I got to get some writing done.” Stop.

Or you call your writing “Work.” Stop.

If you look back and see that you had ten or twenty different 15 minute free periods and you didn’t write because that would be too hard to do in just 15 minutes.  Stop.

Start working on changing the attitude. Writing is play. Writing is fun. Publishing is fun and challenging. You want to do it every moment you have free of every waking day.

Fascinating that the long-term writers I know never complain or put down their own writing. Only early stage writers do that. And if you can’t get past that negative outlook, you will never be a long-term writer.

Just the nature of the beast.


  • T Thorn Coyle

    Well said.

    The one that gets me is the consistent sharing of memes and comments about how writers will do anything but write. And yeah, how hard and terrible writing is.

    I wonder why they put themselves through it.

    It strikes me as a strange type of bragging, the way “oh I’m so busy all the time” used to be a brag. Maybe this is an “I’m so special, writing is suffering!” type of brag. As I said, I don’t quite understand it, other than it’s a way for critical voice to feel good about itself because it’s still running the show.

    • dwsmith

      Thorn, I think you are correct. A big myth is that you must suffer for your art. Nope.

      Wait… how about… “If you think you must suffer for your art, you may be a myth believer.”


  • LM

    Tbh, I have the opposite experience. It was fun and rest and wonderful when I was younger, but as I got older and hit my chronic health issues, sometimes I struggle to recapture the joy and not make it important, especially on days I really, really want to write but am just nonfunctional.

    Part of not feeling negative when I get to finally write after a rough patch seems to be to do less beating myself up when I can’t either. But having come from a family of extreme overachievers, that’s something I’m having to work on.

    I honestly read your blog so faithfully because failing to success, don’t make it important, and writing is fun are things I try to read over and over whenever it starts to feel like a struggle again. All the most successful writing periods of my life came out of these truths I’m so glad you keep reminding us of.

    • T Thorn Coyle


      As someone with an autoimmune disorder and who recently suffered a brain injury, I get it. It can be hard sometimes when the brain is foggy or confused, and energy is low.

      When I was doing intensive PT for the brain injury (even walking was hard) an occupational therapist told me to work in 10 min chunks. I did that, for all writing and work tasks, with breaks in between. That really helped me.

      Timed sprints (I’m at 20 min now) really help me capture the joy. Even one 10 min sprint got words on the page, and that felt satisfying.

      Remembering that I can enjoy writing, and that any way I can engage with story is a good way really helps.

      • LM

        Thank you! I rotate word sprints in and out of use (when well I just need to start, the length doesn’t matter), but I hadn’t thought of trying that now as I reassert a writing sched. I will try them again.

  • Aniket

    I was reading a slice of life novel and I kept thinking how positive that read and then I realized I’m only thinking about the tension, big negative, mounting challenges and not giving my character a breather at all. Same with the power words, and then I went through the workshop again and your session lit up a light bulb.
    Anything can be positive, and those words don’t always have to be about the negatives and tension.
    Thanks for all the teachings. Specially the advance workshops, they are blast to go through. So much learning.

  • Brad D. Sibbersen

    Only after doing it this for several years did I come to realize that certain genre writers who had partially or wholly abandoned their initial, unapologetically cynical approach hadn’t “sold out”, they’d just grown as writers.

  • Kate Pavelle

    Dean, what you write tracks with my early morning realization that I let my Critical Voice into my Kickstarters. (You haven’t seen any for this reason alone.)
    I wonder if I (and others) have this need to make something in their life “hard.” Now that I’m doing the writing challenge and having fun with both it and releasing accumulated short stories, I came to realize that I should’ve been on my 2nd Kickstarter of the year by now.
    I am not.
    Suddenly I got all the “but last time was a fluke, it was too easy, this time will be hard” thoughts, which are obviously illogical and false. I have the stories, cover and most other assets so in the past, I’d think I was ready to go.
    Since I ceremonially cremated my Critical Voice on April 31st, and since my writing is not available to it right now, I think its successor decided to invade Kickstarters as the next area of control. It’s like playing Whack-a-mole.

    I never thought Critical Voice could infest non-traditional publishing and promotial activities, but there you have it! Time to pull out the roach spray. Also, time to devise an activity I can proclaim as “too hard,” like maybe vacuuming or washing the windows, and delegate it. I’ll see if I can find a job for that Critical Voice outside of my writing and publishing activities.

    • dwsmith

      Kate, yup, Critical Voice and fear combined make doing a Kickstarter campaign almost impossible for many. But why do something that is the best promotion for a new book you can find? Better to spend thousands on Facebook ads that don’t work than make $500 or a $1,000 on a Kickstarter and promote your book to actual readers.

      Of course, doing Kickstarter takes some study of good ones and a small learning curve. Facebook ads you just flush your money down a toilet.

      I just shake my head and move on.

  • Anitha Krishnan

    Dean, I can’t thank you enough both for the challenge and for these timely nuggets of wisdom. After following yours and Kris’s blogs and taking some of your workshops and pop-ups over the last couple of years, I decided that my goal for 2023 was to develop a positive and healthy mindset so that I can enjoy a long-term career in writing and publishing fiction. Since the beginning of April especially, writing fiction has become so much more fun and enjoyable. Thank you for repeatedly pointing out the myths and the traps they entail. I’ve fallen in them way too often than I wish to admit, but I’m glad you keep showing the way out! Thank you! Cheers!

  • Desikan

    Thanks Dean,

    For these continued sharing and reminders on keeping the right attitude for being a long term writer.

    Critical voice starts to murmur slowly at first and if you start to pay some attention, it increases its volume. Many a times it says things like, “are you wasting your time on this”, “maybe this is not for you”, “May be you can do something better”. Slowly I realized that it is also a reflection of how I perceive what others around me with good intent (family, friends) may be thinking. All want us to be an acheiver. Thanks to them.

    To secure the writing time along with other pressing responsibilities, I started to say things to others like, “this is important for me, support me”, “this is really a good challenge and I want to do it” etc and they do support it.

    What I remember from one of the workshops is, “our job is to sit in a room and make stuff up” . Sometimes, make this stuff up for others sake like “I had to rewrite multiple times” 🙂
    But dont end up believing that for myself. Instead counter weight it with long term thinking and a strong belief that I am going in the right direction.