Are Your Beliefs Holding You Back from Success as a Writer?

by Katherine Mayfield

July 2017

Whether you’ve heard it from family, friends, or fellow writers, you’ve probably absorbed the belief that “writers don’t make much money.” Even if you strongly desire to make money from your writing, this unconscious belief can hold you back.

Yes, there are writers who make a LOT of money from their writing. Is it just luck? Or is there something more profound going on?

Maybe you’ve also heard “You create your reality with your thoughts.” When you look at your life, this statement can be hard to believe. But if we’re not consciously creating reality with our thoughts, and with chosen beliefs, then our subconscious minds are in charge, using outmoded beliefs and programmed thoughts to wreak havoc with what we’re trying to achieve.

Criticism in childhood is particularly damaging: “You’re not good enough.” “Don’t be a writer – you’ll never make any money.” “You’d better try harder if you want to succeed.” We get all kinds of negative messages – through our parents’ words, and their unspoken attitudes toward us – and we absorb them, believing them to be true. We need to reexamine these old beliefs and let go of any that aren’t serving our goals.

I remember when I first faced the process of self-publishing my memoir: the learning curve seemed huge, the road fraught with pitfalls and scams. My parents had taught me not to stick my neck out, and I had to overcome quite a few negative beliefs before I started down that road. Since then, I’ve self-published a number of books, with several more in the hopper. And I discovered that I enjoy the process along with the income.

Ask yourself what you really believe about your ability to make money from your writing. Check in with your gut as you answer these questions: Do you believe it’s possible for you to make a living from your writing? Some writers make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Would that be possible for you? If not, why not? If so, what would have to change for that to happen?

Examining your unconscious beliefs (to make them conscious), and then consciously choosing to believe and think differently is key to changing your experience around making money with your writing. And changing your moment-to-moment thoughts to phrases that support your desire to make a living from your writing will cause changes in your reality over time.

Here are three ways to transform old, negative beliefs into new beliefs that support your goals for success:

1. Begin to pay attention to the words that cross your mind in relation to your writing – especially when you’re marketing or submitting. Do you believe there’s unlimited potential for making money, and that every opportunity could provide more income? Or are your thoughts more likely to comment, “Marketing is so much work, and the results I get are so small...”

Be willing to hear any negative messages your unconscious is spitting out. Once you catch a few, write them out. Then, with the good focus that you bring to your writing, come up with an antidote thought, such as “It is a lot of work, but all of my marketing efforts pay off in a huge way.”

This will feel odd at first, because you’re going against your programming, and making a statement that doesn’t reflect “reality,” but here’s the exciting thing: once you say your “antidote” phrase enough times, it stops feeling like a refutation of reality, and starts feeling like a real possibility. You are changing your belief into a more positive frame of reference.

NOTE: If you’ve been subject to huge amounts of criticism from others throughout your lifetime, or if you’re used to living by a set of rules you learned in childhood, making changes in your beliefs can feel as if you’re “disobeying” some invisible authority. This is just your ego’s way of trying to keep you safe. Tell yourself that you’re an adult now, and that it’s okay to make a choice to “disobey” old rules in your life that no longer work for you.

2. Sit down and list all the beliefs you have about making money writing. Take some time with this, and be honest! When you’ve written down everything you can think of, go back over the list. This is the picture your mind has used to create your reality. Which of these beliefs would you like to discard? Cross them off. Let them go. Write a new “antidote” belief in place of each. Look at the list several times a day to remind yourself that you’re creating a new life experience.

3. When you catch a negative thought running through your mind, stop what you’re doing and REFUTE IT! Look through the rigidity of the negative belief to the truth behind it – which is that you, your life, and the world are much different now than when that belief was first imprinted onto your consciousness. Turn your “antidote” beliefs into short phrases (affirmations) that you can repeat to yourself in the moment when you bump up against an old belief that’s not serving you.

Removing old programming takes time, willingness, and attention – but it can give you a lot of bang for your buck in terms of changing your life and your writing career.


Katherine Mayfield is the award-winning author of ten books, including Stand Your Ground: How to Cope with a Dysfunctional Family and Recover from Trauma; a memoir about recovering from emotional abuse and bullying in her family, The Box of Daughter; and What’s Your Story? – A Quick Guide to Writing Your Memoir. She teaches writing online, and blogs on dysfunctional families on her website, Twitter: @K_Mayfield