How Writing is Like Dating

Dr. Paulette Sherman
10 min readJan 21, 2019

Today on the treadmill it occurred to me that the process of being a writer is a lot like dating. Perhaps when you work with daters and couples all day, everything begins to look like that…

In my first book, ‘Dating from the Inside Out,’ I divided the dating process into three parts. I’ll show you how that same model applies to writers and why,

How we do anything is the way we do everything.’

-Martha Beck

PART ONE: Unconscious Thoughts & Patterns-

Your unconscious houses habits, fears, and beliefs that usually don’t serve you. These forces become automatic and remain out of your awareness. Then they shape your outcomes and choices. So, it’s important to bring them to light so you can make choices that do serve you and you get out of your own way.

Some Dating Examples:

Unconscious patterns- Maybe your parents were critical so you have a pattern of picking critical men so you don’t create lasting healthy relationships. This familiar pattern sabotages your happiness.

Limiting Beliefs- You may tell yourself, ‘No men want to marry women over 35 years old,’ and you’re 37. This thought can stop you from putting yourself out there before you begin.

Old Baggage- Maybe you were ghosted after a year or cheated on in a past relationship and now you’re afraid to open your heart to trust again.

Some Writing Examples:

Unconscious patterns- Maybe you’ve been a procrastinator so you started to write your novel but didn’t finish it. You made a goal to write 40 mins a day but your mood, outside events or the needs of others got in the way.

Limiting Beliefs- Here are some popular industry-based limiting beliefs about writers:

‘You need an agent to be published.’

‘If your past sales sucked, you won’t be published again due to your track record.’

‘Publishing in foreign languages is only possible when you have a traditional publisher.’

And some that we tell ourselves:

‘If you haven’t been successfully published by age 30, you never will.’

‘If you don’t have a large following online your writing isn’t any good.’

‘It’s stigmatizing to be self-published.’

‘If you haven’t sold 10K copies of your book, it isn’t helpful.’

PART 2- Notice Who You’re Being in the Present-

Your energy, focus and clarity are really important in the long-run because ‘like attracts like,’ and ‘we create from the inside-out.’ This is where who you is directing your choices. Having strong self-esteem and faith in your vision can get you through challenges. Mastering your self-talk and maintaining your level of commitment gives you a strong foundation no matter what goes on out there.

Examples In Dating:

Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs- Let’s return to the prior example, ‘No men want to marry women over 35 years old. ’ To challenge this belief you’d locate an exception. You may know many regular people who remarried later in life or celebrities like Barbara Streisand who found love with James Brolin at 56 or Amy Adams who got married at 41.

Maintain Good Self-Esteem- Dating involves lots of rejection so it’s helpful to remember what makes you a great catch.

Keep the Faith- Often people look at how many dates have rejected them instead of focusing on moving towards an amazing partner. Keep your eye on the prize!

Create a Life You Love- Many singles imagine a partner will save them but it doesn’t usually work that way. When you like yourself and your life you’re more attractive and there’s less pressure applied to your dates.

Have a Long-Term Vision of What You Desire- It’s hard to keep up your morale when you aren’t getting the results you desire. Make a Vision Board and keep in mind what you’re working towards.

Have Positive Role Models- Sometimes when finding a mate online feels improbable, it helps to recall of a few folks who met online and are now happily married.

Examples In Writing:

Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs- Let’s review some limiting outer and inner limiting beliefs that can stop you from succeeding as a writer.

‘You need an agent to be published.’ Having an agent may help but this isn’t always true. My first book was published by Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). I had no agent and a very small following. Of course, I was very fortunate that happened and publishing was different in 2008 but it was an exception we can use and I’m sure there are many others. Many publishers (like Llewellyn, my second traditional publisher) don’t require writers to submit with an agent. I now have an agent and this past go around of submissions my book idea was still passed over, so every book and situation is different.

‘If your past sales sucked, you won’t be published again due to your track record.’ Traditional publishers are a business so it makes sense that they would look at your past book sales to gauge your future sales. But there are many times that publishers have taken a chance on an author anyway. Most publishers know that most authors don’t have a best seller until their third book. It takes time to learn the industry, to learn about marketing, to build a following and to hone your message.

‘Publishing in foreign languages is only possible when you have a traditional publisher.’ I read this one in a book about publishing! Luckily, I had not heard that limiting belief when I got breast cancer (almost 7 years ago) and I decided to self-publish a legacy of books. I wanted to write 22 books and in order to fund them (so they paid for themselves), I decided to contact a few foreign agents on Linkedin. My self-published book was subsequently published in Chinese, Korean and Czech. Later, another Chinese publisher reached out to me so I contacted another foreign agent to represent me and two of my self-published books on my cancer experience were published in Chinese. Anything is possible, so it’s always good to keep an open mind, a positive attitude and to keep on trying things.

‘If you haven’t been published by age 30 you never will.’ It’s easy to base your future on your past but luckily there are many role models that provide exceptions. Dr. Seuss was rejected by dozens of publishers and found success with his first book in his late 40’s. Toni Morrison published her first novel at 40. Tom Sawyer published, Tom Sawyer at 41 and JK Rowling wrote, Harry Potter and landed a book deal at 31 after a dozen rejections.

‘Maybe if I don’t have a following online my writing isn’t any good.’- There are plenty of amazing writers that don’t have large followings. Some don’t even go on social media.

‘It’s stigmatizing to be self-published.’ Today many successful writers are choosing to self-publish instead of to go with a traditional publisher. They may want creative control or feel that they can make more money that way. Some authors who succeeded at self-publishing include Amanda Hocking and Lisa Genova self-published, Still Alice. Others include, ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki, The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield, Gary Vaynerchuk and, more.

‘If I haven’t sold 10K copies of my book then it isn’t good or helpful.’- If your book is helpful to one person it may transform their life or support them through a tough time. It may even have been helpful to you just to write it! It’s not just about the sales. It’s also about the process of creation and knowing that your book is now out there and will continue to inspire others.

Maintain Good Self-Esteem- The likelihood is that your books will be rejected by publishers and your article pitches by editors. Learn not to take this personally and to move on to your next opportunity.

Keep the Faith- Just because things are not going the way you want doesn’t mean you won’t eventually attract a terrific publisher when the time is right. Perhaps the challenges along the way will help you hone your craft and message. When naysayers tell you that you’re wasting your time, return to what you believe and remember why you write.

Create a Life that You Love- If having success in writing is the only thing that you live for, that that will put a lot of pressure on your writing. If you have a job that you like, friends, family, things that bring you joy and you also enjoy writing it’ll be easier to stick with the process and not to ascribe too much significance to the results.

Have a Long-term Vision of What You Desire- Keep an eye on what you are working towards. You can create a vision of the books that you’ll write, the people they’ll help, the places you’ll speak and give workshops. Hang it somewhere you’ll see it so that it inspires you.

Have Positive Role Models- It helps to know that many authors got tons of rejection and were successful late in life. One of my role models is Louise Hay, a healer, author, and publisher who wrote, ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ after age 60 and many other books. Who is yours?

Louise Hay- healer, author & publisher

PART 3- Be Conscious about How Your Choices Match Who You Are-

The world will present you with lots of opportunities (whether it be in dating or writing) so it’s important to be clear about how each option aligns with your values, intention, goal, and identity. This is where the rubber meets the road- where you make conscious choices aligned with your soul.

Examples in Dating:

What’s your Intention?

Are you dating to have fun, companionship, a long-term relationship or marriage? Everyone dates for different reasons so define what success in this arena means to you and pick someone on a similar page.

Are they Aligned with your Values?

A date can be cute but if they stand you up, are disrespectful and want totally different things from you, they probably won’t be a good long-term match.

Are they Aligned with Your Vision?

Something can be fun at the moment but it’s useful to check it against what you’re working towards to see if that date matches your life vision (if marriage is what you’re looking for).

Have an Action Plan-

I advise my dating coaching clients to take action by joining several dating sites, writing prospects, going to events and being accountable. Most things that you want to accomplish take work. Be willing to take risks to put yourself out there, even when you can’t control the outcome.

Cast the Net Wide to Learn What Suits You through Trial and Error-

In dating, it helps to be open to possibilities and to give different prospects a chance so you learn more about what you like and don’t.

Learn the Lessons & Be Willing to Grow-

You can learn from bad dates and relationships that don’t work out. It can teach you what you are doing that does not work in relationships so you can make a change.

Examples in Writing:

Is it Aligned with your Values?

When I’ve coached writers it’s been helpful to discuss what’s most important to them. Are they writing to make a living? Do they want the status of publishing in large publications for clips? Do they just want to get their message out? Answering these questions can determine what publications to approach, accept and the kinds of content you’ll offer.

Is it Aligned with Your Vision & Message?

For some writers publishing an article in Vogue for 2K would be a dream come true whereas for others, getting accepted in a poetry journal for no pay is their ultimate goal. You create your own creative path so get clear what brings you joy and what success means for you.

Have an Action Plan-

It’s one thing to dream but most times manifestation requires action. Many writers have a regular practice of writing. They may have a goal to submit a book or article to 10 publishers or editors. Like dating, writing can be a numbers game — so start showing up and don’t give up.

Cast the Net Wide & Learn What Suits You through Trial and Error-

By trying different publications, ideas and approaches to publishing (self-publishing, traditional publishing, foreign publishing, blogs, articles, videos) you’ll learn what works and doesn’t and where you excel. Hopefully, you’ll get to know your audience and vice-versa. After becoming an author I stumbled through various new platforms (like this new one) learning something about it. Whether it’s making videos, being on the radio and TV, being on FB Lives or learning to make memes on Canva, I’ve grown and amassed new skills along the way and so will you.

Learn Lessons as You Go-

Stay humble. Even if you’re rejected, there may be an opportunity to learn something from that editor or to see what doesn’t work for your audience. When something is really successful you can think about whether you’d like to do more of it. Learn from your journey with your audience, other writers and the people in your niche.

I hope that this was helpful. I wish you much success with your writing and most importantly, much joy during your process of creation!

Dr. Paulette Sherman is a psychologist, Relationship Expert and author of the upcoming book, ‘Facebook Dating: from 1st Date to Soulmate.’ She also wrote, Dating from the Inside Out’ published by Atria Books, The Book of Sacred Baths, published by Llewellyn and self-published 20 others as part of a legacy project that she created following a bout with breast cancer 7 years ago. Her website is



Dr. Paulette Sherman

Psychologist, Relationship coach, podcast host of, ‘The Love Psychologist’ and author of ‘‘Dating from the Inside Out.’ @kpaulet