Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The Lies I (Used To) Tell Myself

I considered chucking this month's suggested topic and writing about something else. See, I didn't think I had any experience with rejection of my work, so how could I talk about what it feels like or how to deal with it? Before you think I'm bragging or full of myself, understand what that really means. I haven't sent any of my work out yet, so there aren't any rejection stories to tell. I'm very, very close, though...and very, very nervous about it.

Then I realized there's more than one kind of rejection and I'm a pro at a certain type. It's a doozy, too, maybe the worst you can experience (check back with me about that after I send out my book and receive that first, "Thanks, but no thanks" form letter). What kind of rejection am I talking about?

Negative self-talk. Or, as I like to call it: The Lies I Tell Myself.

It's one thing for someone else to tell you they don't like or can't use your writing. It's another to tell yourself that what you're writing can't possibly be any good. We all have self doubts (and if you don't, please don't tell me--that's one thing I'd rather believe, even if it isn't true). I'm guessing that some of you may also experience those doubts as that little voice in your head that whispers to you words like:

"What a load of crap. No one's ever going to publish it, let alone want to read it!"

"Trite. Cliched. Boring."

Or my personal favorite:

"What makes you think you can write? You can't do this.

If you're a writer, I suspect you know what I'm talking about. Maybe you call it your "internal editor" or the "little demon" on your shoulder (or maybe you think I should see someone professionally about hearing that little voice).

Silencing that negative voice can be a very hard thing to do. It's insidious and insinuated itself into my thoughts until it was second nature to think negatively. The closer I was getting to sending out my writing, the more my fears and self-doubts fueled that voice. It wasn't until I sat down and tried to figure out why I was having such a hard time reaching my final goal that I realized what I was doing.

I was rejecting myself! The more times I told myself, "You can't do this," the more I began to believe it. Why bother sending my writing out for rejection, when I was doing such an efficient job of rejecting it before it was even written?

Once I'd figured out what I was doing, I became acutely aware of every negative word I was telling myself. I'm learning to stop saying them in my head, which isn't easy, believe me. At the very least, when I hear myself going down the same old negative rathole, I stop and turn the negatives into positives. Now, when I start to say, "You can't," I say instead, "You can." Here's my new positive statement; I've found I only really need this one--it succinctly counters any negative talk my fertile brain can come up with:

"You can do this. You are a writer."

The next time you hear a little voice in your head tell you that "you can't" or anything else remotely negative, be sure and turn it on its head and firmly tell yourself, "Oh yes I can!"


Paty Jager said...

Great post, Debbie!

We all have those little negative fairies in our heads. I'm glad to see you've learned to overcome/ignore them. Before I was published I had the same, this isn't good enough and now that I'm published it's "is this better than the last one or is it the same and boring?" That's where CP's are good. They help you see that you aren't writing crap and they tell you if you're getting stale.

Genene Valleau said...

Very insightful post, Debbie!

I was also very, ahem, hesitant* to share my works in progress with others. (*Read that scared to death, just try to tear the manuscript from my hands "hesitant." :)

It took years of "perfecting" a manuscript before I'd let someone else read it. Ironically, I had been a newsletter editor and wrote articles for years that were reviewed by at least half dozen people to be sure they were politically correct.

However, writing a manuscript seemed different, and any criticism seemed more personal.

I've gotten better about sharing works in progress, but still want them to be almost final before I do that. As Paty said, good critique partners are priceless in helping see the weaknesses and strengths in stories.

Good for you for facing down these negative voices and knowing you can write!

Sarah Raplee said...

Authot and marketing guru Seth Godin calls that negative voice the 'Lizard Brain', that primitive part of the brain that avoids risk at all costs. You have a great method for countering when The Lizard Brain panics because you are getting ready to take what seems like a huge risk.

Loved your post!