Writers And Anxiety And Self-Esteem

One of my writing students asked this last week and over on my Facebook page, I asked people if they any ideas for them.

“Seems like a lot of us writers struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem. All I can do, apparently, is grind out a page here and there during my more lucid moments. I don’t suppose you’ve got the magic key to overcoming emotional struggles so that the writing gets done?”

Writer who I’m not going to out here because that would be horrible

A lot of people were super kind and gave recommendations. I’m going to share some of them here.

I have my own way of working through things (which is by working actually, just forcing myself to stare at the word on the page). Writing through my anxiety helps me eliminate my anxiety. By doing the work and being persistent, I usually pretty quickly remember the joy of the process and worry less about the outcome or other people’s approval or even my own self-recrimination or criticism.


That doesn’t work for everyone and I’m not quite self-centered enough to think my way is the only way. I know! I know! Shocker. 🙂

Here’s what some other people said:


Low self-esteem isn’t something I’ve struggled with since I started writing, but anxiety? Yeah, I’ve got it in spades.

For me, when my anxiety and what I call “stress brain” try to get in my way, I open a new or previous project (just something different) and throw myself into a scene that is very personal to me. It has to be something that I can completely immerse myself in, even if it means tears don’t stop flowing.

Actually? Especially then.

It clears my mind to vent off some of my personal frustrations and tell the world what I’m going through in a fictional way. It’s sort of soothing.

I’m sure some psych professionals would have a lot to say about my approach, but it works and that’s what counts, right? 😅

Jenica Saren


I’m a completionist. I get satisfaction from crossing things off my to-do list. So I started adding self care/ image tasks to it. Sometimes it will be “take half an hour and paint your nails really nicely” and sometimes it will be “smile awkwardly at yourself in a mirror for at least five minutes.” Either way, it forces me to really start to rewire my brain, and I get to cross something off my list so it’s an added bonus that creates some endorphins lol. I try to put those tasks towards to top of the list so I can’t just say “oh I’ll do that tomorrow” until I put it off forever

Autumn Gin

Top Down Development

Thoughts from a retired engineer: what the heck would I know, right? I wonder if my approach is applicable across domains. We apply “Top Down Development” to our projects. We start with a summary, expand that to steps which can be thought of as an outline, and then expand each step of the outline as we have done already. Eventually we are at a level where we are writing code, but it is going into a fully developed framework.

Does this apply to creative or non-fiction writing? Does it support or detract from the creative process?

Brett Binns

The Artist’s Way

When I sit down at the easel I will often time stare at the always scary white canvas/panel. I have found that pushing all fine drawing implements aside (pencils, pens, etc) and picking up a bold brush and start making marks does the trick. I “dabble” in writing and when that blank page is in front of me I resort to what Julia Cameron in her book “The Artists Way” suggests, grabbing a notebook and filling a couple pages with mindless streams of words that automatically come to mind which for me helps.

Richard Small

Celebrate What You’ve Done and More

What I do at the worst moments (so not general day to day but what i call ‘crashes’)

1. I write down all the things I’ve done over a period of time. No negative words on the page, only what I’ve done. This isn’t just writing or art but ALL the things because we are all many things.

2. Sometimes I will literally write a page or two of positive things about me over and over. ‘I am working hard enough’ or ‘My writing has value’. whatever it is that works for you. This helps alleviate the pressure gauge in my head.

3. I grab a friend to help recalibrate me–just to check my brain space. ‘Is this valid or is it just brain weavels?’

4. I let myself have a break–or try to

Sara Fox

The Five W’s and H

Find an interesting photo or art and write about that. Do the 5 Ws and H. Just do a quick write. Set a timer for 30 seconds and look at the picture. Study it. Form a plan. Then write 3 minutes nonstop. Write as many words as you can. It’s about word count. It doesn’t matter what you say. Just write like you’re in a race. Count the words. Do this 3 times. I find I write more each time. It gets you warmed up. You might even like I and can use it somewhere. I’ve found stories by doing this. 🤩

Here’s a link to millions of photos:


Angel Morgan

My Facebook friends are pretty amazing, right? It’s why I still have Facebook. I’ll be posting part two about this on Wednesday, but feel free to share you ideas and thoughts, too! We all should help each other when we can.

Continue reading “Writers And Anxiety And Self-Esteem”

How To Deal With Rejection

I’ve been thinking a lot about rejection lately because I’m teaching some amazingly brilliant writers at the Writing Barn who haven’t been published yet. And they are talent. Their stories should be published.

And I found one of my earliest blog posts when I wrote about a story getting rejected. It’s below.

Well, the fat cat sits with her bum on my manuscript again, which can only mean good things because according to writer myths, “A cat sitting on your manuscript means that the manuscript will become a book.”

And the big, white dog is soaked because it rained during our walk today. She has a “poopie heinie” somehow too. Yuck. I wish there was some good writing superstition about this… If your long-haired dog gets fecal matter stuck in their pure white hair means a starred review…

On a weirdly positive note, I just received the BEST rejection letter ever. Yes, I know. It makes no sense. But i sent out a novella to Penguin. They responded that it was “Beautifully, written, incredibly moving” and it’s clear that I “have a great deal of talent.”

So why did they reject it? Just to make me sad?
Probably, but they said it was a bit too specialized and scary for the middle grade market.


What does this mean?

Does this mean it’s YA or adult even though I imagined it as middle grade? I am not smart enough to figure out who to send this to now. If only my magic cat and her great sitting abilities could tell me. 

On another positive note Penguin said they’d be happy to consider future work, wished me great luck and “strongly encourage” me to submit the piece elsewhere.
Where? Where? Where?

It may have been a lovely rejection letter, but it’s a bit frustrating too. 
I am going to go pet the cat.

Me back in 2006

Rejection Is Not Always bad

Sometimes rejection is good in life and in books. If the creepy homicidal dude rejects you then that’s awesome and you live to see another day and all those cliches. But the thing is, when he’s rejecting you? You don’t know that he’s a creepy homicidal dude. So you mourn without realizing that him rejecting your offer to go split a pizza is the best thing ever.

It can be like this with your books, too.

Sometimes you and an agent or editor aren’t going to click. Sometimes your rejection is saving you from a really bad business relationship.

That doesn’t feel easy to take in though, does it? Or really make it better. So here are so more tips.

Babe, they just don’t get you.

Some people don’t get your sense of humor, your style, your witty comebacks, your endless Doctor Who references and you don’t get their live for American Pickers. You are rejected because you’re a bad match.

Sometimes they know you better than you know you.

They might have some good criticism about the fact that your 500,000 word manuscript has 450,000 words that start with the letter- r. Their criticism is going to help you make a stronger book with less alliteration. Boom! Score!

Remember that You Write Because You Love It

In all seriousness, I see a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook posting about how much writing sucks and how hard it is and how much they hate it. If this is you, I want you to think about why you’re writing. Don’t do this to yourself. You deserve to be happy. If writing makes you miserable almost all the time that you do it, don’t write. Tell your story to the world in a way that makes sense to you, that gives you joy, that you look forward to doing. Life is too short to spend it miserable when you don’t have to be miserable.

I will be sad that your stories aren’t out there, but I will be so happy that you are out there doing things you love.

Tell Your Inner Critic To Shut Up

The hardest part of rejection for a lot of us is that we internalize it. Some random editor or agent somewhere has rejected this one manuscript and we think that this means an inditement on our worth and our character. We think, “I suck.” We think, “I am a loser.” Our inner critic hyperbolizes the rejections into a massive litany of all our failures.

That inner critic needs to shut up.

Here’s the thing, the more we do, the more we try, the more we create, the better we get, but we also fail more that then people who never try, never do and never create.

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

Sylvia Plath

Remember When Dealing With Rejection

  • It’s okay to feel sad about it. That’s normal and human. It’s not okay to feel forever sad about it or make you feel bad about yourself.
  • Don’t be a butthead to the person or company that rejected you. That doesn’t get you published. It gets you the reputation of being a butthead. Nobody wants to work with buttheads.
  • Find friends who will lift you up. Check out the hashtag #writercommunity. Commiserate with others.
  • Write again. Try again. Shout and sing your stories and never give up. You deserve to be heard.



My next book, IN THE WOODS, appears in July with Steve Wedel. It’s scary and one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Buzz Books for Summer 2019. There’s an excerpt of it there and everything! But even cooler (for me) they’ve deemed it buzz worthy! Buzz worthy seems like an awesome thing to be deemed!

You can preorder this bad boy, which might make it have a sequel. The sequel would be amazing. Believe me, I know. It features caves and monsters and love. Because doesn’t every story?

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On February first, I’m going to launch my Patreon site where I’ll be reading chapters (in order) of a never-published teen fantasy novel, releasing deleted scenes and art from some of my more popular books. And so much more.

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A lot of you might be new to Patreon and not get how it works. That’s totally cool. New things can be scary, but there’s a cool primer HERE that explains how it works. The short of it is this: You give Patreon your paypal or credit card # and they charge you whatever you level you choose at the end of each month. That money supports me sharing my writing and art and podcasts and weirdness with you. 

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Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!


Hey! If you download the Anchor application, you can call into the podcast, record a question, or just say ‘hi,’ and we’ll answer. You can be heard on our podcast! Sa-sweet!

No question is too wild. But just like Shaun does, try not to swear, okay?

Here is the link to the mobile app and our bonus podcast below.


I do art stuff. You can find it and buy a print here. 

Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic
Bar Harbor Art Carrie Jones Welcome to Magic


You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.

Time Stoppers Carrie Jones Middle grade fantasy


The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.

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Men in Black meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer? You know it. You can buy them here or anywhere. It’s fun, accessible science fiction. Who knew there was such a thing?

31702754 copy

“Least Threatening Woman in the World” Self perception and writing

I am the least threatening woman in the world.

When I sat down to write about something, that’s the sentence that flew off my fingertips:

I am the least threatening woman in the world. 

And then I thought about what it means.


That one is sort of obvious.


the smallest extent


There’s a lot of definitions for this one, but I think that the one my brain was going for is “causing someone to feel vulnerable or at risk”

In the world

Wicked hyperbole because I’m an author and we’re into hyperbole.

But seriously, I am the sort of woman that even the most insecure people don’t care if their spouse texts. This is essentially true in all things work and life related.

Or am I? My perception of myself is pretty unthreatening, but one of my friends recently told me I have no chill and I could totally throw-down. He meant it as a compliment. Another friend told me, “You are so super mellow and chill. What was he talking about?”

Different people perceive us in vastly different ways, but even how we perceive ourselves can be all over the place.

So, when I think, “I am the least threatening person in the world,” am I actually just falling into a writer stereotype of self-loathing? Am I really saying, “I’m ugly and boring and nobody is intimidated by me because I’m basically nothing?” Or is it something else?

And why do so many of us writers (and comics, and artists, and bankers, and humans) do this? When this negative self definition is obviously not a helpful tool.

Writers and Self Loathing

Back in 2015, the New York Times asked two writers on their thoughts about writers and self loathing. 

Thomas Mallon wrote, “The aggrieved writer’s immortal longings represent, finally, a loathing not of the self but of the human condition, a desire to thwart the tragic fact of death. Writing has always offered a particularly good means of doing that.”

I read that to a friend and he rolled his eyes. “You aren’t self-loathing. You’re self deprecating. There’s a big difference. You’re afraid to claim your success. I think it might be a woman thing or a New England thing or something.”

“Are you telling me that I’m afraid of being successful because I’m a woman? Or because I’m from New Hampshire?” I asked.


“Hm,” I said because honestly? That’s a pretty big assertion that takes a lot to unpack.

Or maybe the self deprecation is because of my New England-ness and me being a woman and told not to ‘toot my own horn’ because it’s “tacky.” But maybe it’s also a thinking thing. Writers think a lot. We think about humans and society and our place within it. We think about character growth and motivation and that means that we sometimes think a lot about our own selves.

Anna Holmes wrote in that same Times piece, “Although I don’t buy the idea that self-loathing is a requirement for writers — I know too many writers, particularly men, who hold themselves in perhaps higher esteem than they should — I do think that writing demands a certain amount of self-awareness, and that self-awareness and self-loathing can be two sides of the same coin.”

Being judgmental about who we are, knowing our own flaws and faults, it can be hard. It’s hard to face our lack of personal perfection – not just for writers, but for all of us. And while we often give our friends and family space for errors or ‘flaws’ or screw-ups and forgive and love them anyway? That’s not always so hard to do with ourselves. To be self aware means to know we are imperfect. But our imperfections aren’t the end of the world. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that.

Making Ourselves a Trope

And the thing is that when we write about writers? We are making ourselves a trope and often continuing that cycle of negativity. I remember a couple of years ago when I had a five-second meltdown about how I could never watch another movie or television show about a writer.

“It makes me depressed,” I sputtered. “They are all just — they are either super wealthy or alcoholics or creepy.”

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has thought this. In 2017, Ben Blatt published a survey of some literature called “Writers are Self-Loathing: 50 Writers on Writers, In Fiction.”

Okay. It’s fiction, not movies, but it’s all about our culture and how we define ourselves.

Blatt wrote, “Writers don’t have the best reputation and they have no one to blame but themselves. Instead of writing stories where writers are attractive, heroic, and strong, they describe the writers within their own works as eccentric, depressed, reclusive, broke, and egotistical.”

Blatt gives example after example of writers putting writers down, defining them in not a very positive light.

Here are some excerpts that I took from his Signature article.

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I’m going to beg the rest of you out there, don’t define yourself as miserable, as nothing, as non-threatening, as invisible. Don’t believe yourself to be the trope. And maybe think about why that trope is there? Negative self awareness and self loathing and self deprecation. It’s like an evil trinity that holds us back, keeps us down. We don’t need it.

Writing News

Time Stoppers!

You can order my middle grade fantasy novel Time Stoppers Escape From the Badlands here or anywhere.

People call it a cross between Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but it’s set in Maine. It’s full of adventure, quirkiness and heart.



I am super psyched to be teaching the six-month long Write. Submit. Support. class at the Writing Barn!

Are you looking for a group to support you in your writing process and help set achievable goals? Are you looking for the feedback and connections that could potentially lead you to that book deal you’ve been working towards?

Our Write. Submit. Support. (WSS) six-month ONLINE course offers structure and support not only to your writing lives and the manuscripts at hand, but also to the roller coaster ride of submissions: whether that be submitting to agents or, if agented, weathering the submissions to editors.

Past Write. Submit. Support. students have gone on to receive representation from literary agents across the country. View one of our most recent success stories here


Apply Now!

Moe Berg

The Spy Who Played Baseball is a picture book biography about Moe Berg. And… there’s a movie out now about Moe Berg, a major league baseball player who became a spy. How cool is that?

It’s awesome and quirky and fun.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

dogs are smarter than people carrie after dark being relentless to get published

Writing Coach

I offer solo writing coach services. For more about my individual coaching, click here.






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