Friday, October 25, 2013

Overcoming the Dark Side of Writing by Karen Barnett

Karen Barnett
If you’ve ever struggled with envious feelings over someone else’s success or felt overwhelmed with self-doubt, you’re not alone. Most of us have been there at one time or another.  Author Karen Barnett opens up her heart and shares her personal experiences while on the road to publication. Embrace her encouraging words.
~ Dawn

Overcoming the Dark Side of Writing

Most writers hear voices. Friends worry when we mention conversing with our characters, but if we were to be completely honest—those aren’t the only mysterious voices we hear.

Whispers of doubt. Murmurs of fear. Sighs of envy.

While I struggled through a period of waiting, I began to wonder if I would ever be published. It became increasingly difficult to read about friends signing contracts and winning awards. A bitter taste would spring to my mouth at each Facebook announcement and I typed replies with stiff fingers. “Congratulations. Happy for you.” I knew jealousy was harmful, but I didn’t have the power to make it go away.

When I signed the contract for my debut novel, the initial relief and excitement were eaten away by anxiety. What if the book doesn’t live up to my editor’s hopes? What if it doesn’t sell?

How do we battle against these unseen forces? The only defense is to shine God’s light into the dark places. Here are three steps I take when I find myself struggling.

Rather than trying to fix the problem myself, I need to remember to turn it over to the One who has all the power.

Confess to trusted friends
Fears seem to fester when we hide them inside. Confession helps put things in perspective and invites others to help.

Soak in the scriptures
God’s word is food for our hearts. Let Him replace the negative chatter with His voice. 

Envy of other writers

"Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life." (Galatians 6:4-5 MSG)


“Because we know that this extraordinary day is just ahead, we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you. Grace is behind and through all of this, our God giving himself freely, the Master, Jesus Christ, giving himself freely.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 MSG)


Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)  

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine… (Ephesians 3:20 NIV)
If you really want to have fun, turn the tables on the enemy. Take these dark voices and pour them back into your writing. It will create a depth of emotion to entice your reader and perhaps even point her toward God’s truth.

Remember, we’ve all found ourselves in dark places during our journey to publication. I’m praying God’s voice will fill your ears and your heart, and His light will shine through your words. 

We'd love to hear from you ... Do you struggle with any emotions concerning your writing life? Is there a verse that's helped you through the dark times?


Karen Barnett shares three steps for overcoming the dark side of writing. Click to tweet.

Let God replace negative inner chatter with His voice. Click to tweet.

If you really want to have fun, turn the tables on the enemy. Click to tweet.

Since booze and prohibition have made criminals out of every man in her world, Laurie Burke resolves to find at least one honorable man to fill her life. Convinced that handsome newcomer Daniel Shepherd is connected with her brother’s rumrunning gang, Laurie quickly scratches his name off her list.

Daniel has mixed feelings about returning to the dirty mill town of his youth, but grudgingly agrees to manage his grandfather’s drug store until a replacement can be found. The moment he meets Laurie on the windswept bluff overlooking the beach, he knows that if he can earn her love, he might have a reason to stay.

But when Laurie pushes him away--for none other than Federal Agent Samuel Brown—Daniel wonders if Laurie really is the upstanding woman he thought her to be. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, just off the beaches of Port Angeles, Washington, was treacherous water for reckless rumrunners—and the agents who tried to catch them. So when she realizes her brother is in danger, romance is the last thing on Laurie's mind. Yet the people she believes she can trust, may not be so honorable after all.

Karen Barnett is the author of Mistaken and has written several articles published by Guideposts and other national magazines. Karen and her husband live in Albany, Oregon with their two children and a host of fur-friends. For more information, visit her website Her second novel, Out of the Ruins, releases in May 2014.

To learn more and connect with Karen, please visit her here:


  1. Great post! I had those moments, too. More of the fear and doubt type, but I did on occasion wonder if all this hard work would be for nothing :) Although, all the literature says 'write for you!' Truly, we want an audience, don't we? It's like doing a stage play for the mirror. Feedback and interaction are key in the arts. That fear and doubt stuff, they're hangers-on, and we have to just give them to the Lord--because He is mighty and just and able. When I'm feeling done in, this is a verse I cling to: Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.

    1. I love that verse, April! You're so right, interaction is key. At first, the interaction is between author and character, but eventually it branches out to author and reader. Another scary moment--but thankfully He goes with us.

  2. HI Karen, oh, yes, I whine a lot. It's never a very good feeling when one's confidence takes a beating. But my husband now gets to use the word "cured" in relation to his cancer struggle of five years ago...writing gets put into perspective quick LOL. God bless...and thanks for the scriptural reminders. I'll be checking back often.

    1. Tanya--I'm a self-proclaimed whiner, too. It's nice to get perspective, but I'm sorry you had to walk through some dark valleys to get there. And praise God for "cured"! What a blessing!

  3. Karen, thank you for sharing your beautiful heart! As always, truth and light just pour from you. Thank you, my friend, for the gift of you and your words today.

    1. Thanks, Amanda. You are a good friend and a blessing to me!

  4. Thank you, Karen for expressing emotions I experience as I wait to hear back from agents. Scripture holds such great Power, bringing the Holy Spirit's guidance and comfort.

    1. The waiting is SO hard. We all know that God's timing is perfect, but it's very difficult to rest in that. I'm thankful that he understands our human frailties!

  5. It seems we all know these steps. We see the dark side. We hear those voices. Every once in a while we need someone like you, Karen, to put it all in perspective and help us fight that battle. Great post!

    1. Thanks, Sandra! I hope it helps some people. I know it's something I've struggled with--and still do.

  6. The darkside...a powerful agent that can be used proactively or reactively. I am learning through my own journey that when I am aware of and willing to submit my darkside to His holy power and truth, His purpose and the fulfillment of His will for my life is more impractical on the lives of others. The submission of my perceived "power" that "could be gained" through exercising my darkside is paramount to the level of joy and eternal authority I have over the ultimate darkside through His power as expressed over the grave and through His Spirit.

    1. Thanks, Jennifer. Submitting to His power is key, isn't it?

  7. This is SO SO good, Karen, especially those Scriptures! Powerful post:)

    1. Thanks, Susan! It's definitely something I've struggled with, and I suspected I wasn't the only one.


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