how to write a novel: trust your future self

how to write a novel

You’ve got a killer premise, some cool characters, and a strong voice. So what’s stopping you from writing that novel?

If you’re me, probably the reason is gut-clenching terror. What if I quit? What if it’s terrible? What if I am completely deluded about this whole thing? What makes me think I can do any of this?

Chill out, man. All these “what ifs” take up way too much brain space that could be used for writing that freaking novel, so there’s no benefit to you in following them down the rabbit hole. Writing a novel requires a single-minded pursuit, and doubts have zero place on this ridiculous ride.

This is how I figure it: doubts are basically being mistrustful of your future self. So I counteract my doubts with faith in my future self. I say, “Hey, future Amy! You got this! I know this because you are me, just with more life experience.” It starts sounding a little like Back to the Future. (Or like Looper. Have you seen Looper? It is the best time-travel movie in the world. It’s a total mind-effer. So good.)

But I digress. I also regularly talk to my past self, so maybe that’s why I’m comfortable talking to my future self. I talk to myself as a kid. I say, keep writing, Amy. Someday you’re going to have an awesome manuscript and a writing blog, and it’s gonna be great.

So, anyway, back to our thesis statement for this blog post, which is: don’t doubt your future self! Counteract the doubts that pop into your mind with affirmations of your future self.

I’m gonna tell you a secret: doubts feel real because your brain thinks them a lot. Your brain doesn’t like building new neural pathways, so it wants to repeat thoughts you’ve already had a bunch of times. When you think a doubtful thought, your brain goes, oh! I know how this goes! and continues on the path of self-doubt. It just keeps going, tearing you down. And then you think, it must be true, because it feels true.

What’s important to remember is that nothing is really true for your brain. Or, to put it another way, everything is equally true for your brain. Since your brain is the conduit of all of your thinking, it has no awareness of itself. It’s like how you can’t see your eyes (except when you’re looking in a mirror), because you see through them. Thoughts pop into your brain, and they all have equal validity, as far as your brain is concerned.

You can use this to your advantage by peppering your mental landscape with lots of positive and affirming thoughts. Your brain will accept these as familiar thoughts once they become familiar thoughts. (That is, once you keep making your brain think them.)

And when a negative thought does pop into your brain, listen to it. Don’t fight it. Like the Sith, fighting against your negative thoughts make them stronger. Once the thought has passed, show your brain a different pathway, one where you show yourself kindness.

Getting comfortable with your thoughts is the best thing you can do for yourself. After a while, your brain will get better at building up your future self, rather than tearing it down. Then those positive thoughts will start to feel more real than the doubts. It works. I promise.

Featured image was created by the author on

Published by amy

Coffee-drinker, money-saver. Laughs at "that's what she said."

13 thoughts on “how to write a novel: trust your future self

  1. Yes! What I do is I tell myself I’m going to purposely irk my readers with bad prose and laughable plot holes, and often that helps me get over the self-doubt. And what I get in the end is something that isn’t half bad (relatively speaking, as a first draft). That’s way better than thinking I can’t do it and not starting at all. Thanks for sharing this!

    1. Good trick! Thanks for sharing.
      100% agree to join the demons rather than fighting them. When I wrote a horror podcast, and was feeling overwhelmed, I thought of someone in my life who would absolutely hate it. I told myself, “Write something that they will hate so much.” It worked!

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