Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Is Paranoia Preventing YOU From Finding Success as a Writer?

Note: This is a post by Andy Mort, he is a UK based musician and writer. He’s the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, which is aimed at encouraging HSPs and introverts to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. Download his FREE eBook “The Gentle Rebel Manifesto.”

Pronoia is a concept I recently came across thanks to Beth Buelow who writes about it in her book, Insight: Reflections on the Gifts of Being an Introvert.

It is the opposite of paranoia; described as a suspicion that the universe is conspiring on your behalf rather than against you. In other words it’s a belief that the universe is a friendly place, not one that is harsh and unforgiving.


Victim of the Universe

I don’t know about you but if I’m not alert to it and I allow myself to drift I easily find myself in a default position in which I assume the role ‘victim of the universe’.

This is a view of the world in which my life doesn’t go as I plan, everyone else seems to be successfully pursuing their dreams, and I’m left wondering why I can’t ever seem to ‘catch a break’.

Apparently the flipside of pronoia…

I recently spent some time with an author friend of mine. He has had a couple of books published over the past ten years through a small traditional publishers and is now looking for another publisher to accept his new proposal.

I spent a long time listening to him lament the demise of the publishing business and jealously cursing the fact that it’s no longer just about the writing.

He was exasperated by the fact that before they will even consider you, publishers want to know about your social media following and the size of your email subscriber list.

The moaning persisted through resentment over the fact that no one reads his blog and that other writers who aren’t half as good are getting a hundred times the amount of traffic and social media engagement as he is.

Since his last book he has unfortunately done very little to actively build or nurture a platform or a loyal following.

So he seems to project his frustration outward on the world. He sees himself as a victim, unable to catch a break, expected to do more than he should in order to acheive his goals.

I became disappointed when he uncompromisingly and repeatedly declared that he didn’t see why he should compromise his integrity by conforming to these new soul-sucking demands, now adopted by the world of traditional publishing.

What’s your place in the universe?

As I reflected on this interaction I was reminded of what Beth wrote about ‘pronoia’.

I started to wonder whether pronoia, much like paranoia, isn’t something that is necessarily founded in a tangible reality; but is rather the result of a subconcious attitude towards the universe itself, and how you view your place in it.

“We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.”

-Anaïs Nin (Click to Tweet this quote.)

A change of attitude can have a profound affect on how we interact with things. We often see what we want to see or what we believe is there; the pessimist sees the bad, the optimist sees the good, and their perception of reality is constructed on a reinforcement of viewing things through that lens.

We can often get caught up in negative cycles of thinking, especially when we compare ourselves to others or feel pressured to change and adapt to new ways of thinking.

When we feel like we’re being coerced into changes that feel alien, overwhelming and impossible to nagivate it is no surprise that we might start to get critical and defensive.

This is what my friend seems to be experiencing:

A bitterness projected from his fear of a changing world. And he is not alone.

For many artists across the creative industries this is a time of dramatic transformation and unsurety. We may feel in a state of limbo at the moment. The old industrial model has been ripped from beneath us thanks mainly to the Internet, and many people are simply waiting for something tangible and structured to pave the way forward.

However, as we learn and improvise our way forward, our negative projections and fear of the unknown can be unleashed on people who are ‘going for it’ in the form of negative criticism, which can in turn lead to self-sabotage and inaction.

We should try to be aware of this as we think about our attitude towards our work, the delivery of our art, and the way we interact with and percieve other people pursuing similar goals to us.

The Practice of Gratitude, Encouragement and Value-Giving

One of the points that my friend made was that he didn’t like seeing writers getting lots more engagement than he ever gets, on ‘poorly written’ blog posts.

And he put this down to the writers being clicy and exclusive; ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ when it comes to guest posting, sharing and promoting one another’s work.

He said ‘if you’re not on the inside you stand no chance’.

Again conviniently offsetting his apparent misfortune into the hands circumstances outside his control.

This provided the insight I was after; it became clear that he actually had a strange sense of ‘entitlement’, and had lost sight of writing as ‘a gift’. He saw this new kind of success as being built on transactions, i.e. ‘if you do this for me, I’ll do that for you’, and because of that the sacred art of writing was in jeopardy.

But this critique is little more than a distraction from what is becoming the new focus and key to success… building connection and providing value to the lives of their readers.

The surprising truth

We are in the age of the tribe.  (Click to Tweet if you agree.)

We all face an exciting (and somewhat scary) opportunity.

We can sit down at a computer and within minutes reach and serve specific, real people who need and want to hear what it is we have to say.

When we find a message that reaches into the aspirations, fears, and experience of our readers, then we are on the right road. And I find that exciting.

When we have conversations about ‘platform building’ this is what we’re talking about. ‘Building your platform’ isn’t primarily about proving your popularity. Rather it’s about building connections with people, finding your tribe, and continuing to serve them with your unique message.

When we started talking through this idea, my friend had a bit of an ‘aha!’ moment, and began to understand this different way of looking at the pursuit of success.

Over to You: How do you feel about the idea of ‘building a platform’? Do you see it as an opportunity or a burden?

Share with us in the comments.

TW-Audience-You-Deserve-5-sans-serifIF you would like help building your platform and attracting an audience of readers, be sure to check out Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers. Registration is currently open, but only for a limited time and for a limited number of students.

About Andy Mort

Andy Mort is a UK based musician and writer. He is the founder of SheepDressedLikeWolves.com, which is a Blog and Podcast aimed at encouraging HSPs and introverts to embrace their creativity and push against the expectations of an often overwhelming world. Twitter: @atlumschema

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  • Karen

    I am so pleased that you posted this! The topic has been one of interest and recent discussion among friends and colleagues. I will share it with delight!

  • Great post. Some wax nostalgic about a publishing industry that never was. Today’s opportunities overwhelm the challenges.

  • This is a fascinating post. I am right now struggling with the question of if and how to build a platform. I have.a blog with a small but loyal following, but it’s not a writing blog (though I am a writer). I’m also not on Facebook (I know I’m in the minority). So I’m wondering if I start a new blog, or continue honing my focus on my current blog. And if I dare step into social media when, frankly it doesn’t appeal to me at all. So thank you for giving me much to think about! I’m interested to hear what others are feeling about this.

    • Hi Dana. I’m glad you’ve been asking these questions! I guess my main bit of advice would be don’t rush and don’t try to take on too much all at once. It’s great that you have your blog and that you’ve already built a loyal following. The next step would probably be deciding who you want to serve through your blog, get specific on what you write about. If that means shifting your current focus you can either do that with your current one or start a new one. I’d be inclined to stick with the current one though. Once you’re clear on the purpose of your blog you can start using social media in a more specific way – to connect with other people who have similar interests and messages to you. Rather than just being on Facebook because you feel like you have to, you can think of it as a place/opportunity to connect with other like-minded people and begin to extend your community in different ways. Hope that helps.

  • Interesting post. I think that attitude can play a big part in so many things, so thanks for that reminder.

    As for social media and your friend who felt left out etc. here’s my two cents. I have what I consider a successful blog. Part of that is the genre I write in also includes a large number of “lifestyle” bloggers as well as authors, so we have a nice community. But, even w/in that community, my blog does well and I’d like to think that a fair amount of that is due to the fact that I spend more time promoting others than promoting myself. Sure, my books are all listed on the sidebar and I share excerpts, but I also have a weekly feature where I talk about (gasp!) other people’s books and often reach out to new authors and offer to host them on my blog.

    I guess my point is that for me, always talking about myself and my books felt uncomfortable but I enjoy encouraging and supporting others. It’s like what our moms told us…if you want to have a friend, you need to be a friend.

    • Yes! You have a great attitude, Celeste! In many ways it comes down to a ‘do for others what you would love them to do for you’. Promoting, sharing, and engaging with what other people are up to is not only the way to build relationships and connections; but it is the way to build your own reputation for integrity and value. And whatsmore as you say, it is a lot more comfortable talking about other people than it is talking about oneself. It’s also the best way to get someone’s attention – talk positively about them to other people. If someone does that for me I’m always curious to find out who they are and what they do.

  • I love this. Building a tribe is so important and I think the power of it ultimately comes down to intention–for me it is intention to inspire, to be of service and to help others be inspired. When we are part of a community, we can then be of service to that community and become inspired by them. This energy is beautiful fire for creative endeavors.

    • Thanks, Jackie. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Serving and giving is the attitude we need to adopt in order to build a meaningful and exciting tribe.

  • As a quintessential introvert, a platform as a pedestal from which I shout to the world makes me uncomfortable. I want people up there with me. So, the platform I’m building, or attempting to build, is a raft floating down a gentle river. It has a tiki bar — open, of course, party lights, lounge chairs and a band playing dance music.

    • I’m exactly the same. Love that metaphor – very appealing to this introvert 🙂 I have found that it has helped me a lot to have a sense of purpose beyond myself in my writing. Building a platform around serving other people has been a LOT easier than trying to build one around simply trying to get people to notice me. Very important point that in itself, building a platform because you ‘should’ is not necessarily the recipe for success. You’ve clearly worked out how to approach it in the best way for you, Dany Rae!

      • Sue

        I’ve struggled a lot with the whole platform thing. The way I’ve been thinking of it in recent years has been a lot like your friend – I loathe self-promotion and marketing and so was looking at it in a very limited and negative light. But it’s much more than that, as you say. Your platform can be yours. The only struggle now i have with it is that health issues limit my energy pretty severely and building a platform, in my case a blog, takes a lot of time. Which is why being happy with the structure of yours needs to be the case, or else it’ll just be an energy drain and will come across a a chore for those who happen upon it, then, too. Thanks for this, Andy.

        • Absolutely, Sue. It’s impossible to maintain something like a blog when it feels like something you ‘should’ do rather than something that feels like yours and is bringing its own kind of intrinsic value to you. I hope you manage to find a happy place with it all.

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  • Michael Moseley

    All of the above can be true of much of life not just for writers. Thank you

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