The Dark Side of Writing and a Creative Life


As a writer, you’ve felt fear, rejection, insecurity, lack of follow-through, procrastination, and resistance. Each one hits like a truck, trying to ruin your creative dreams. They’re in your way every day and are all members of a soul-crushing group that I refer to as “the dark side” of creativity. The worst aspect of the dark side is that you feel alone as you battle. You’re not alone … we all fight the fight.

I published my first article when I was 17, have been read by millions and been on national TV and radio. I’ve also created content strategies and built platforms for millions more, but I still struggle with all these things. Actually, I struggle more now than I ever have.

Self-doubt, resistance, fear of looking dumb and the discipline to move from idea to execution haunt me. Some days it’s worse than others, but I’ve found ways to conquer each when the battle arises. Although the war never ends.

Even the big dogs have these problems. You’d assume once an author has sold millions of books that the dark side of creativity and writing would just melt away. Right? Wrong. Check out this story from Salon about famous authors such as Jonathan Franzen and Elizabeth Gilbert, who think they suck most of the time. It’s eye-opening since most of us believe these feelings would go away after so much success. But it doesn’t.

The author of the piece Michele Filgate has a great line that sums up the origin of these issues, “Writing, in fact, provides a much-needed escape or confrontation with our worst emotions.”

Confronting your emotions is scary stuff, and most people don’t have to do it at work like writers and other creatives do. Most writers and other creative people generally just feel too much. It’s why their work is so life-changing.


Resistance seems to be the toughest one to overcome. Author Steven Pressfield who wrote the manifesto on this subject, The War of Art owns this term and defines it as anything that stands in the way and stops us from doing what we really want — or need to do. It could be writing a book, starting a business, writing a blog or painting your masterpiece. His book helps conquer the enemy within. I refer to it whenever I need a little motivation or feel like I just can’t get going. What everyone needs to know is how to beat it. Pressfield answers that with his greatest quote:

“When it’s more painful not to do what you’re meant to than to just do it."

While most blogs about writing and creating mostly focus on how to get published or the inspirational parts of the craft (“write every day!”), I’m zeroing in on how you can drive through these painful barriers that you usually face alone. The fear of looking dumb after putting your work out there is a very real thing, but something that you can tame. You can also do wonders when adding a little discipline to your work, like scheduling your time and organizing your ideas. The dark side of creativity is scary, but there are weapons you can use (like these).

Maybe the best line from the Salon piece by Filgate is easy for me to identify with after my current struggles with procrastination, and I’m sure you can identify with it too:

“My bedroom is the most organized when I’m on deadline."

(photo by Neal Sanche via Creative Commons)