There’s a tendency as a writer to look on the negative side of things. Wait…is that just me? If it is, then disregard this whole thing. But on the off chance that somebody else feels this, let me continue. I get it. It’s a negative business. Even the most successful authors have seen far more rejections than they have successes. Wins are few and far between. So it’s easy to become one with the dark side.
The simple fact is negativity hurts your production. It does. Even if you don’t see it. When you let bad stuff control you, it gets in your head and it stays there, insidious, like the bug that’s probably in that coffee you’re drinking right now even though you can’t see it. Those negative things build inside you and all of a sudden it’s just easier not to write your new words, because hey, who wants to see them anyway? It sucks the life out of you.
How the negative gets in.
It’s human nature. If three things happen to me and two of them are positive, I’m still going to look at the negative. As a writer, if two people read my book and one tells me it’s good and the other tells me it’s not good, I’m going to gravitate toward the one who told me it’s bad. Even if they both tell me it’s good, they’re probably just being nice to me. But if one tells me it’s bad, well, that person isn’t just being mean. They have to be right.
We have a bias toward the negative. We tend to discard or ignore the positive.
The negative stays with us for months, but the positive, if we acknowledge it, fades in days.
If my goal was to write 2000 words today and I write 1300, I think ‘I didn’t make my goal’ instead of thinking ‘I got 1300 new words.’
What to do about it.
To counter the negative takes a concerted effort. Like that suspicious rash, no matter how much you hope it will, it’s not going to go away on it’s own. Here’s a method.
Actively seek the positive.
Oh, right…thanks, genius. I’ll just do that. I couldn’t figure that out on my own.
Bear with me.
Write down three positive things that happened to you today. Do I want you to actually write them down? Yes. You’re a writer. Write. It doesn’t matter what they are. It can be anything. Some examples:
I sat down at the time I planned and actually wrote.
I caught myself using passive voice and fixed it.
I read something I wrote last week, and I liked it.
I got to help one of my CPs.
I learned something new.
I read a great book, and it inspired me.
Somebody said something good about my work.
I was scared to engage with somebody, but then I did.
It can be anything. It can be small or large, but it has to be positive. It can’t be a ‘but’ statement. (I read a great book, and it inspired me, but now I see I can never write like that.) No negatives.
Now you’ve got your three things. Next to each good thing, write the following:
Why this good thing happened.
What this good thing means to you.
What you can do tomorrow to make more of it.
How do others contribute to this positive thing?
You can do it however often you want. I do it maybe once a week, but if you’re starting out, you can do it every day. When you do it for a while, you’ll start to notice that actively acknowledging positive things starts to push some of the negative out. It’s not that you’ll eliminate negative thoughts. They’ll still be there. You’ll just start to balance them out, so they don’t take up so much space. Like eating too many good bread before the evil main course.
And that’s all I have for today. But before you go, I need to acknowledge that I didn’t make this up. I learned it from the army, where we teach it as a strategy. I put it into my own words, mostly, and applied it to how I use it for writing. But it’s all them.