IWSG: Behold the Insidious Anti-Muse

How to banish the insidious anti-muse.

Insecurities, I’ve had a few.

My foray into full-time fiction writing hasn’t even started yet (it begins this month!) and I’m already terrified.

I’m preparing for the launch of two major novels on May 16th, and the stakes seem so incredibly high. Suddenly I have a publicity team. A cover artist. A formatter. And everyone needs input from me in order to do their part.

Ever have one of those moments where you try to knock just one thing off your to-do list, only to discover ten more things you hadn’t thought of? That’s how the last few weeks have been for me. The learning curve is incredibly steep, and it’s more than a little daunting.

And, all along the way, the Insidious Anti-Muse whispers in my ear.

“What if no one reads your books?”
What if this is as good as it gets? What if you fail?”

What if, what if, what if.

And those are some mighty big ifs.

It’s odd that my most crushing insecurities arise when one of my books gets published, but the same thing happened with my Bear. I don’t know if it’s the tendency to constantly check my Amazon rankings or what, but the release of Monsters in Our Wake has inspired moments of pure terror, and not because it’s a scary book. The Insidious Anti-Muse became more vocal, more insistent, more difficult to ignore.

As writers, we’re advised not to write to get published. Not to care what others think. To write for ourselves and only ourselves, simply because we love it. In that case, I’d keep my manuscripts in a box under my bed. I send my books out on submission because I love writing fiction enough to want it to be my day job. Connecting with readers and knowing that I’ve written a book that means something to people is important to me.

So I try to focus on the readers, the small handful of people who’ve taken the time to let me know my writing has meant something to them. I’m still so full of gratitude and awe that anyone is willing to trade their time and money for one of my tales.

It’s a scary world out there, and this has got to be one of the most insecurity-inducing industries. It’s not easy to focus on the small steps we’ve made up the mountain when the peak is so high above us it’s obscured by clouds.

I wish I had some great words of wisdom to pass on, some sure-fire cure for the times that Insidious Anti-Muse is screaming in your ear.

All I’ve got is this: as terrifying as the possibility of failing is, it’s still far more frightening to never try at all.

What do you do to banish the Insidious Anti-Muse? I’d love to hear how you push on despite your insecurities.

If you’re on Pinterest, would you take a minute to share my pin for Monsters? It would mean a lot to me.

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeThe purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.


  1. I know exactly what you mean about To Do Lists – they expand and expand and expand until you want to crawl into bed and never get out again.

    I’m about 1/3 of the way through Monsters in Our Wake. It’s fabulous! Of course, I’m scared to death to live on our boat now for fear that we’ll run into one of these creatures 🙂

    • JH

      Oh that’s awesome, Ellen! Thanks for reading it. I’m glad you’re enjoying the book.

      As long as you’re not invading their home, you’ll be just fine. 🙂

  2. To-do lists never fully end for me, but there is great satisfaction in crossing things off. Good luck with the launches! I’m envious of your full-time writer status, though I know it feels strange and scary to you.

    • JH

      Also overwhelming. I’m not quite there yet–still have some freelance tasks to fulfill, but watching money flow in one direction (out) is pretty scary, yes.

      This is a big, giant leap of faith.

  3. “All I’ve got is this: as terrifying as the possibility of failing is, it’s still far more frightening to never try at all.”

    That is probably the best way of thinking about this issue because we all feel it constantly, no matter where we are in our careers, and the only way to get over it and is to move through it–to feel the fear and do it anyway, so to speak.

    That’s all I got for now 🙂

  4. I saved your Monsters cover. I need to also share it. I’ll do that today. You have to accept that the Anti-Muse committee will show up during these times, BUT you need to tell them that they need to meet somewhere else, to get out of your head. Keep doing all the things to advance your career and create. Also, invite friends, the positive voices, in, and tell them to speak a little louder! I’ve started reading Monsters, and it’s great. I told my friend, who is a publicist, about it, telling her “that’s what good writing does.” It draws you in from the opening scene.
    Best wishes in your career and in silencing the “Anti-muse Committee.”

  5. This – “All I’ve got is this: as terrifying as the possibility of failing is, it’s still far more frightening to never try at all.” YES!

    I think there’s a difference between writing to be published and writing to entertain readers. It’s a fine line maybe, but I think it’s an important distinction.

    And congrats on the two novels! Wishing you all the success! 🙂

  6. It is a big step. I became fully self-employed in 1999. It was scary, and I’ve run several businesses during that time, but I wouldn’t go back to a JOB for anything in the world. Follow your dream and believe in yourself.

    • JH

      Thanks. Easier said than done sometimes. I won’t go back to a JOB either–I left that back in 2012. This is just the next, more terrifying step.

  7. Failure is scary, and most people don’t try to fulfill their dreams because of that fear. It’s definitely scarier to not try at all. If I never wrote any of my novels, I would have wished I did on my death bed. This I know for sure.

    And, like most quests, the journey is the best part, even if you never reach your destination.

    • JH

      Thanks for the reminder, Tanya. I’ve always believed in that journey quote, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of the forest, you can no longer see the trees.

  8. My to-do list gets bigger every day. Argh. Yay for becoming a full-time writer! Big congrats on the 2 novels due in May – enjoy every moment. 🙂

  9. I just like making books. I would probably be happy as a book printer, or an old book restorer. But since I like making the books so much, I figure I might as well just write them myself. 🙂

    Good to see The Bear back up on Amazon! I read it last month and quite enjoyed it, but when I went to leave a review it was nowhere to be found! (Actually the weird thing was it let me leave the review on Amazon.ca, but it wouldn’t show because the listing was gone. Anyway…)

    Good luck with all your big exciting events coming up!

    • JH

      Oh, thanks so much for reading it and for leaving such an awesome review! When Samhain closed and the rights reverted back to me, it took some time to find another publisher and get a new cover, etc.

      But the little Bear is back! I appreciate your support.

  10. What if you fail? But what if you don’t? What if you are a massive success? This is why we have to ignore that voice and go for it! Because ultimately even if you do fail, you’ll have gained more than you lost. You’ll have gained the knowledge that you had the courage to try – the courage to be one of a tiny handful of people who actually go out and do it rather than just talking about it. And the people who go out and strive for it have a 100% better chance of making it than those who just sit in a rut wishing for it! And you’ll have gained the knowledge of what went wrong – so when you try again, you’ll have it nailed!

    • JH

      Thanks, Debbie. That’s an awesome pep talk. I’m going to save it and re-read it whenever my Anti-Muse pipes up again.

  11. Being a part of Romance Writers and some indie author communities online have been hugely inspirational to me. The traditional publishing industry is not for everyone. That’s the direction I’m going for my young adult books, but I’m glad I have options to take publishing into my own hands for other projects. There’s a real difference in rushing to publish, not using editors, and throwing out a bad product just because it’s possible. But waiting on NYC to recognize you … not needed anymore. I’m glad both paths exist/

    • JH

      That’s one reason I have to tread carefully when I whine, Juneta. 🙂 Even though a lot of writers are WAY higher on the food chain, others will see my success, such as it is, and wish they were standing on my rung.

      Thanks for the kind words, and I wish you all the best as you climb that ladder!

  12. Stupid Anti-Muse. I’m not sure there is a good antidote, a way to silence her completely. Maybe she serves a valuable purpose, keeping us humble? She certainly keeps us on our toes, and I wish she was less brutal.

    Or maybe I’m insane and should keep my mouth shut.

  13. Two novel launches on one day! Wow. Congratulations.

    I wish I had some insight on banishing the Anti-Muse. If I did, I’d be using it on the one that resides at the back of my brain.

  14. You have a publicity team? How nice!

    We have to change those “what ifs.” What if I don’t publish this book? What if I miss out on an opportunity? What if I could’ve gotten more readers? Good “what ifs.” 🙂

    • JH

      It will be very nice if they’re successful. 🙂 I’m smart enough to know when I’m out of my league and need some help.

      Changing the message is an awesome idea! I’m going to work on that, starting now.

  15. I’m pretty sure that red wine and dark coffee work on the anti-muse…maybe not. The best I can do is to do my best. Keep sitting down at the computer every day, and try to keep my lists in order. I haven’t made the jump to full-time, and probably won’t, so that keeps my chaos a little more limited!

    • JH

      That explains it, Rebecca! I don’t drink either one. (Although, I did find some nice red wine I actually enjoyed while in Italy. Everything tastes better over there.)

      I envy your “limited chaos.”

  16. You have come so far, Holli! You are sharing insecurities on a whole different level here, a level to be proud of. And, one you reached writing part-time. Imagine what you will be able to achieve when having more time to commit to your current and future books. You go girl! 🙂

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Liesbet! I really hope I have time to actually WRITE when I’m full time. So far, it’s been a ton of admin and marketing.

  17. Congrats on your upcoming releases. I’m still learning how to push pass the self doubt. One of the things I had to do was not check Amazon or Goodreads for the reviews. They started to bog me down and feed the self-doubt monster even though the good did out weigh the bad.

    Best of luck on your journey to being a full-time writer. You already have a solid plan in place so I have no doubt you’ll succeed!

    • JH

      Thanks so much, Meka. And yes, ugh. Reviews. I’ve been lucky for the most part thus far, but some of that is due to having a smaller audience. Writers with hundreds or thousands of readers are more likely to have nasty reviews than someone like me.

      I did recently receive one three-star review which totally disheartened me, though. He was a reviewer who’d enjoyed my first book, so I gave him the latest for free, in exchange for a review. The no-review, three-star rating spoke volumes: he didn’t like it. And that’s always tough. A business friend of mine says bad reviews are yet another way of weeding out readers who aren’t our people.


  18. She’s quite the evil little thing isn’t she, that Anti Muse? I haven’t found a way to push her aside entirely, but I am good at distracting myself with long to-do lists that leave me convinced I don’t have time to think about that. I also channel my inner Scarlet O’Hara and promise I’ll think about that “tomorrow.” 🙂

  19. I feel like my panic grows as my career grows. The more success I find, the more nervous I get about next steps. Possibly because it means those next steps are a possible reality now. I try to push through by telling myself that feeling means I’m doing something right.

    • JH

      Good point, Shannon. I never thought of it that way. I suppose our stakes also get higher the more successful we are, as well.

  20. Just think of those authors you love & what you’d have missed out on if they hadn’t been brave enough to submit. That’s you for your readers – be brave! (And good luck! 🙂 )

    • JH

      Thanks, Angela. That’s a very good thing to keep in mind. And when it comes to my published work, I can honestly say the best is yet to come. 🙂

  21. The only thing I’ve found to work is to do the stuff she says you can’t anyway.

    Because what really makes her loud is when you listen. (She’s kind of like tinnitus in that way.)

  22. I’m constantly arguing with my anti-muse; I’d be a little worried if I wasn’t. It would mean I’ve given up. I push forward because I want to share my stories and hope that someone else will connect with them.

  23. The voice of doubt. Yes. I try to ignore that as much as possible. Truthfully, I know what to expect from a release now, so it doesn’t bother me as much, but I hear you. I suppose what has diminished some of that for me is a large bank of beta readers who really do help refine the work before it ever sees the light of day. And I actually write for my audience, not for myself. We share interests, but yes, if I was writing for me, the writing would be much lazier. =)

    • JH

      Knowing what to expect from a release is huge. I will strive to make each launch bigger and better, because that’s my nature, but it’s important not to set our expectations too high. Sites, yes, but not expectations.

    • JH

      I’m a huge list maker too, Gina! Have you ever tried Habitica? It’s a free program that turns your to-do list into a game. Lots of fun, and even more incentive to cross off those tasks.

  24. You have meaningful stories to write. Readers out there deserve to read them. If you keep those two things in mind, you don’t have time to focus on insecurities.

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