How I Am Overcoming My Inner Critic and My Fear of Success

by guest blogger Lois Eighmy

EVERY TIME I begin a story, I hear my inner critic telling me it’s a stupid idea. Or maybe she tells me it is a good idea, but not something I can do well.

Sometimes she may be right, but more often, she is not. I went through a long time of not writing anything because I let my inner critic tell me I was no good at it. What could possibly make me think I could write a good story?

Then I made an incredible discovery in 2006 when I heard about Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). In Nanowrimo, the point is to write 50,000 words in 30 days (typically during the month of November). They don’t have to be good words. They don’t have to make sense. You just have to sit down and write 50,000 words (roughly 1,667 words per day).

If you make it to 50K at the end of the month, you are a winner and you receive a winner’s certificate. If you do not make it by midnight on the 30th day, you still have the satisfaction of having tried and done your best.

And let me tell you, if you tried and you stuck it out, you are still a winner in my book, whether you reached 50K or not!

I thought about what I would write for my first Nanowrimo Novel and I came up with a great story about the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts. I did not do much preparing or outlining, but I created some quick characters and made a timeline for their births, deaths and the most important events.

When November 1 rolled around, I just began writing. I let the story take over instead of trying to make some sense out of it. It may seem like a sloppy way to write, but when you have not written anything in a long time, this is a good way to get the creative juices flowing again!

You have to shove the inner critic out of the way and ignore him or her and just write your heart out. It does not all have to make sense. It just has to be written.

So, how did I do on my first Nanowrimo Novel? Well, at one point early in the novel, I found my timeline wasn’t working with the story and I took a few hours one night to rewrite it . . . AFTER I’d done my writing for the day . . . then I continued with the story AND I WON! I was so excited to have written a novel, from beginning to end, and I was ecstatic!

I was so pleased with my experience that I have participated in Nanowrimo in 2007 and 2008. And I’ve won both times. I plan on winning again in 2009, as well!

My inner critic still tells me that the only reason I won is because I’m a stay-at-home wife, and maybe she is correct. Or maybe she is not. Other people have gone on to complete novels while holding down more than one job or going to college while working, so that is certainly not the reason I finished. I finished because I ignored the inner critic while writing. I waited until the story was finished before unleashing my inner critic’s fury.

Because of Nanowrimo, I have gone on to write eight more novels . . . and not all of them have been for Nanowrimo.

So what do I do with my stories now that the rough drafts have been written? That’s a good question. This brings me to the other major struggle I have: the FEAR OF SUCCESS.

Fear of success? How can anyone be afraid to succeed, you might ask.

I am afraid of many things. I am a shy person, so I am afraid of the thought of reading aloud to other people (doing readings). I am afraid of doing meets and greets and having my photo taken for publicity. I am afraid of what the critics will have to say about my work, as all new writers probably are.

But I think there is something more to it than that. I think I am afraid that my “good ideas” will come to an end and I will be a failure in the long run. I think I am afraid that success will change me into someone I do not want to be. I am afraid . . . I am afraid . . . I am afraid. . . .

But just like the inner critic needs to be ignored during the writing process, my fear needs to be conquered if I want to be a published author. I just have to take baby steps. I have to take these steps in defiance of my fear.

Will I succeed? I have to believe I will. I will face my fear so I can move forward in making my dream of being a published author a reality. I will use my fear as a challenge, as something to strive to overcome. I will take one step at a time until there are no more steps to take. I will do this with each book I write that I want to publish. And I will stay positive and keep my head up.

I am a writer. I write to please myself. If others should happen to enjoy my stories, too, then that’s a happy bonus I’ll be thankful for!


LOIS EIGHMY is a stay-at-home wife, artist and avid blogger (LMEighmy). Her art cards can be ordered as personalized greeting cards (Note Cards by Lois Eighmy). She writes short stories and novels and hopes to have them published one day soon. Lois lives in Arkansas with her husband and family and her cat, Chloe, but dreams of moving back to Maine, the land of her childhood.

Greeting card image, “Anthurium,” Copyright © Lois Eighmy

9 Responses to How I Am Overcoming My Inner Critic and My Fear of Success
  1. Anonymous
    June 14, 2009 | 10:05 PM

    This is great advice for everyone, follow your gut follow your heart. Bring forth was is within you.

    Patricia Rushing, author of
    Valentine, Maggie's Back and

  2. nancy
    June 14, 2009 | 10:09 PM

    Thanks for sharing this article. I have been writing since I was 10 years old. I have several books I was working on but stopped because I was listening to that inner critic. I am now so encouraged to begin again to put my writings in some kind of order. Thanks again Lois! Great article. Thank you Milli!

  3. Al in Oz
    June 15, 2009 | 4:39 AM

    My inner critic's bigger 'n me, and he (or is it she) bullies me to the nth degree -so, I sit at the screen and write in an act of defiance. But that's all I do. Write 'n file, write 'n file and do an on-line crossword puzzle.

    I took the NaNoWRiMo plunge plus the Script Frenzy and have gained to nanowrimo winners certs and 1 for script frenzy.

    But! my inner critic and her allies procrastination and cowardliness kick-in towards me not getting it,at least pitched, as a potential published work.

    Thanks, Lo, for your words of wisdom.

  4. LMEighmy
    June 15, 2009 | 10:29 AM

    Patricia: I couldn't agree more! 🙂

    Nancy: I hope you do. Writing is good for the soul! 😀

    Al: My bullies are constantly badgering me about being published. They don't think I can do it. But I can. I know I can. 🙂

    You're welcome, all! 😀


  5. Milli Thornton
    June 15, 2009 | 10:40 AM

    Nancy, I'm so pleased you feel encouraged by Lois' article to try again! It sounds like you were pretty prolific before the ol' IC kicked in.

    You might find it very helpful (perhaps liberating!) to join us for the 10K Day on June 18. You can read more about it here:

    You're Invited: 10K Day for Writers, Thurs June 18

    Warm Regards,

  6. Patti Stafford
    June 16, 2009 | 11:39 AM

    Great post. My inner critic has kept me from fiction writing too, but that little spark is slowly starting to eat away at me. I've been writing non-fiction for the web so long it seems that fiction never gets a front seat anymore. I may do the 10k challenge posted in this blog.

    You said you already have 8 novels under your belt. I understand the fear of success, I think I have it too. But since you have a good number in queque, you should get one polished and start sending queries out about it. If it's accepted and they want more–you already have those. I envy you that. I have several started—and that's all they are; a start. LOL.

    See your bio says you hail from Arkansas. I'm an Arkansas native myself, just moved to Branson last year.

    Best of luck to you!!

  7. LMEighmy
    June 16, 2009 | 2:35 PM

    Patti: I'm glad you enjoyed the post and I hope it helps!

    I have eight novels, it's true, but my problem is the inability to afford an editor. Editing is NOT my strong suit. I have to save up for that. I'm thinking the story I'm currently working on will be my first published story, though, as it's the first that was organized beforehand with an outline. It makes a whole lot more sense than my other stories. I'll probably re-write several of the others, though, then publish them, as well.

    I'm not actually FROM Arkansas. My hubby and I moved here about two and a half years ago. I'm originally from the northeast…an area I greatly miss. It's nice here, though.

    Best of luck to you, too! 😀

  8. CFox
    June 16, 2009 | 4:37 PM

    Great article Lois! This in itself is a good way to gain the confidence needed to begin the publishing process. And thanks for queing me in to the 10K Thursday. I'm going to give it a shot. Maybe one day I'll get over that fear of success too!


  9. LMEighmy
    July 2, 2009 | 4:44 PM

    You're welcome, Maria. 🙂

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