I am almost 2/3rds of the way through the first draft of my novel and because of this I feel myself reaching a Point of No Return.

After this chapter, it’s all sort of downhill from here. I’ll force myself to finish because I have gone so far already that it would take more energy to start over again then if I just finished it. Generally, when I finish the first draft of a short story, I feel the same way. If I can get through the first draft of a story, it is most likely that I will be able to revise and revise and revise until it’s finished. I have a strong need to see the story reach its final draft because I have already invested so much time in it.

However, if I don’t finish the first draft of a story, or if it only remains an outline or scribble of random ideas, then it is less likely that this story will be finished in its entirety. Therefore, the closer I am to finishing my novel’s first draft, the closer I am to ensuring that I will most likely finish this novel in its entirety.

But, of course, not before my inner saboteur has his say.

You may be familiar with him. He’s that little primitive instinct inside of you that appears to be looking out for your best interests. He weighs the pro’s and cons of finishing that big project you’ve started. He sees that, for example, if you do finish this first draft and continue to finish this novel, you will have far more to lose than if you don’t finish the novel at all. The saboteur says: “If you back out now, no one will blame you for it. You haven’t reached the Point of No Return yet. So, get out now, while you still can!”

At this point, there are only 3 or 4 chips that could fall. Your saboteur sees that as you go forward, those 4 chips will grow to 10, then 50, then to 100, and when all those chips fall, he knows that you will be in big trouble. The more you get yourself involved, the more it will be hard to get yourself out. You’ll be caught in the web, tangled up in the process, strapped to a car seat in a car speeding forward without any breaks, ending up who-knows-where in who-knows-what condition.

The Sabatour knows the story of David and Goliath. He knows how the story ends. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, he whispers. He advises you to keep on the side of David.  Shrink back, don’t take risks, don’t get any bigger than you are, don’t get any more involved than you can help it. Play it safe. Keep closed. Shrink back, shrink back. Don’t try for the big feats, don’t expect more than you have to. Stay small, and no one will see you. The nail that sticks out is the first to get hammered, he says. Stop putting yourself out there. Don’t you know the hammer will knock you out, sooner or later?

The Sabatour invented the anomaly we refer to as the “fear of success.” But fear of success is really fear of failure in disguise. We don’t want to succeed because we think that on the other side of success is most certainly more failure. A failure that’s more bitter after we experience that sweet ride of success. So, in fearing success, we are only fearing a future, unforeseen failure that we believe would follow this success. But we really have no proof of that. Yet, The Sabatour seems to have you convinced.

The Sabatour sees you making a big bet, and he advises you against it. He shows you charts and graphs and focus groups that tell you that it’s a bad bad idea. It’s too risky. Too uncertain. Too dangerous. Better to make safer investments, investments that will guarantee a more stable, monthly return. You’re crazy, he says. Absolutely crazy to continue like this. It’s like jumping out of a plane without a parachute; diving into the deep ocean, alone, without an oxygen tank; rushing into the ring to battle a prize-fighter–without any gloves on!

The Sabatour believes you are better off with less, you are better off not accomplishing anything. Be small, he says. Small helps you disappear in the crowd, and then nothing bad can get to you.

Upon hearing all of these well-intentioned arguments, you must scream:


Shine a spotlight on your inner saboteur and keep an eye on him as he looks at you innocently. Then, realize that he is really setting you up for failure by pretending he is setting you up to avoid it! What a SCHEMING, CONNIVING, LITTLE, MONSTER! What an awful, terrible trick! This Sabatour is not your friend, he is not wise, nor can he be trusted. He is out for himself. Don’t forget it. No matter what your goal is, The Sabatour will always find some fault with it. The goal will be too big, or too impossible, it will take too long, or it will be too hard. The consequences will always outweigh any benefits and he will have you convinced you should not begin at all.

You will be smug in your belief that The Sabatour was right, and you made the right choice by listening to him. But The Sabatour is no prophet. He cannot divine the future. So whatever you do, do not listen to him (or her)! Remember, he is out for himself, he will see everything wrong with your goals and none of the good. He will employ false reason and demonstrate several proofs. But, on further scrutiny, you will find these proofs cannot be backed up with cold, hard facts. So, whatever you do, don’t listen to his false reason!

Instead, shine the light on him! Sound the alarm! And crank up The Beastie Boys!

much love,


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19 comments on “SABOTAGE!!!

  1. Ha! Once you slide down that slippery slope to failure and crash a few times, you will learn to laugh at that saboteur! You will have been there, done that, and SURVIVED to fight another day. I don’t remember how many times Thomas Edison failed before he learned how to light up the world. Many failures led to GREAT success!

    Great post, Ollin. We all need to take your advice.

  2. Your words are so true.
    We all have that saboteur working inside our heads. I call mine Dexter and I wrote a post a while back about his exorcism. And yet… sometimes I still without realizing it give him power. (I’m actually wondering if he hasn’t popped in recently wearing a disguise so that I didn’t see him right away.)
    A couple of years ago, long before I began writing, I remember telling my Mum, (always my best supporter) and a family friend, (who is terminally practical and wondering if I will ever “grow up”) that I kept having this feeling that I am supposed to be writing something. (I did not say become a professional writer or anything of the sort.)
    The friend basically told me I was being ridiculous. She ended up with, “what are the chances of that going anywhere?”
    Of course it took me over a year to get up the courage, (no, I am not blaming this person. I did that myself,) but I was thinking about the statement recently and the answer came to me.
    What are the chances? There is actually no way of knowing what the chances are if we do pursue something, but they are a definite zero if we don’t.
    I try to remember this with everything I want to try now.

    • Ollin says:

      Very true, Jenny. Your perspective is always enlightening. Sounds like YOUR saboteur is living and breathing. Sometimes the people we most care about might indirectly discourage us from pursuing our wildest dreams. I do think they have our best interests at heart, but the truth is only we know what is truly good for us.

      If something says you should be writing something, then I’d listen to that voice. Not the other one. 🙂

  3. Thanks for reminding us! 😉
    Note to the inner sabotage-r: “No, won’t listen to you sire.”


  4. jannatwrites says:

    Great post. It got me riled up and ready for a fight (with my inner sabatour, of course)! Procrastination better watch out too 🙂

    It’s so easy to get overwhelmed or discouraged (or just plain scared) and not move forward. Thanks for the reminder to fight it and not give in…

  5. Agatha82 says:

    How amusing, the first thing I thought of when I read the title of your post, was that Beastie Boys song, so to see the video for it further down made me smile (great song) – Anyway, yes, don’t listen to that evil voice. You owe it to yourself to finish. The nasty voice will always be there unfortunately but if you ignore it, it will hopefully grow a bit weaker…

  6. Tammy McLeod says:

    A very human post! We all face this so keep plugging away and create your own outcome. You are the only one who invents the end of the novel and your accompanying adventure.

  7. Cities of the Mind says:

    I have the same problem…although usually I just decide it’s not good enough yet. That’s my little voice.

    Anyway, keep fighting back!

  8. “he is really setting you up for failure by pretending he is setting you up to avoid it!” is that the truth or what?!! Your inner Saboteur sounds like he may be in kahoots with my inner Critical Beeyotch. Haven’t met her? I introduced her back in February here:

  9. […] talked about your inner saboteur before, but for those who don’t know, your inner saboteur is that part of you that tries to […]

  10. […] it didn’t end without a fierce showdown with my inner saboteur, and without life getting in the way at the very last […]

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