Thursday, June 2, 2011
Coping With the Negative Voice
Today I want to talk about something that I struggle with. As writers we all know that sometimes our characters speak to us and we can see the scene unfolding in our imaginations or hear a certain character’s “voice” as we write. But there is another voice that writers often hear that we should never listen to.
The voice of negativity.
You know that voice. The one that whispers, “this story is terrible. No one will like it,” or “that sounds stupid. Why did you think you could write?”
It’s so easy to listen to that voice sometimes, especially after a critique or rejection. Writing is such a subjective profession and because of this, we are going to get negative feedback. There’s no way to get around the fact that some people will love your story, and others will hate it. Some agents or publishers will believe in your story, some will reject it outright. But it is that voice in your head that can get under your skin and allow discouragement to take root.
Why do we roll out the red carpet for that negative voice? Why do we allow that voice even one second of our thoughts? I believe it is insecurity. When we don’t believe in ourselves, in our vision, and in our abilities as a writer, that cracks the door open for that negative voice to get its foot in.
So what can we do to keep that negative voice out?
Here are three things that I do to help me. They may sound silly, but they really have worked for me in reducing that voice in my head.
1. Whenever I catch myself thinking “I can’t do this,” I immediately repeat in my head, “I can. I can do hard things.” I remind myself that writing is a process and if it was easy, everyone would do it. “I can do this,” is a little mantra that I say over and over. I even have a magnet on my fridge to remind me.
2. When I hear that negative voice getting louder in my head, I take a moment to imagine myself at my booksigning for my work in progress. When things get really hard and I think this book will never see the light of day, I sit back, close my eyes, and just let myself see that scene. The stack of books on the table. My favorite booksigning pen at my side. The people who have come to buy my new book. The smile as I sign it for them. There is just something very positive and freeing when I replace the negative voice in my head with this scene.
3. The negative voice always comes out whenever I’ve gotten a negative review (I’m looking at you Goodreads) or negative feedback, or a rejection. That is my most vulnerable time. So, instead of worrying about the negativity, (well, I do allow myself a little bit to wallow in self-pity, but only a little bit) I ask myself, “What can I do about it?” I can’t do much about the negative review, but I can thank them for their time. (I also remind myself again that not everyone is going to like my book and that’s just part of life.) If I’m looking at negativc feedback I can ask myself if it has any merit and make a note of it for my next work. If it’s a rejection, I can pick myself up and submit it somewhere else. I don’t let that negative voice tell me I can’t. I want to fill my thoughts with, “I can.” Like Hines Ward recently said on Dancing With the Stars, “Success is built on cans, not can’t.”
The negative voice can be hard to overcome, but with a few little tips and tricks, we can beat it back and not allow it in anymore. One thing I’ve noticed is that when I really do replace all that negative talk by reminding myself that “I can do hard things,” and seeing my booksigning scene in my head, and thinking of what I can do now, I feel more empowered in myself and in my writing. The positive voice and thoughts are like giving myself a little gift—the gift of moving forward with creating something for others to enjoy and feeling good about what I’ve done no matter what happens.
How do you keep that negative voice out?