Even the Best Writers, Including Octavia E. Butler, Work Hard on Self-Motivating by da-AL

Ever think you, especially if you’re a writer, are alone in your self-doubt?

Fear not alone. Even the best work hard to keep their self-esteem high and dry. Pioneer sci-fi writer Octavia E. Butler wrote pep talks to herself.

Handwritten writing notes on inside cover of one of Science Ficiton novel writer Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Copyright Estate of Octavia E. Butler.
Handwritten notes on inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988. Octavia E. Butler papers. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Copyright Estate of Octavia E. Butler.

Butler (June 22, 1947 – February 24, 2006) was a multiple Hugo Award and Nebula Award winner. She was the first science fiction writer to receive the MacArthur Fellowship’s “Genius Grant.” All that, plus she was the first African-American woman to be officially recognized as a fabulous sci-fi writer.

Despite her achievements, she worked to bolster herself. Tangible evidence exists as part of “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories,” a new exhibition dedicated to her life and work, at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (also called The Huntington) in Los Angeles. She left her collection to The Huntington, including extensive drafts, notes, and research materials for more than a dozen novels, numerous short stories, and essays, as well as correspondence, ephemera, and assorted books.

Photo of Science Fiction novel writer Octavia E. Butler near Mt. Shuksan, in Washington state, 2001. Photographer unknown.
Octavia E. Butler near Mt. Shuksan, in Washington state, 2001. Photographer unknown.

Born in Pasadena, California, Butler started writing as a kid. It took her a long time and suffering through many non-writing jobs to develop her style and eventually sell many, many stories, including her Patternist series, her Xenogenesis series, and her Parable series (aka Earthseed series).

41 thoughts on “Even the Best Writers, Including Octavia E. Butler, Work Hard on Self-Motivating by da-AL

  1. Thank you for this Da-Al! Every writer should read this. We all go through some doubt. I write myself notes like this all the time! We have to believe in ourselves before anyone will believe in us. Have a wonderful weekend.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Da-Al, thanks for the reminder that I’m in good company when it comes to self-doubt as a writer. I’ve a quote by Rich Devos on the clipboard in my work space that keeps me motivated when self-doubt sets in:

    “The only thing that stands between a person and what they want in life is the will to try it and the faith to believe it is possible.”

    Liked by 5 people

          • Hi, I was thinking about working with Amazon for my books, but they only have one option to pay us through our banks. I’d rather not use that option and they don’t offer anything else. And they want exclusive control even though it’s for at least three months. What do you think?

            Liked by 1 person

            • that’s definitely a dilemma – have done lots of research & have yet to decide. the bank stuff doesn’t bother me – I would just open a special account for that. as far as exclusivity, I think they have no-exclusive plans, too, no? ones that offer less percentage tho?

              apple markets to way more countries, but amazon sells more. hmmm.

              another writer said he sells thru only one place at a time, that way his statistics don’t get watered down …

              am scratching my head, wanting to just flip a coin …

              would love to hear when you decide

              Like

  3. I really enjoyed this article about Octavia Butler, Daal. What great inspiration for anyone in any field. If you don’t believe in yourself, why the heck should anyone else? And if you are not doing your very best work all the time, then you have much to improve. Giving up is not an option. Octavia Butler is a leader for generations. Thanks for posting this. I really needed a kick in the – well, you know where!

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I agree–my first novel is being published this year, yet I keep expecting an email telling me it was all a mistake. I just got the cover mock-up last month but still–I just have to believe in myself!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Oh, I love this. Thank you for writing down your visions, Octavia, and sharing them so that we writers who struggle with self-doubt (and anyone who is a writer struggles with self-doubt) can be soothed by your ability to prop yourself up and keep going on. Peace to you, wherever you may be.
    And thanks for sharing, da-AL!

    Liked by 3 people

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