Defeating the Pink Gremlin

At a recent writers’ retreat, we were challenged to identify our “pink gremlins,” meaning those private obstacles to achieving our writing goals. Each person wrote silently for 20 minutes and then shared the results. (If you’ve never tried a timed writing exercise, it can be enlightening. Set the clock and write!)

Each individual’s pink gremlin was distinct: fear, wordiness, etc. This was mine:

“The trouble with trouble is that it starts out like fun.” Remember this the next time you set aside your manuscript and decide that, for just a few minutes, you’ll check your email, or scan through Twitter, or research Dubrovnik’s best hotels on TripAdvisor.

That pink gremlin is a seductress: beautiful, tempting, and fickle as hell. She won’t pay back the valuable time she borrows. She’ll only tease you with one more silly diversion, one more scenic photo, one more unbelievably cute picture of puppies, or kittens, or goats.

Look! Now she offers up a short video—very short, hardly a few minutes, surely time you can spare—which isn’t just an ordinary video, but in fact has a moral justification. Really. Yes, just wait one more minute, because this is a cause that’s very close to your own pink, bleeding heart, isn’t it? Absolutely it is, and if you don’t click on it today, NOW, at this precise moment in history, how can you go on pretending to be the THINKING, COMPASSIONATE, PATRIOTIC, FEMINIST (all in caps, thank you very much) that you have always thought yourself to be?

You see? That pink gremlin is a changling, isn’t she? She’ll appeal to every synapse that you’ve spent a lifetime stroking, poking, and making hypersensitive. She knows. SHE KNOWS.

So how can you refuse her? How can you go back to that dull repetition of black-on-white, that same ol’ alphabet, that same ol’ uninspired vocabulary of words, words, words, when it’s ACTIONS, darling, that make the world go round? You believe that, don’t you?


Take a breath.

Turn off the computer.

Get up and stretch.

Turn your back on the pink, rosy, happy little pest and breathe deep. You owe the gremlin nothing. But what do you owe yourself? Everything.

So start again. Find the thread. Feel the pulse. And make the damn book BREATHE!


Carla Norton is an award-winning novelist and bestselling true crime writer. Her debut fiction, The Edge of Normal, is a Thriller Award finalist and Royal Palm Literary Award winner. What Doesn’t Kill Her, the “high-octane” sequel, is a 2016 Nancy Pearl Award winner. Carla also wrote two books of true crime: Disturbed Ground, about a female serial killer, and Perfect Victim, which made the reading list for the FBI Behavioral Sciences Unit and was a #1 New York Times bestseller. For more, please visit and find her on Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.