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Leave me alone

“Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the people doing it.” Chinese Proverb

As writers, we face naysayers from all sides. Friends, family, acquaintances, and coworkers often don’t understand what we do, how we can spend so much time doing it, or why we’re bothering to work toward such an impossible dream. They shy away from what they don’t understand.

And frankly, they probably wouldn’t truly understand even if you talked about your passion, your dream, your need to be more than average. After all, they might be content with who and where they are in life and resent that you’re not. Or worse, they might be angry or jealous that you’re going after your big goal and they don’t feel like they can do the same.

Maybe they’re bitter about the time you’re spending on yourself. Maybe they’re too unhappy with their own lives to be supportive of your efforts. Or maybe they think they’re protecting you from your own delusions.

Unfortunately, none of these people are likely to leave you to your work in peace. It’s your job to guard your time and your self-confidence from those who would drag you down.

With certain people, that might mean cutting them from your life, especially if they sabotage your time or confidence. For others, maybe it means not talking about the important things. Sad, but sometimes necessary with someone you want to keep around.

Ultimately, the buck stops with you. Keeping others from dragging you down is your responsibility. You can’t handle how others feel about the path you’ve chosen, but you do have control over how much time you spend with those people, and how much space you give them in your office and in your head.

Photo credit: BUSINESSWOMAN DRIVES AWAY © Redbaron |

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  1. Reply

    Boy, oh boy, Gwen, have you hit a nerve here. I had 2 immensely close friends until I decided to launch out a bit and go on cruises as a passenger choir trainer. The rot started there. They didn’t even try to understand. I knew I had to lose a lot of weight for my health’s sake – ‘not too much ‘cos you’ll look old and be ill’ was the response. Thankfully a year or so later, we moved. Only 25 miles away, but they always expected me to come to them. So we went down to one car because where we now live, I can walk to wherever I need to go. Result, unless I get on two buses, I can’t get to them. I haven’t seen either of them for over 2 years. I am so pleased that I didn’t get anything published until we’d moved house. Heaven knows what response that would have provoked. Now, four years on, I have two books in the published domain, my agent is trying to sell my Tudor detective series and, finally, I am losing weight. All my friends now are unbelievably supportive of my writing and urge me on when things look as if they will never happen. Result. One happy writer, who wishes she’d shed the deadwood years ago.

  2. Joan Oltman


    The naysayers that are more difficult to get away from or to ignore are the ones in your own head. They are the ones who say, “Why bother? You’ll never be any good and anyhow there are these so much more important things you need to do.” The first step there is to recognize that destructive internal critic and tell him/her to go away.

    • Reply

      Good point, Joan. I’m a firm believer in nipping negative self-talk in the bud. I try to be very aware of how I talk to myself and rephrase things so they’re less destructive. Thanks!

  3. Reply

    Hi Gwen!

    Excellent post on Writer’s Wednesday. 🙂 I tend to want to prove the Negative Nellies wrong, so it strengthens my resolve to succeed more than any positive support ever could. Strange, but true. The inner critic is my greatest concern, and what gets me down at times. Any suggestions for dealing with that?

    • Reply

      Hey, Jolyse! I agree that I rise to a challenge, but I don’t want to be around people who are constantly being negative.

      It seems like the inner critic is a bigger problem though. See my answer to Joan above. Maybe I need to do a follow-up on that one. I’ll think on it for Thursday… 😉

  4. Reply

    Jolyse – Jurgen Wolff suggests two words to answer your inner critic – ‘we’ll see’. “You’ll never manage that!” ‘We’ll see.’ “You’re not good enough.” ‘We’ll see’.

    I call my inner critic Myrtle. When her voice whispers in my ear I tell her – out loud -to get lost. I also ask her if she can do it better and strangely enough, she has never yet answered me. I also have up on my wall an A4 sheet with the words “Persistence. Determination. These are my watchwords. Press on. I am successful. I believe in myself.”

    One of my friends who is a great enthusiastic booster sent me this:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?
    You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
    We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
    And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    Hope some/all of these work for you.

    • Reply

      Great stuff, Avril. It’s weird that we are our own worst enemy sometimes. I love that you named your inner critic Myrtle. 😉

      I ordered Jurgen’s book YOUR WRITING COACH for my Nook. Can’t wait to check it out.

      Thanks for sharing your mantra and the great piece from your friend!

  5. Reply

    Hi Gwen – Even though I don’t write romance, I’ve been reading your blog for quite awhile now (lurking in the background, so to speak 🙂 and really enjoy it. I was looking forward to taking your last Scrivener class but completely forgot when it was and then, before I knew it, it was here and gone. I checked around on your site and discovered that you have another scheduled in March, so I’ll plan on taking that one.

    As for those nasty critics you mentioned. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive environment. My wife encouraged me to participate in NaNoWriMo last November and I surprised myself by “winning”. What a great feeling. My biggest struggle is, as Joan put it, the destructive internal critic. For the most part, I’ve been successful in pushing it away, but there are certainly times it’s made me feel like I should just toss my computer into the trash and take up gardening, or something. Thank God I don’t have to contend with negative people around me, like those you mention in your post.

    Thanks for your great blog, Gwen. I always look forward to your posts.

    • Reply

      Wow, thanks, Dave! Sorry you missed this month’s class, but I’ll be sure to put up more information on my Scrivener page when I have the next date firmed up.

      I’m glad you have a good support network, especially one you live with! I’m lucky in that regard too, but there are plenty of writers out there who aren’t. And attacks can come at you in any realm of your life. When I went back to school for my MS, one of the other students asked me if I could “not try so hard” on the next test. I was making the slackers look bad. I made him study with me instead. 😉

      Congrats on your NaNo win. Last year was my first time too. And thanks for the props. I’m going to try to attack the inner critic problem in an upcoming post. I think that one’s even more insidious than the flesh and blood kind!

  6. Reply

    Funny thing happens over time with this internal and external issue. I think the more we write the more the passion for writing and the strength of will to write is fired. One day a switch flips and a not so quiet voice says, ” Life is to short. You don’t have time for the tedium of these little dramas.”

    Once I heard that I figured out there were times I didn’t need to be understood, accepted, or appreciated. I needed a pencil and a sheet of paper. I learned when it is hot it is hot. Write it down or it will dissipate into the fog of my neurosis.

    I’m thinking that’s how this misfit became a happy eccentric. 🙂

    • Reply

      Wise words as always, Curtis. Though I didn’t need the reminder per se, I unfortunately got one with the recent death of a friend from college. 🙁

      I have little stickers on my laptop screen that say “Life is short…write the book!” Just in case I find myself wasting time doing other things.

      So glad you’re now a happy eccentric! 😉

      • Curtis


        That’s hard. The way we’ve drawn it up, we are forever young. When that one cracks, then we are all supposed to grow old.

        Here is a Biblical line that supports our self image and the nay sayers and any other counterproductive sorts that drift into our writing lives.
        ” Cast not your pearls before swine.” All of that and in only six words.

  7. Pingback: Silence! « The Edited Life

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