Damaging Self-Judgment of Writers?

16 Feb




Candace Habte: “A few weeks ago when I first heard about the Insecure Writers Support Group, my first thought was this is a cool idea.  As humans, we have all felt insecure about something. And writers, despite what we may like to think, are certainly human.  My second emotion was frustration, even resentment.  I thought, great, all we need is more stereotypes.  I imagined cyber minions turning the twitter hashtag #ISWG into #whinywriters or #getarealjobthen.”

I Soon Realized the Reason for my Thought Pattern
“I was projecting how I sometimes perceive that I am viewed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dealt with a lot of people (even family and friends) that were downright rude when it comes to my life as a writer.
It’s been said that you are not a writer until you get your first rejection. My first rejection came in the 10th grade (my high school literary journal – I’m over it, really) so I guess I am a veteran. Well I would say that when you get your first weird stare, question about your life (you know the, “Okay, but what do you really do?”) it ranks right up there with rejection. I have had my share of both rejection and also judgment. But to be honest, the latter bothered me the most.”

Damaging Self-Judgment
“But I’m beginning to realize how much more damaging self-judgment can be.  So let me explain: A few years ago I took my first yoga class. My teacher was the best, the class bonded, I did poses I didn’t think I could do, and I felt strong in body and spirit. I pretty much reaped all the benefits of yoga. It was
Did I mention everyone in my class was fat? No, I’m not being mean. Everyone, including myself at the
time, was overweight or obese because the class was targeted for that demographic. Of course, no one
was being turned away for being smaller, but the class name (it had the word “belly” in it, if I recall
correctly) and description were definitely geared towards those of us who needed to lose some weight. It wasn’t about losing the weight in the class, though despite what some people think about yoga (you can lose weight with certain types of yoga) but that’s not the point…”

“So imagine my insecurity, having never before taken a yoga class, barely flexible, and a little “extra to
love”.  Yes, the class was targeted towards bigger people, but the studio was still filled with mostly slim
yogis. Okay, I wasn’t going to add this part but guess what? I ended up being one of the smaller people
there.  Ironically, this fact made me feel more insecure. Because now I was the only “sort-of-fat” girl in a “fat girl (and guy)” class sharing stories of what it’s like to be fat. I could feel myself getting the roll of the eyes. Was this actually happening? Probably not. My instructor and fellow students were some of the nicest, most encouraging, genuine and absolutely hilarious folks I have ever met.”

Our Recording
“So what does all of this have to do with writing, or better yet, being an insecure writer? Well besides my pre-class insecurities that were pretty much assuaged before the end of the first class, I learned a really important concept from my instructor: the recording. We all have one.
This may sound insensitive, but if you have ever been called stupid, fat, skinny, lazy, worthless, etc. it
doesn’t matter. Okay, it matters but not as much as we make it. For the record, I’m not talking about
being bullied or harassed. Meaning someone or some group is excessively trying to make you feel like
crap. That’s always wrong. And that’s an entirely different topic. But no one has gone through life without someone putting them down in some way, intentionally or not.”

“The reason? It doesn’t matter, because it is our recording that keeps it alive. Our recording – if you haven’t guessed – is the mental record that we repeat to ourselves, yearly, monthly, weekly, or even daily. This is why we can hold on to stuff from high school (or grade school) even after many years have passed. We hold on to words said by people who we have no contact with anymore. We hold on to words said by people who aren’t even alive anymore.”

How We Keep Our Recording Alive
“We keep pressing “play”, over and over and over again: “Your writing is mediocre”, “You’ll never make it as … (fill in the blank), “You can write as a hobby, but not as a profession”, “Writing fiction is pointless”, “Blogging is stupid” etcetera etcetera.
No doubt, certain put-downs hurt more than others, and these are the ones that stick. Because the ones
that stick have made a home right next to our existing insecurities. Basically, we’re working off a blank
tape and adding our own damaging self-judgement as time moves forward.

Which is exactly what I was doing when I heard about the Insecure Writers Support Group: “Support
group? No way, I don’t need that. I don’t want to whine and hear other writers do the same.” People in other professions talk to their co-workers, complain about their boss, gripe to anyone in earshot and then they get back to work. Writers need that too. Then we can get back to our work of writing, mental recordings be damned.”

About the Author:

Candace Habte published two books back in the “golden” days of self-publishing (2004 – 2009)
somehow lived to tell about it. She looks forward to getting back in the self-publishing saddle this year with her first young adult novel. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their imaginary Yorkie. Find her at where she blogs about writing, life, and all the awesome things in between.




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Posted by on February 16, 2014 in Author/Writer


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5 responses to “Damaging Self-Judgment of Writers?

  1. Cate Russell-Cole

    February 16, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    This is a standing ovation. Bravo! I have been turned off IWSG because of the negative name myself. I feel that if you are wanting to be seen/sold as a professional, airing your dirty laundry in public is not necessarily wise. The creative life is a struggle at times, that is the nature of the beast. It is a process of learning how to break through. Accept it and go forward past your negative recordings!

    • Candace Habte

      February 19, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Thanks Cate! 🙂

      Yeah it definitely isn’t for everyone (but what is?). I guess it’s a good thing for the writers who choose to use it. So I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing it (hey it inspired this piece lol)…just not my cup of tea for now.

  2. Ajani Truth

    February 19, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Wow! I didn’t see that coming. I’m not REALLY a writer but this resonated with me. I press play on my recording all the time which keeps me from greatness. With the areas in my life that I really love, folks are really encouraging but I’m CREATING these recording that aren’t even real and playing them over and over.

    Thank you for this.

    • Candace Habte

      February 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      You are writer bro…

      But yes that whole recording thing stuck with me. Man I miss that yoga class. I’ve been to others and done it on my own, but that class was special. Good times

  3. Anthony Chapman

    February 20, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Interesting article.

    I think self-judgement has more to do with perception, but I recently discovered that it’s not only self-judgement. I was asked about my writing and said I’m not an original. that the book I’m working on now is good, and that the next one will be better. They automatically assumed I was putting myself down, and had no interest in the fact that to me this means I know exactly where I stand and how much work I need to do in order to reach my writing goals. I thought their reaction was funny.

    I did have years of knocking myself, and hearing the same stuff from other people. But once I was clear with myself about where I was and where I want to get to, the judgements of others became meaningless, except when they were entertaining. I’ve come to the conclusion that put-downs have more to do with the fact that if I succeed, then they have to face the fact that they could have done it too.

    The only judgements I make about writing now are, ‘Would that character really say/do that?’


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