Can I REALLY be a real writer? FOMO is slowing me down • by Natascha Biebow

I have been
telling stories since I was small. 

I told stories to anyone who would listen, especially the dogs!

As a kid, we used to go on long car journeys
to the south of Brazil, and I’d babble on, creating all kinds of shenanigans
for my fictional characters. My grandmother lived in England, so I’d send her
recorded tapes with songs and stories in the mail (in times way before the
internet was invented). 


A creative writing assignment in school? On it. 


This is a whole 'collection' of short stories written in school,
loving saved for me by my mother.

A short story about a cup and a saucer - who is more important?

competition for the school newsletter? Yes! 


I used to write poetry even. Not now!


I loved to
write, but I never imagined I’d actually be a published writer when I grew up.


Like many
writers I know, there is no shortage of stories we could invent or tell. But
when it comes to wondering if we’ll ever get them put inside a book that will
land in the hands of other readers, children, often DOUBT sets in. Even if we are published, we doubt we can do it again . . . and even another time.


I’ve been
pondering this.


I can draft a story no problem. In fact, I have drawers full of stories (metaphorically
speaking, of course – they are all filed on my computer, a folder for each one,
many drafts in each folder . . . ). My agent and I send out the most polished
ones. And we wait.


But, here’s
where the problem begins.
WAITING. The silence while publishing grinds its
wheels starts to conjure up DOUBT again. Will anyone ever say ‘yes’?


And then there
are all those other writers who are doing so well – I hear and see the noise at events and on
social media – successes celebrated, reviews, awards, new books launched . . .
all seemingly much faster than I can get my next one finished and signed up.
I’m thrilled for my fellow writers, I really am, but still, DOUBT is a mean
spiral of negative thoughts that escalates, question after question:


Should I be
doing something I’m not?

Am I missing

Why is it not

Should I be
submitting there instead or to this or that competition?

Should I be
writing something else?

Should I spend
more time marketing my book or writing a new one or . . .?

But I already
have so many stories, should I be  . . . ?

What if . . .
what if . . . what if . . .?

Maybe I should
dig out that novel, but I’m halfway through this picture book and that idea and
. . .  What to work on? What do those
editors want anyway?

PLUS I really
need to earn an actual living, so I’d probably better focus on doing that


THEN I start to
make excuses for not writing:


I don’t have
enough time.

I’m busy
homeschooling and juggling so much right now, I really don't have the headspace
for writing a great book at the moment.

I’ll just clean
the house and then I’ll write if there’s time.

I can’t write that book right now.

Someone else
has probably done that already.

If I don’t send
that story out on submission, it can’t get rejected.

I just got a
rejection, maybe I should take a little

I don’t know
how that story ends . . .

Maybe I was only ever meant to write one book?!

Maybe I’ll just
bake some cookies and
think about my
story instead.

I’ll never earn
enough from my writing.


Oh my goodness.


FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) is taking
over my head (and my heart).


I need a new story.


I need to
remember to start THINKING and ACTING like a writer:


First, I need
to remember – everyone has their own journey and this is mine. I will
never be a series fiction writer churning out books quickly. I will be a book-every-so-often-that-is-inspired-and-cooked-over-time
kind of author.


I start by
breathing and being grateful that I am this kind of writer.


Sometimes, it
can take a bit of time to figure out where you fit and to be OK with this, not
trying to pigeon-hole yourself to be like others. FOMO doesn’t serve me well,
I’ve realized. The slot for someone else won’t fit me comfortably. THERE IS


Next, I make
two columns:











- how long
editors take to consider submissions

- rejections (it might be the wrong manuscript at the wrong time; it’s not
necessarily always about me or the story.)

- how much publishers will pay for a book and/or put in for marketing spend

- what other authors are doing
- the current state of the marketplace and trends
- what kind of
writing I write









- bum on seat –
commit to writing on a regular basis and stop making excuses for why I don’t
have enough time to write. I need to put it in my diary. I need to plan ahead
for the time I will write so that I’m not wasting time ‘preparing’.

- take webinars
and courses to keep learning and improving my craft. There are some great free
and low-cost webinars that can help me learn from other authors, illustrators and publishing professionals. I’ve been
enjoying the great interviews on the weekly Kid-Lit
Distancing socials

- be active in
a writing community like SCBWI to
find support, learn new skills, and make connections that will stand me in good
stead when my next book comes out

- get critiques of my work – join a critique group or pay a literary consultant
for their expert objective eye

- read lots of mentor texts - aloud

- keep an eye
and an ear on what is going on in the market
, but limit social media so it doesn’t become a

- spend time with children who are my audience and observe

- be brave and
be prepared to re-think and re-visualize books that have been rejected;
re-write! and reconnect with my vision

-  reach out to librarians and teachers
to make new connections to promote my published book

- stop waiting
for an editor to say yes and write more books so I have some on the back-burner
while others are on submission

- research my
new book ideas and reach out to experts

- look out for
1-1 or competition opportunities


importantly, I realize I can take control of the ‘no’ – either the rejection
letter or the nearly, not quite feedback from editors – and choose how I will
react. Will I let DOUBT set in with its breathless questions bringing on
inertia and excuses, or will I look at my list of actions I can take and get
stuck in and make a start?


LOOK! The list
of things I can do is soooooo much longer than the other list, though arguably, the
weight isn’t quite equal in that ultimately, we are all waiting for an editor
to say ‘yes’ to that project we are passionate about.


It’s like any problem:
it needs chunking down



















Then, perhaps,
the process of being a ‘real’ writer begins to look more achievable.

Plus, I am a storyteller, after all, so I’m going to weave a story around this.
Once there was a girl who dreamt of becoming a writer with lots and lots of
books when she grew up. But . . .  there
were many obstacles in the way. Does it have a happy ending? Only the author can write THAT story.  



Natascha Biebow, MBE, Author, Editor and Mentor

Natascha is the author of the award-winning The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons,
illustrated by Steven Salerno, winner of the Irma Black Award for
Excellence in Children's Books, and selected as a best STEM Book 2020.
Editor of numerous prize-winning books, she runs

Blue Elephant Storyshaping,
an editing, coaching and mentoring service aimed at empowering
writers and illustrators to fine-tune their work pre-submission, and is the Editorial Director for Five Quills.
She is Co-Regional
Advisor (Co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles.
Find her at


Post a Comment

* Please Don't Spam Here. All the Comments are Reviewed by Admin.