If you gave your inner genius as much as credence as your inner critic, you would be light years ahead of where you now stand.
We speak to ourselves 50,000 times a day.
And do you know the sad thing? Nearly 80% of the chatter is negative. We just LOVE to criticise ourselves.
‘I’m not a writer.’
‘Why would I get published?’
‘The kids are going to think that my writing’s shit.’
Sound familiar? It does to me.
Our Thoughts and the Inner Critic
Our thoughts, whether positive or negative, have a powerful effect on us. Not only do they affect our emotions and mental wellbeing, they also cause havoc to our bodies.
Remember the last time you felt negative about something? Did you experience that sick feeling in your stomach or did your heart pound really hard? In negative situations, do you sweat or stutter?
These are the physical ways that our inner critic can dominate us.
Every part of you is affected by every thought you have. When you feel positive, you smile and feel as though you could write the next War and Peace.
When you’re feeling negative, you shake your head a lot and screw up enough paper to fell a patch of trees the size of Wembley stadium.
If you’re positive, you release endorphins – the happy hormone. If you’re negative, you secrete cortisol, the stress hormone. Too much stress can put our lives at risk.
To be frank the thought you secreting anything is enough to put me off my lunch, but the good thing about all this is that you’re in control of your thoughts – and your secretions. Being responsible for your thoughts means you can turn the negatives into positives. Just because you think something’s awful, doesn’t mean it is.
Flipping Negativity to Positivity
Let’s look at the ways that negativity takes a hold of us and how we could turn things around. By making a consistent effort to be a more positive person, you’re going to reap the benefits in no time at all.
1. Always/Never Thinking
Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’ll never be a writer” or “I’m always failing at this.”
Yup, that’s always/never thinking and you need to stop it right now. Why? Because it’s rarely the truth. Are you always failing? I mean like every single second of the day, in everything you do? That would be ‘always’, wouldn’t it?
It’s time to turn this type of thinking on its head.
When you utter these words, stop and think about the truth. How often are you failing? Was it just today or has it been for a while now? Instead of thinking negatively about this, why not flip it and think of the positives you could gain from it?
If you’re feeling like a repeated failure, what are the lessons you could learn? Your inner critic thrives on your negativity, so confuse it and start looking for the positives. You’ll always find something. Replace ‘always’ and ‘never’ with the truth. You can work with the truth.
I love this word and so does your inner critic. You take a small situation and blow it out of all proportion. You make it a catastrophe.
But when we really think about it, things are rarely at catastrophic levels in our lives. Think tsunamis or forest fires or a six-car pile up on the motorway. Those things are truly catestrophic. Failing to hit your daily word count isn’t.
The truth is, your inner critic knows that you will start to catastrophise as soon as they plant their negative seed in your head. And, like a true champion, you respond this way every time. Soon the smallest problems seem like third world debt.
Creating the worst possible scenario and acting as though it’s a certainty is going to damage your writing. Put things into perspective. Write them down if you need to, but get clarity on the real level of the problem and work out the solution objectively. Take the emotion out and imagine you’re looking at it as an outsider. The solution will come far more easily and you’ll realise that things weren’t quite as bad as they first seemed.
3. Mind Reading
Derren Brown, eat your heart out. He’s got nothing compared to you. You are able to read everyone’s minds and assume the worst. You know what people are thinking and it must be about you.
When you read that, it seems like total madness doesn’t it? But lots of us do it. The agent must not be responding because my work is shit. The readers are going to hate my story and it won’t sell past its first edition.
How do you know? How do you know that the agent doesn’t like it unless you ask? Seeking clarity from the people who are actually doing the thinking will stop this negative behaviour. Your inner critic can be silenced once you’ve heard the truth.
The key here is in the follow-up. If you haven’t heard, why don’t you phone/email and check? Instead of assuming you know what the agent or publisher is thinking, why don’t you ask them? It will save a lot of heartache and needless negativity.
If the news isn’t positive, you can wallow briefly but then pick yourself back up and try again. If it is positive, you’ll realise that you spent all that time worrying about nothing. All that cortisol will have been rampaging around your body for no reason.
4. Focusing on the Negative
Writers can be terribly negative by nature. We hate the thought of praising ourselves or giving ourselves a pat on the back. That’s just for arseholes, right?
Wrong! If you constantly look for the negative in a situation, you drain people and zap the positivity out of anyone you meet. By trying to find the positive in every situation, no matter how shit it first seems, you’re able to grow and learn from it, as well as the mistakes you make.
There’s no such thing as a bad mistake. There is such a thing as a Negative Nora. She’s a right pain to hang out with and soon people stop calling her.
Be ‘cup half full’ rather than ‘cup half empty’.
If you know you’re naturally negative, start by saying one positive thing about your writing each day. It can be anything. Start off small so you don’t freak out, but start you must!
It will soon seep its way into your overall outlook on life and you’ll be the most positive person you know.
5. The Blame Game
By blaming yourself for the negative things that happen in your life, you make them all terribly personal. That rejection from the agent must be about you, right?
Or, with a sensible hat on, you would realise that the book you’ve suggested just might not be what they’re taking on right now. The agent’s list might be full etc… The list goes on. Rarely is it anything truly personal. And, again, if it is, look for the lessons you can learn. You won’t silence that inner critic if you don’t.
Along with the blame game, people also like to go on a little guilt trip from time to time too. You feel guilty if you don’t reach your word count target for the day or if you sleep in when you’re supposed to be writing. You attach a label to yourself, e.g. I’m lazy or I’m stupid.
If you repeat that often enough, you’ll start to believe it. And when you start to believe it, your negativity takes over and your writing will suffer.
Listening to your inner critic can affect your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It has the power to affect your writing in ways that you can’t possibly imagine.
By changing the record and becoming an outwardly positive person, you can begin to believe what your brain has been trying to tell you all along. You’re bloody awesome!
Instead of focusing on the outcome all the time, focus on the effort. Okay, you didn’t get your one thousand words done for today, you only did nine hundred and fify seven. Does that make you any less of a writer? Does that mean you won’t succeed?
Of course not!
Praise the fact that you sat in the damn chair and wrote anything at all. Your inner critic can be silenced by decisive action, even if you didn’t completely hit your target. Something is better than nothing at all.
Remember, our thoughts affect us in every way. Surely you want the affects to be positive, don’t you? Kick your inner critic to the kerb and become the most positive writer you know.
You can thank me later.
- Write down a list of all the negative things you say to your writing self. Look at each statement and then flip it to something positive. Cross out the downright lies and seek the truth. With truth comes clarity.
- Get used to praising the effort, not the outcome. You will soon see how beneficial this is to silencing your inner critic and developing a positive attitude towards your writing.
- The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield
- How to Develop a Growth Mindset and Become a Better Writer
- How to Develop the Right Mindset Even if You’re a Negative Nora
- How to Find the Motivation to Write Even When You’ve Got a Gremlin on Your Shoulder
How do you cope with negative thoughts and emotions? Leave a comment in the box below!