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Blog Exercises: Self-Sabotage Writing

You probably don’t want to hear this…I’m sure you don’t care what I have to say anyway…if you aren’t interested, go somewhere else…if you are here to learn something stick around, if not, take a hike…I don’t expect you to figure this out…This does require some intelligence to understand, so if you can’t be bothered, close your browser now and save my bandwidth…I’ve nothing important to say…I’m sure you know this already…like I have anything special to say about anything…I’m just a worthless nobody so why should you listen to me…I’m sure I’m wasting your time…

Blog Exercises on Lorelle on WordPress.Have you read these lines? Have you seen them on blogs around the web? I have. I started collecting these self-sabotaging lines a couple months ago after running across a rash of negative self-talk writing.

You would expect that some of these came from highly personal bloggers babbling about their lives, mostly from young people who often seem to thrive on this self-doubt and negative speak. These didn’t come from personal blogs. These came from professional blogs. Most of these came from intelligent people writing on intelligent and thoughtful subjects, some even educational.

Whether conscious or unconscious, it slipped into their writing.

I wish I was kidding. I was reading an excellent technical explanation on a subject I’ve found challenging before, and I was getting it. It was so exciting. It clicked. The writing was solid, the explanation plain and simple, it made sense. I was thrilled, proud of myself, until I got to the last paragraph. It slapped me in the face, sinking my enthusiasm.

“I’m sure this is old news and you’ve had it explained better elsewhere, so I probably wasted your time, but I hope it helped.”

WHAT? Your words were beautiful, like poetry, helping me to understand a challenging subject that you pass off like the complex art of boiling water. You made it easy for me. I got it! Yet you think you didn’t do good enough? I wanted to cry.

Blog Exercise Task from Lorelle on WordPress.Your blog exercise today is to check your self-sabotage writing at the door.

My goal with this exercise to to get you to think about what you write and how you write, and if it is truly reflective of you and your writing. When you stumble across it 10, 20, or even 40 years from now, I want you to find a measure of pride and pleasure in what you wrote.

Consider what you might think about yourself, or others will think about you, when they read your site in the future? If you don’t care, blog on. If you do, then take the appropriate steps to ensure you’ll be happy with your words years from now.

We all have self-doubt. Expressing it through your personal blog can often bring self-confidence as well as overcoming your doubts. Through expression, we often come to a greater realization of the power we have within us to do and be anything. So express yourself and show off your confidence.

In other words, kill all signs of self-sabotage writing.

We are more forgiving with personal blogs. We expect self-deprecation. When it comes to writing technical articles and covering technical topics, I think I speak for all of us by saying we have a measure of expectation when it comes to quality control.

We expect these articles to be:

  1. Spell-checked and edited for clarity
  2. Researched with links to supporting documentation
  3. Specific, to-the-point instructions and guides helping us understand the process
  4. Visually supported with images and video to provide multiple modes for learning

A technical article must be edited to showcase you as the expert, the one who knows it all, the one who is right and eager to present and defend his or her expertise. The last thing a reader wants to see your self-confidence flagging. They want – they need – you to be at your best so they have confidence in you as the instructor.

What isn’t fun to read in technical writing is the author telling me to “pay attention to what I’m saying here or take your eyes somewhere else and don’t waste my bandwidth.” Yikes! I wish I was making that up.

Negative rants in technical writing is unnecessary and accusatory. I feel like I’ve done something wrong before I’ve even finished reading the piece.

When I find the information I’ve been hunting for, even if I didn’t spot the signs of low self-esteem writing, it still sinks into my unconscious. I start doubting my ability to follow through on the instructions. I mess things up. I start thinking it’s me. What did I do wrong?

How to Write Like You Mean It

When we write, we like to believe that we are writing for ourselves, when in fact, most of the time we are writing either to ourselves or to someone else, consciously or unconsciously. When working on technical manuals like the and the technical how to tips here on this site, I put myself before two audiences as I go through the process.

I begin by writing to me. I remember what it was like to learn how to do this the first time, and I make a note of all the things I wish I’d been told before I began that would have made the process easier. Writing from first hand experience, I figure if I suffered through this and that, you might, so how can I write this so you won’t suffer.

Then I reread the article with you, the user, in mind. What points are important for you to know before, during, and after to help you make this work. I simplify the language and clean out any personal references to leave behind solid instructions. I visualize you, the user, hunkered over your computer late at night, trying to figure out how to make all these complex looking bits of code do something you think should be easy but it turning into a late night bad comedy hour. The more I think about how you are probably doing this at the last minute before you go to bed because you have a few minutes to spare and you thought you could just whip through this, but you can’t, so here you are, a nagging headache of exhaustion and you give up and turn to the WordPress Codex for help. We’d better be able to help.

The last thing you want to read is how much I think you are wasting your time by reading this.

It’s your turn to do the same. Check your self-sabotage writing at the publish button. Go through your posts and make sure that all the signs of doubt in your abilities when offering expert advice and technique is gone.

Remember to include a hat tip link back to this post to create a trackback, or leave a properly formed link in the comments so participants can check out your blog exercise task.

You can find more Blog Exercises on . This is a year-long challenge to help you flex your blogging muscles.

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen.


  1. Posted July 1, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Thank you!

  2. Posted July 1, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink


  3. Posted July 1, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    So true. I teach K-8. When students do presentations, I won’t let them be self-deprecating. I explain exactly what you said. It seems to be a habit.

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

      Habits such as “self-humiliation,” as in “self-mutilation” as a friend once described her form of self-sabotage, is ingrained from the earliest years from our environment, I’m sure of it. Shame when young children adopt such behaviors and attitudes early on, then spend the rest of their lives trying to get over it. Very sad. Luckily, Jacqui, they have people like you to help them get past it.

  4. Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    This is an outstanding article, Lorelle. I too have witnessed such writing in professional and technical blogs and winced.

    Self-deprecation is a character flaw or personality defect adopted in adolescence. It does not speak well for us. A book I can recommend is Transforming Your Dragons: How to Turn Fear Patterns into Personal Power by Jose Stevens. He describes the major fears as dragons (arrogance, self-deprecation, impatience, martyrdom, self-destruction, greed and stubbornness.) His point of view as a psychotherapist coincides with the basic Buddhist teaching. These dragons are “the cause of all human-created suffering” and our mission is to slay them.

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      It’s interesting seeing how dragons are always portrayed as evil and monstrous. Oriental dragons are always benevolent, and they symbolised strength, power and fortune. Therefore, ‘dragon’ (translated as ‘dragon’, but in Chinese, the creature is named 龙 –lóng) is the totem of the emperor of China.

      Chinese people always hope that their son can grow as a ‘dragon’, and their daughter a phoenix. 望子成龙,望女成凤。

      • Posted July 1, 2013 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

        I started learning about Oriental dragons a few years ago, and I find them fascinating in that culture, especially when dragons are mixed messages in other countries. I grew up with Puff the Magic Dragon, dragon cartoons (mix of cute, funny, and frightening), then the Dragon series of books by Anne MacCaffrey changed my perspective on dragons once again, as psychic companions.

        I wonder where dragons came from in our various cultures. Left over genetic memories of dinosaurs?

        Excellent point, Janet! Thanks.

    • Posted July 1, 2013 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

      Oh, great sounding book. Wonderful.

      One of my favorite sayings, and no clue as to the source, is “Give me dragons to slay any day. It’s the stepping in gum I can’t handle.” Not the same, but it reminded me of that.

      Indeed, our mission is to slay them – all of them. That’s the process, I believe, of growing up. Unfortunately, some of us don’t start that process until we are nearer to death than life, but it gets to all of us at one time or another if we are open to it.

      Well shared. Thank you!

    • Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Puff the Magic Dragon — it was one of the first English songs that I learnt as a teenager.

      A Chinese ‘dragon’ can control the weather: form the cloud and rain as it pleases, swallow the wind and breathe out the fog. It can change its form. It’s powerful, but it’s never evil.

      When the west describes China or the Chinese as ‘dragon’, the cultural connotations are different. Chinese people proudly call themselves as the descendants of dragon. Cultural differences can be very difficult to interpret as misunderstandings between the two cultures has been so firmly embedded. Some Chinese scholars therefore suggested a new translation for this Chinese mythical creature ‘Long’ (written as 龙 (simplified form) or 龍 (Traditional form)) — currently translated as ‘dragon’ or ‘Chinese dragon’. They think that the Chinese dragon should be renamed as ‘Loong’ to avoid misunderstanding.

      The word ‘dinosaur’ is translated as ‘terror dragon’ 恐龙 in Chinese. I read that it’s because the Greek origin of the word dinosaur means ‘terror lizard’. Chinese and Japanese therefore used ‘terror dragon’ to refer to dinosaurs, the gigantic reptiles.

      When dinosaur bones were first found in China, people thought they were the dragon bones. Some people also used them as Chinese medicine as the bones are rich in calcium.

      One positive note about dragon. If you paint a dragon and dot its eye, the dragon will be transformed. It can fly to heaven. Lorelle’s posts always have this eye-dotting moment: with a beautiful finishing touch.

      This 2-minute video clip will explain this cultural note to you.

      Sorry your thoughtful blog exercise has been turned into a dragon zone.

      • Posted July 2, 2013 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Didn’t we do a blog exercise on never apologizing? LOL! If not, I need to. This is amazing and welcome information. Loving the conversation as it really continues from the premise of strength, and there is strength in symbolism and learning.

        Thank YOU!

  5. Gailann
    Posted July 1, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    Gosh, you’re not just a blogging guru, your a counselor as well! 😀

  6. Posted July 5, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Lorelle, I find your blog to be very stimulating. Not just the articles, but the comments as well.

    I have written on many blog post over the years. I’ve hated most of my posts just for that reason. I sabotaged myself. However, I tried something different a while ago. I started writing out my posts in MS Word first. After writing my article, I would reread it before posting. My goal was to make sure there was nothing in the article that told my reader that what they were reading was a waste of time. When I write, I want the reader to be thinking about the topic, not me. When I reread my article, if there was anything self-sabotaging in the article, I would ask myself if I as a reader would feel that was relevant to the article. If it isn’t then I would rewrite the part where I began tearing myself down. I don’t want anyone knowing how I feel about myself. That is unimportant and irrelevant. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone has the right to voice that opinion. On the flip side, every reader has a right to stop reading. If they do not like what they are reading, they can move on.

    Thank you.

    • Posted July 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      You are so right.

      Good for you for understanding the importance of editing, though, I’d avoid writing and publishing from Word as it messes up your site big time unless you know the trick, which reminds me. I need to make that a blog exercise to protect others from themselves. LOL!

      Beautifully said. Thank you for the kinds and insightful thoughts. It is people like you who help push the conversation forward.

    • Posted July 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      Lorelle, you are absolutely right about MS Word. It can really do nasty things to any blog post unless you know how to copy and paste. There are two ways of doing this. One is by pasting into the HTML or Text tab of your post. With this method, you still have to go in and format your post with bold, italics, paragraphs, etc. The other way, for WordPress, requires a plugin. I use TinyMCE Advanced. It has a clipboard button where you paste from Word and it will paste in your post without all the Word gibberish. There is no extra formatting with this button. They also have another button that is to clean up messy code. 😉

      • Posted July 5, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        WordPress (all versions) have a “Paste From Word” button on the second row (called the Kitchen Sink Row) of the TinyMCE toolbar found on the Visual editor. The problem with this feature is that it still may include some formatting including fonts, font sizes, and indents and margins. Pasting into the HTML or Text editor works, but I’ve found that sometimes the code come with it as well. Makes me crazy that it isn’t consistent.

        This is why I so strongly recommend people write their blog posts in a text editor. So many things you can do and get right before you paste it into WordPress.

        Now that I’ve found Scrivener, it is changing how I do everything on the web. Fascinating.

    • Posted July 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      I will not object to people writing in WordPress itself. I also advise my clients to do so. Most bloggers either don’t know the tricks or get frustrated when they do find erroneous code which has migrated to their post. I am so used to it now, that it becomes second nature. I have used Scrivener and WriteWay Pro writing software. My reason for using Word is purely for the grammar check. 😉 Although, it would be helpful if Word showed when start sabotaging my own posts. 🙂

      I apologize for taking my comments off subject.

      Again, thank you for your stimulating and thought provoking advice!

      • Posted July 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        That’s okay. A little off-topic discussions are permitted here. Thanks for the tips. I’ll look into WriteWay Pro. Sounds interesting. Thanks!

5 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Source: is easy to fix though.  After you’ve written your blog go through it and remove any self deprecating language.  Replace it with confident sounding phrasing.  If you aren’t confident then fake it till you make it! […]

  2. […] Blog Exercises: Self-Sabotage Writing […]

  3. […] I hijacked one of Lorelle’s blog posts and had an interactive discussion about dragon in this post. In the comment, I […]

  4. […] Blog Exercises: Self-Sabotage Writing […]

  5. […] exercise. I have my own constant struggle to stay on track and focused. In a perfect example of self-sabotage writing, I have to admit that I worked on four posts while writing this one because of the distractions […]

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