Why I’m so done with writers putting themselves down—me included.

My neurodiverse brain tends to pick up on patterns, whether they are patterns on objects or patterns of behaviour. And for the last several months, I’ve been somehow more attuned to an increasing number of posts where authors are just metaphorically punching themselves repeatedly in their own faces. Some are people I know, and others total strangers. I know I’ve also shared these feelings about myself. It’s a thing that happens to all of us.

But you know what? I’m so over it.

Wooden table with coffee cup, blank paper and a red pen, and red-berried branch.
Photo by Kaboompics .com from Pexels.

We creatives are an interesting lot and prone to insecurity; it’s true. But I think many of us keep forgetting the sheer magic of what it means to be a writer. We take notions or concepts in our brains and translate them into words on a page. We invent worlds, landscapes, technology, supernatural forces, and even characters who some readers get so attached to, they want them to be real! (And those characters become real to their authors as well.) We make up stories! That’s kind of massively awesome. We paint with our words, we point out injustices with them, we express what it means to love (in all of love’s forms), we glue eyeballs to paragraphs, we invoke emotions in others, we memorize and induce a sort of “book grief,” when the last words are read or listened to.

Isn’t it a bit astounding that we can do all those things? We’ve been granted the ability to move, excite, thrill, invoke dreamy sighs…whatever the imagination stirs!

Yet, at the first opportunity, we do a major no-no. We take whatever joy we feel from the craft and dilute or quash it by looking around at other authors. Maybe one has published several titles in the last two years, maybe another has an agent, maybe another has earned out a cash advance. And instead of feeling that “Go, you!” for them, we look inward at what we have not achieved. Even if we can sincerely offer our congratulations, it almost takes no time at all for us to think we’re failures of some sort.

But…but..but…you still wrote words of your own! You still also have the same magic. You can words!

Last Saturday, I felt beyond exhausted and only managed 514 words for the day as part of NaNoWriMo 2019. This was my tweet about it:

As you know, I’m disabled, and whenever I try NaNoWriMo, I have a staunch rule about not writing to harm myself. During this month, I don’t look to the left or the right, and I don’t read any motivational email from the organization. I enter into my little Spoonie ’Cosm and only concentrate on my own path. This is a good reminder for me to celebrate what I can achieve, and if on a certain day I don’t write because I need to put my health first, then that is also a GO ME! day.

Now, something else happened last Saturday. I might not be an bestselling, award-winning author, but the first short story I ever wrote that starred a disabled protagonist, The Hilltop Gathering, was discussed at an international forum about Frankenstein at Carleton university—in an academic paper! I joked that I might never have gone to uni, but my story sure did!

Folks, I’m really proud that happened. So, would it be a good look if I suddenly started moping about how the same short story didn’t make the final ballot of the 2019 Prix Aurora Awards? No, I think that would be silly and ridiculous. And even if that story had never been discussed at an academic forum, it still a tale I made up all by myself. I loved reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and in fact, I enjoyed the entire process of reading it and crafting my short story so much, it didn’t even matter to me at the time if it got accepted to be part of We Shall Be Monsters. Because I wrote my first own-voices piece, and it really felt good.

Can we all promise to try to remember to feel good about what we do? And if we feel bad about ourselves, let’s rely on each other for going through a down spell, because we all need encouragement. But let’s please not forget altogether to celebrate what we’ve done. As an autistic person, I often talk about “training my brain” to focus on something that builds me up when I’m tempted to hyperfocus on the negative or my fears. I’ve decided to work on training my mind to be happy with myself more.

Truthfully, you don’t need an agent, an award, or even a publisher to be worthy of celebrating you and your craft. You write words! Every book in existence started with an idea and a first sentence. If you’ve written that first sentence, then congratulate yourself. If you’ve decided to rewrite, then take joy in that motivation. If you feel you need a break, then be glad you’re putting yourself first so you can go back to writing when you can enjoy it again. Whatever you achieve, give yourself a pat on the back.

You are a magical alphabet arranger. Don’t forget this. Because I just might remind you!

(Please remind me of this when I, too, forget, okay?)

Today, I challenge you to reflect on how amazing you are, to take pride in your words, and only you compare with you on this road of creativity.


Cait Gordon, in a black and white digital sketch

Cait Gordon is a disability advocate and the author of Life in the ’Cosm and The Stealth Lovers. When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She also teamed up with Kohenet Talia C. Johnson to co-edit the Nothing Without Us anthology in an attempt to take over the world. Narf.

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