Duking it Out with Bertha

No…there is not a cat-fight going on down here in Texas. Ever since John Cusick’s keynote speech at NJ SCBWI Conference, I’ve had a bone to pick with the doubter in my head. Her name is Bertha, thanks to John: “Name that voice in your head that puts you down. Give your anxiety a name.” And Bertha was born.

She has been there for as long as I can remember and sometimes she is down-right ugly. It’s really hard to tune her out and I know I’m not the only writer…the only person that goes through this. Are you aware when your hater starts to hate? Giving Bertha a name was just a great first step. Like saying, “I see you and I’m calling you out!” But, there is more that you can do to curb that voice.

I’ll attribute #1 to John, again.

1) “Keep an email folder called- ‘Nice Things People Say About Me.’”

Thanks, John. Don’t mind if I do.

2) Every time your Bertha tells you something you can’t or shouldn’t do, add that exact item to your “CAN” list. Then, post it somewhere noticeable.

ICAN3) Plaster your favorite inspirational quotes in your work space.

Here are a few from my office:

“If practice makes perfect and perfection creates art, always practice what you love to do, be the artist.” – Unknown

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” – Winston Churchill

“God promises a safe landing…not a calm passage. If he brings you to it, he will bring you through it!” – Unknown

“We create our tomorrows by what we dream today.” – Unknown

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” – Unknown

When I look over the quotes above, most are written by unknown sources. Aren’t we all a bit unknown? Even if we have something out there already, there is more to be discovered. So many possibilities! As you shush your inner doubter, I’ll leave you with my motto:

4) Create your own motto.

“Small steps, taken consistently, add upThis writing business requires a lot of patience. Small steps work really well in our world. Sometimes we wish we could make it happen faster, as discussed in last month’s post: Writing in Gulps and Sips. But, if we do a little bit at a time, it really will add up to be something great.

So tell me…what’s your motto? I encourage you to share yours or a quote that helps you tame your inner doubter. And if you are willing, please share your doubter’s name.


  1. I haven’t named my doubter yet but I think today I need to! I’ll name her…hmmm. Patricia. Or Kimberly. Or Cheryl. No offense to anyone with those names!

    Favorite quote: “We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.” -Marianne Williamson

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!” – Goethe

    After doing Morning Pages (from “The Artist’s Way” for many years, I finally started having conversations with the critical voice. Turns out it’s most often my kid-self looking for some reassurance that if she messes up I’m not going to leave. Now the journaling conversation goes both ways and she tells me I’m doing a good job as a grown-up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My doubters name is Erik 🙂 I try to drown him in beer and cider (preferably Strongbow!) Actually, I don’t have a name for the doubter, and I won’t call it Erik. How about Bob. Yeah, I’m going to go with Bob- he just stinks. Down with Bob!

    I don’t have a folder like that for writing, but I keep one for teaching for each year. Any e-mails that are keepers, I print out. I started this in 2002, I think, and have one for each year (along with the class pic and class list). I’m definitely going to start one for writing!!!!

    Quotes: “Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write, and draw, and build, and play, and dance, and live as only you can.” I think it was Neil Gaiman- I had it added to a journal cover I bought back in January.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A wounded deer leaps the highest.
    – Emily Dickinson

    Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin,
    but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
    ~ Harper Lee

    Creativity is an act of defiance.
    – Twyla Tharp

    Today one of my crit group buddies said something down on herself. We all gave her encouragement, but I also suggested she read your post today.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful article. Immediately the name for my doubter came to me as “Mabel”, then I broke into laughter because Mabel has “able” in it! I just love my magical child! I can’t wait for the sparks to begin! Thanks!

    Susan Roberts
    Picture Book Reviewer

    Liked by 1 person

  6. HA! Love it! I so dislike that negative voice in my head that I think she’s going to need the first, middle, last name sort of thing *kinda like when you were in trouble with your mom when you were a kid?* so I can really put her in her place. Thanks for sharing an awesome idea to deal with “her” and to overcome her putdowns. Now to go think up a motto…hmmm…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t have a name for mine, but she is an awful heifer! Ha! I blogged about this topic a while back and found an anecdote that brought things into perspective for me:

    A young woman woke up one morning and noticed she had only three hairs on her head.

    “Hmmmm,” she said, “I think I’ll braid my hair today.” She did, and she had a great day.

    The next morning she woke up and saw that only two hairs remained on her head. “Well,” she said, “I’m going to part my hair today.” She did, and she had a really fun day.

    The following morning she awoke to only one hair on her head. “Oh,” she said, “I think I’ll wear my hair in a pony-tail today.” She did, and her day was wonderful.

    The next morning she awoke to find that she did not have single hair on her head. “Yea!” she said. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

    It’s hard for writers to have a “good hair day” everyday, but a positive attitude and a sense of humor go a long way.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I also really enjoyed John Cusick’s talk at the NJ SCBWI and I think your points for overcoming our negativity are definitely helpful. I’m going to have to make my motto and collect my quotes! Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I loved that talk at NJ-SCBWI! John has a knack for getting down to the intimacies of the writer’s experience with truth and humor. I’ve been calling my “voice” Nellie ever since – as in negative Nellie, or perhaps in honor of the mean-spirited Nellie Olsen of Little House fame (the TV program more so than the books.)

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great post! We have relocated several times during my adult life which influenced my motto.
    Motto: Bloom where you are planted.
    A favorite quote: “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I have that email folder (#1)! It’s labeled “Susie Mary Sunshine.” So I guess I’ve named my cheerleader. Now to name my doubter!
    Thanks for sharing your great quotes. I have a fortune cookie fortune that reminds me of your motto. It says: Little and Often make Much.

    Liked by 1 person

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