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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Who Said That?

who said that?“My Preciousssss.”

“Book em Danno.”

“What’s up Doc?”

“Just the facts Mam.”

“Live, from New York, it’s Saturday Night.”


“To be or not to be…”

“How YOU doin?”

Can you spot the two anomalies in these Catch Phrases?

While you’re pondering that, I’ll distract your eye from the answers to that question, by identifying the speakers of the catch phrases listed: Gollum, Steve McGarrett (both vintage and contemporary), Bugs Bunny, Detective Joe Friday, SNL hosts, Homer Simpson, Hamlet and Joey Tribbiani.

I’ll go out on a limb and argue that “To be or not to be…” is not a catch phrase. Certainly, it’s famous; you know who said it and it reflects the character’s true nature. But Hamlet did not run around the castle saying “To be or not to be…” all the time. Some people may disagree (and they’re entitled to comment below or write their own blogs), but for my purposes, a catch phrase is something that’s repeated often enough to immediately call to mind the character who delivers the line.

I’ll also argue that “Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night” is not a catch phrase because although it’s repeated every week, it’s said by a different person each week.

Two Catch Phrase Challenges

Your first challenge is just for fun: Tell us your favorite catch phrase in a comment here on my blog or on my Around the Writer’s Block Facebook page.

Your second challenge will help you reduce writing resistance: Identify your Saboteur’s catch phrase. What is the thing your Saboteur says often enough that you can start recognizing that it’s your Saboteur talking? This may take a little longer to figure out than the first challenge, and it’s worth the time and effort.

My Saboteur often whispers “It won’t matter if just this once… Tomorrow I’ll…” It also utters variations on the theme of “It’s not good enough. It’s not perfect. It’s too… (too simple, too complex, too long, too short…).”

Freewriting is one way to recognize your Saboteur’s favorite phrases (a.k.a. forms of attack). What do you say to either let yourself off the hook for not writing today or to keep yourself on the hook of endless revising, never moving forward, never being good enough?

Another way is to recall the inner dialogue you had running through your head the last time you felt unworthy, unrecognized, unprepared, inadequate or “less than” in any way. What do you say to yourself to make yourself unhappy about your writing? Your Saboteur’s favorite forms of attack are there.

Once you recognize your Saboteur’s catch phrases, you can tell yourself, “That’s my Saboteur talking, and since it always lies and never has my best interests at heart, I can just ignore it and go back to my writing.” The Saboteur doesn’t go away, but you stop letting it push you away from the writing you want to do.

When you figure it out, please post a comment with your Saboteur’s catch phrase. Laughing about the Saboteur in public helps deflate its power. Writers who are struggling to identify the voice of their Saboteur can get a lot of insight from reading what other writers attribute to the Saboteur, so please share!


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