The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Failure

We’ve all failed at things in our lives, but the things we really want, really desire, really strive to achieve, we have to understand and accept that failure is part of the game.  Everyone you know, either in your personal life or who is a public figure, has failed at some point in their life.  Most people have failed dozens of times.

As a self-aware writer, as a self-aware person, the important thing to remember is failure should be viewed as a learning experience and not as an excuse to give up.

Let’s talk about it.

Accepting Failure

Part of self-awareness is knowing that you’ll face an insurmountable obstacle at some point in your life that feels like you’ve failed.  Any number of things could lead to that moment, some within your control and some not in your control.  Sometimes we get super close to achieving something, only for the opportunity to be taken away at the last moment.  Other times we tried and tried, but things still didn’t work out.

Hey, it happens.

When it comes to your writing career, having the self-awareness to know and accept that the inevitable rejection letter or email will happen is a step toward accepting failure on some level.  It doesn’t mean you burn your manuscript or give up writing; you take the loss and try again.

There’s this author some of you may know, Stephen King, whose first novel, Carrie, was rejected by 30 publishers before one finally picked it up.  And before that, King himself tossed the novel in the trash, the novel that helped make him a household name and an author who continues to publish multiple novels a year!

Failure has many negative connotations in our society.  Still, one thing that isn’t discussed is how failure has to happen for success to happen.  Failure is part of the process.  And no matter what you do, you have to start from somewhere and work your way up; and failure is just something that happens on the way to the top.

A few months ago, I wrote a review for a book called Chasing Failure by Ryan Leak that I highly recommend.  Part of self-awareness is knowing how to utilize failure to your advantage and make it a positive learning experience instead of a catastrophic nightmare.  

You Have the Right to Fail, So Allow It To Happen

The obsession with perfection can cause many to not even try.  We want to be the best at what we do from the start; the terror of falling flat on our faces and being judged by others can cause analysis paralysis and a sense of doom that prevents us from venturing out of our heads or comfort zones.

But we have to understand that failure is part of life.  It’s part of being human.  And we have to accept that part of humanity to truly live life and reach for our goals.  Failing is another step toward success; you can’t reach your goals without its existence.  Don’t fear it.

Learning From Failure

The key to dealing with a failure is to examine why it happened and what you can learn from it.  Every failure is a learning experience.  Once you can pinpoint why you failed during that attempt, you can reconfigure and try again.  You may fail again, but now you have the knowledge to help you make new decisions and choices as you progress toward your goal.

Next Time…

Many of us fear failure, but what about being afraid of success?  We’ll talk about it.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Non-Fiction

While I write a lot on this blog about writing fiction, many authors work in the realm of non-fiction.  Histories, biographies, and science-based writings all need the same time, energy, effort, and commitment from their authors as fiction does.  

When it comes to being a self-aware writer in the non-fiction genre, a few more aspects must be considered than with fiction.

Let’s talk about them.

Self-Awareness and Bias

We are all biased for and against different things.  It’s just part of being human.  But being aware of one’s biases makes a huge difference, and we can work to change those biases we can identify as negative.  When writing about a real topic, you have to pause and examine your current biases, perspectives, and opinions about the subject you are covering.  What you think you know is likely incorrect or inaccurate, and you need to be willing to change your thinking to effectively write about the chosen topic.

Ask yourself:

  • Are my primary views on this topic positive or negative?
  • What basic information have I learned about this topic before researching?
  • What do I know about the key people involved in this subject?  Do I have any opinions about them – positive or negative – based on what I know?
  • Can I set aside my personal views and opinions to write a fact-based narrative on this subject?

Unfortunately, we live in a world where misinformation and disinformation about almost every topic are as available as the facts, so it’s important to take your time to find the truth about the subject you’re writing about.  It’s also important to avoid confirmation bias, which “is the tendency to look for information that supports, rather than rejects, one’s preconceptions, typically by interpreting evidence to confirm existing beliefs while rejecting or ignoring any conflicting data (American Psychological Association).”

The self-aware writer understands that they’re human and will have opinions, biases, and views that may contradict or conflict with truths they discover about a topic you’re researching.  While you may not like the facts, it’s important not to dismiss, skew, hide, or omit them from your work to remain truthful and ethical.

The Self-Aware Non-Fiction Writer at the Computer

Much like the fiction author, as a non-fiction writer, you’ll want an outline that helps you navigate the topic you’re writing about.  Most topics can be covered from dozens of angles, so it’s important to pick one of two and stick with them throughout your manuscript.  Just because you’re choosing an angle doesn’t mean you’re skewing the facts or history to meet your needs or biases.  Suppose you use a historical figure who was there during the events you’re discussing.  In that case, you tell the story through their eyes and experiences.  

The drafting process also requires a keen self-awareness as you ensure that your personal views, beliefs, and biases don’t infringe on the narrative.  If you feel compelled to write your opinion about the topic, write those views elsewhere and utilize them as part of an Afterword or final comments at the end of the manuscript.

The editing process for non-fiction should be met with plenty of fact-checking, double-checking quotes and how names and locations are spelled, and making sure the narrative flows clearly and accurately from one chapter to the next.  Like fiction, spelling, and grammar should be top-of-mind as well.  Misspelled words in non-fiction have a tendency to hurt the author’s credibility.

Regarding feedback, the self-aware writer should look for readers who know and don’t know the topic.  Again, like we discussed with fiction, have specific questions for the reader to consider as they work their way through.  You want to ensure you get clear and helpful feedback to help you clarify any problem areas to further improve the reading experience.

Next Time…

How can being a self-aware writer help us deal with failure?  We’ll talk about it.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!


The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Self-Criticism

Last time, we talked about the dangers of ego regarding writing and creativity.  Today, we’ll look at the opposite: the hazards of self-criticism and creativity.

Let’s get started.

Don’t Get Caught in the Downward Spiral

Negativity.  Our world thrives on it.  Death.  War.  Destruction.  Evil.  It seems as if we just can’t escape it, no matter how hard we try.  And while we can’t eliminate the negative forces in our external world, we can do something to eliminate them internally.  

Part of self-awareness is knowing when you bring those self-critical and negative thoughts into your mind that affect your ability to write and create.  It’s easy to let one negative thought evolve into a string that causes you to avoid writing altogether.  Allowing yourself to acknowledge the negative thought and then push it away is a great starting point to getting back at your writing and moving forward.

I know it can be challenging, but wallowing in self-criticism won’t help you.  And while it’s good to reflect on ways to improve as a writer, you can’t use reflection as a force for negativity.  Reflect, refresh, and write.  That’s the best way to improve.

When You Frown, Write It Down

Negative thoughts can suck the life force out of you.  So, when they pop up, write them in a journal.  Then, use it as a writing exercise to explain why you feel this way.  What is causing self-critical thought?  How can you resolve it?  I guarantee you that if it’s related to your writing or creativity, the best solution is to write.

If the negative thought is based on an aspect of writing you have difficulty with, it’s time to do some research.  Instead of feeling bad that you are bad at writing dialogue or have difficulty with description, look up articles or videos that can help you take the necessary steps to improve.  Take notes and use your newfound knowledge to practice this area of weakness.

Now you’re actively working on your writing and have turned those self-critical thoughts into something productive that will make you a better writer.

The Perils of Procrastination

Yes, the couch or your bed is inviting.  Yes, the final season of Barry is now available to binge.  And the world is on fire, so why don’t I just lay down and give up?


Procrastination is one of the easiest activities to do.  It takes no effort, takes up tons of time, and requires zero skill.  

But you have a story to write, and allowing yourself to get trapped in an endless cycle of YouTube videos or pointless social media arguments isn’t getting you any further in your story.

Relaxing is fine, but when you do it to avoid something else, it becomes a problem.  Part of being a self-aware writer is knowing when you procrastinate for the wrong reasons.  If you are doing it to avoid writing, ask yourself why.  Have you hit a challenging part of the story or the process you are actively avoiding?  Did something happen that has thrown your day off and caused you to lose focus?

As I talked about in the last section, write it out.  Journaling about your problems can be a great starting point for finding the solution you seek.  And journaling about the problem is an active way to solve it and gets you back to writing instead of mindlessly doom scrolling on your phone.

Next Time…

Utilizing self-awareness as a fiction writer is one thing, but how does one use it when writing non-fiction?  Ah, we’ll discuss that coming up.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness vs Ego

Last time, we discussed ways the self-aware writer can get feedback from others to help improve their manuscript.  Today, we’ll discuss how self-awareness can prevent ego and over-confidence from making themselves known.

Let’s get started.

Be Honest with Yourself, Not Delusional

We’ve seen it with politicians, celebrities, athletes, and rock stars.  They get so full of themselves, so arrogant, so cocky, so egotistical that they lose all sense of how they got to where they are and where they once were.  It’s a level of delusion that is dangerous and unhealthy and should be avoided at all costs.

It can be easy to feel some level of power and confidence when you write.  After all, you are creating new stories and worlds, birthing ideas and characters that others will experience and be entertained by.  Wielding this type of power can make some feel confident and cocky; it can boost their ego and cause them to think too highly of themselves.


Yes, you’re a writer.  But even the best writers have the insight and self-awareness to know they have areas of their writing they need to work on, improve, and strengthen.  Being honest with yourself, taking a step back, and seeing what you can do better is humbling and keeps you grounded as a writer and human being.

This is why getting honest feedback on your work is so important.  Surrounding yourself with people who 100% agree with you 100% of the time and think your work is just great no matter what will not make you a better writer.  It will actually hurt your ability to become a better one.

The ego can create a delusional view of the world around you.  It can repel those who once supported you, crush your writing goals, and make you a person people want to avoid.  

Proud, Not Prideful

While it’s okay to be proud of what you’ve written, it’s foolish to think it’s the greatest written work in history.  Each manuscript and each story is a stepping stone for you to learn and improve as a writer.  Every author you love has to start from a certain point as a writer and grow over time.  If they had to do it, so do you.

Not every story will work.  Not every book will be embraced by readers.  That’s why keeping your ego in check and having the self-awareness needed to make the changes and creative leaps to become a better artist is important in the long run.

Next Time…

While ego may live on one side of the spectrum, the opposite can also cause detrimental harm to you as a writer.  We’ll have a look at self-awareness and self-criticism coming up.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Feedback

Last time, we talked about how self-awareness can help you edit your manuscript and get it to the best version possible.  Today, we’ll explore how to use self-awareness when receiving feedback from others on your work.

Let’s get started.

Feedback: Self-Aware, Not Self-Absorbed

Everyone needs feedback on their writing.  It doesn’t matter what it is; if you intend to publish it, you’ll want to take the time to have another person – or other people – read it and get their honest feedback about the work.

Being a self-aware writer is knowing that there are areas of the writing process that are your strengths.  Still, others are weaknesses that you need to improve upon.  Getting feedback from others can help you pinpoint these weak areas so you can improve them before you send the manuscript out to the next reader.

These initial readers should be people you know and trust who will be honest with you about any problems they find.  This is where being a self-aware writer comes in handy.  You want to make it clear to the reader that you want them to be truthful with you about anything they find that needs work.  You can’t make it better if all they do is shower you with false praise.

You’ve given them the manuscript for a reason, and you want to make sure that what you need from them is what you get.  

Feedback: Know What You Want

Two words: BE SPECIFIC.  “Let me know if you like it or not” is not a good way to get strong feedback.  Before you send your manuscript off to anyone, think of aspects you want them to focus on and look for.  This will ensure they stay engaged since you’ve given them a task related to the book.

Some questions you could pose to your reader include:

  • Is the main character’s story arc strong enough?  
  • Does the story keep them engaged?  
  • Is there any place during the story where the energy dies or the pacing slows?  
  • Were there any parts that were confusing or hard to understand?  
  • Did any of the subplots cause you to lose interest?  
  • Was the villain’s motivation strong enough?  
  • Did the conflict keep you invested?

Then, when you meet with them after they’re done, they have clear and specific answers that will help you improve the manuscript going forward.  

Feedback: Know What You Don’t Want

This is where picking the right people to read for you is key.  You should ask people who will actually READ the manuscript and provide you with the feedback you need.  There’s nothing more frustrating than asking someone to read your manuscript only to have them say they haven’t even started it a month after you sent it to them.

You also want to do all you can to get detailed information from your reader.  “It was good,” “I didn’t like it,” or “It wasn’t my type of book” are not helpful feedback statements.  This is why giving your readers clear direction can make a huge difference as you work to make changes and improvements to the next draft.

Next Time…

The feedback was good, and it allowed you to make changes to your manuscript that have made it even stronger than it was before.  You’re feeling confident…maybe even a little cocky about yourself as a writer.  But will that inflated ego hurt you in the long run?

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Editing

Last time, we discussed the best way to use self-awareness during the drafting process.  Today, we’ll explore the best ways for self-aware writers to edit their work to make it the strongest it can be.

The Self-Aware Editor

This is one area of the writing process where you want your powers of self-awareness at full power.  Once you’ve completed a draft of your manuscript that you feel is the best version, you’ll want to give yourself a little break – maybe a week – and return to it with fresh eyes.

This distancing will help you focus more on the technical task before you: Editing the manuscript.

Editing is a multi-layered activity, so taking your time is important.  Don’t skim through the manuscript.  You’ll want to read each sentence, paragraph, and chapter with an eye for spelling and grammar errors, continuity issues, plot holes, and parts of storylines you cut that you missed.  

One good way to stay focused is to read the manuscript aloud.  This will help you stay in the story and also help you detect any issues with the flow of the writing.  If it’s hard for you to read a sentence out loud or it doesn’t make sense, then it would be difficult for a reader to comprehend.  These are things you’ll want to change.

When you do find yourself losing focus, take a break.  Attempting to edit a novel in one afternoon is definitely not recommended.  You want to ensure you are awake, focused, and uninterrupted.

Consider carving out time and limiting how many pages you edit per session.  If you have a 500-page manuscript, only edit 50 pages daily or less.  The key is to give your mind the energy and focus it needs to weed out any issues that can detract from the reader’s experience.  

Self-Aware, But Too Busy?

The ability to be self-aware enough to know you won’t be able to give the manuscript the attention it needs at this stage is also the sign of a mature writer.  You understand that while editing needs to be done, you can’t give it the time it needs.  

In this case, you can outsource it to an editing company.  These resources offer various services, from basic spelling and grammar editing to more in-depth manuscript edits.  But please be aware: these can cost a lot of money, so shop around.  

But, if you can, find the time to do it yourself, even if it’s a few pages a day.  After all, only you truly know and understand your story, and you’re the best person to make the necessary edits.

Up Next…

You did it.  The edits are done.  You’re tired, and your brain feels like mush, but you have cranked out a solid draft of your story that you are proud of.  The time has come to let another set of eyes read your work.  To give your baby to another who can provide you with feedback on what you’ve written.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & The Drafting Process

Last time, we talked about utilizing self-awareness as a writer when crafting an outline for your story.  Today, we’ll discuss the best way to use self-awareness during the drafting process.

Let’s get started.

Drafting, Drafting, Drafting

Many writers are intimidated by the drafting phase of the writing process.  Taking an idea that has been fleshed out into bullet points in an outline is one thing, but to actually WRITE chapters and a coherent narrative that’s tens of thousands of words?  Madness!

No matter your feelings on the subject, writing that first draft is an essential step in getting to the final draft, but this is another case where you want to put your self-awareness tool to the side and let the creativity flow with as much passion and uncensored glory as you wish.

Hey, it’s a rough/first draft.  It’s for your eyes only.  No one will see this version, so why not take the brakes off and let your imagination run wild.  Stick with the outline you’ve crafted, but if a character or story point takes you somewhere new and more compelling, go there.

Give yourself the freedom to play, to explore, to run free.  This is the time to do it.

I’ve been working through an outline before and realized that I hadn’t given my subplots much consideration, so I’ve taken some time to explore their characters and situations.  It helped strengthen the overall story and enhanced the main character’s arc.  If I hadn’t deviated from what I had outlined, I never would have discovered these new aspects.

Once you’ve played around and written THE END on your rough/first draft, it’s time for the kid to take a nap and the self-aware writer to take over.

Revising with Self-Awareness

Now is the time to take a step back and look at your draft as both author and reader.  This is when any sense of “I’m an artist, and everything I write is gold” must be locked away so common sense can take the helm.

After all, you want to make sure as you make revisions that the story makes sense; the characters grow and change; that dialogue is realistic for the story you’re telling; that descriptions paint and clear picture for the reader; and that your main story and subplots have a clear beginning, middle, and end.  

This can be a lengthy process that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  This is where the story really begins to take shape.  It’s where themes are solidified.  It’s where you can fix the story’s pacing, cut aspects that don’t work, and add things that will improve the reader’s experience.

Part of being a self-aware writer is knowing when to cut things – even if you love them – to improve the story.  Realizing that maybe a plot point that worked in the outline causes the story’s momentum to fizzle once it’s fleshed out in chapter form.  Your self-awareness enables you to detect these issues and fix them.

Again, this is a process that is rewarding once you have crafted a story and characters that are exactly what you intended when you set out to write this book.

Next Time…

You’ve done it.  You’ve revised, cut, added, moved around, and re-chaptered your story.  You’re on your ninth or tenth draft and feel pretty good.  It’s time to edit; self-awareness can help you with that, too!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Story Development

When it comes to story development and outlining your story, I feel it’s best to put self-awareness on the back burner for the time being.  I know it’s crazy that I’m saying this since this is a series about using self-awareness as a writer.  However, it’s just as important to know when not to use it as when it is.

Let’s talk about it!

Story Development – Creativity Unleashed

Once you have an idea that you feel is strong enough to develop into a longer story, it’s time to put everything on the table.  Every idea, story beat, inciting incident, and plot twist should be up for grabs to get your idea out on the page so you can breathe life into it.

This means your characters should have free reign to do what they want, when they want, and how they want in pursuit of strong character arcs, relationships, and growth throughout the story.  Don’t hold back, and don’t be afraid to have your antagonist do things that are off-the-rails crazy.  Your goal is to create a compelling and interesting story at this stage.  This version is for your eyes only, so have fun, and don’t let the inner critic throw up roadblocks that show down your creativity.

At this point, you’ll want to start crafting an outline that allows you to place your story and characters in some sort of coherent order.  You want to work through the story from start to finish, giving yourself a rough roadmap of how your story will unfold and the characters will develop and change.  

Implementing Self-Awareness

Now that you have a story outline, it’s time to review it and utilize self-awareness to strengthen your writing.  This is a good point.  Take a step back as the writer and look at your story outline as a reader.  

What aspects of your story sound too familiar and could be altered to be different than what has been done before?  What are the strong points of your story?  Are there weak story points or characters that deserve another look?  Are there parts of the story that could be cut that don’t impact the narrative?  Do all the subplots tie into the main story somehow?  Is your main character interesting?  Are they actively involved in the story?  

I like to complete an outline draft and then walk away, allowing my brain to reflect and subconsciously pick out parts that might need a second look.  I jot down notes on my phone or paper as possible changes to strengthen the story outline.

It can be tempting to barrel through with a subpar outline, but that can lead to issues later in the drafting phase that can grind your progress to a halt.  And while changes are inevitable, having a strong outline going into the rough draft phase can save you a lot of time and a lot of headaches down the road.

Up Next…

Once you’re ready to write, what aspects of being a self-aware writer are best to use during the rough draft phase and beyond?  We’ll talk about it.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – Self-Awareness & Ideas

You are an endless supply of ideas and stories.  You’ve lived life, have had good and bad experiences, and have grown from those situations.  How you interpret what’s happened to you can influence how you react in future situations, and this self-awareness and hindsight can help you create and develop stories.

Creating grounded characters and situations that others can relate to is a way to utilize self-awareness as a writer.  This is where your internal self-awareness comes into play by exploring and analyzing real-world events and emotions from your own life.  You can discover relatable moments that readers can connect to that will keep them glued to the page. 

The key phrase here is connection.  You aim to create characters that allow the audience to empathize and sympathize with them and their struggles or triumphs.  Even in fantasy stories, we are drawn to characters who have relatable emotions, goals, and setbacks.  While we all may not go on a journey like Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, our Hobbit hero’s emotional arc allows us humans to relate and connect with him.

This week, take the time to sit and write down five or six events from your life that could be the inciting incident of a new story.  Take yourself back to those moments.  What was going through your mind at the time?  Feelings?  Thoughts?  What was your emotional journey through each of your chosen events?

These don’t have to be tragic; you can also utilize positive moments.  The key is to explore the realness of each situation.  How can those emotional beats be part of your protagonist’s larger character arc?  How would an audience empathize or sympathize with your character?

Only some ideas will hit, and only some life events are worthy of being committed to paper.  As you develop a keener self-awareness as a writer, you’ll gain perspective on when an idea isn’t worth pursuing over one that is.  

It’s all part of the creative process, the ability to prioritize ideas worth your time, effort, and energy over those that aren’t right now.

By digging into your life and past, you can mine stories that aren’t carbon copies of the latest bestseller or Hollywood blockbuster.

Once your story idea and characters are locked in, you can take the following steps: development and drafting.  We’ll talk about those in the next post.

Happy Creating, and I’ll see you next time!

The Self-Aware Writer – What is Self-Awareness?

We all possess the conscious ability to be self-aware in our lives.  Whether it’s related to how we interact with others, how we perceive ourselves within our world, or having the insight to better ourselves, self-awareness can positively impact our lives.  While we are also presented with daily examples of politicians, celebrities, and social media videos that show people lacking in self-awareness, having this trait is a definite plus when attempting to exist in the world.

According to, “When you look at yourself and are able to recognize and connect emotions, core beliefs, thoughts, and traits — including weaknesses and strengths — you’re practicing self-awareness.”  Emotions.  Core beliefs.  Traits.  Weaknesses and strengths.  Those definitely sound like areas of oneself a writer and utilize.  

If we dig further, we find that the Harvard Business Review (HBR) identified two types of self-awareness.  The first, “internal self-awareness, represents how clearly we see our own values, passions, aspirations, fit with our environment, reactions (including thoughts, feelings, behaviors, strengths, and weaknesses), and impact on others.”  Again, these are all interesting aspects that can impact our writing and our ability or inability to write. 

HBR’s second type of self-awareness was external self-awareness, which “means understanding how other people view us, in terms of those same factors listed above […] people who know how others see them are more skilled at showing empathy and taking others’ perspectives.”

When we write or create, we use internal and external self-awareness to influence what we write, how we write, who we write for, and how we interact with those who read what we’ve written.  Self-awareness is a powerful tool that can be used to empower and help us grow as writers and creative people or can cause us to freeze and cower in fear from our own negative thoughts.  

Self-awareness in your writing should be the ability to create and allow your imagination to run free, but also the ability to step back and make changes to the work for the better when the time comes.  It’s the ability to write fearlessly and not hold back when expressing what you want to say through your characters and story while listening to feedback and making necessary changes.

I know it’s a lot to think about, so we’ll take a whole month to discuss it.  Next, we’ll discuss utilizing self-awareness when creating story ideas and getting the writing process started.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next time!