I spend DECADES of my life saying negative things to myself.
Slowly, I’m addressing them one by one, changing what I say and taking positive steps (like NOT buying a box of donuts to eat in one sitting) to make my life better and my soul happier.
Below I have a list of the top ten things wannabe writers say to themselves that keep them stuck in failure.
If you are saying any of these things to yourself, then you will, most certainly fail.
The reason? This negative self talk is a paralyzer.
It fosters inaction.
The antidote is two fold: say positive things and take baby steps out.
1. I’m So Disorganized.
Okay, this could be true. You maybe disorganized because you lack focus, or management skills or a plan. But all of those things are tools. Successful people have learned how to use these tools that they can stay organized. This is the secret that super organized people know — organization does just happen, it’s daily work! If your house, office, desk, ideas or life is super disorganized, find the tools the experts use and make them work for you!
What to say to yourself instead: Today I’m taking 10 minutes to get more organized. I’m starting small. Something is better than nothing. Go me!
What to do: Take 10 minutes, start with Pinterest and search for specific links, then create an organization board. Don’t get distracted. This is your starting place for the actual work. Or, take 10 minutes to make a list of the specific areas you want order in. Then, commit to ten minutes a day working on this area. You’ll see progress. You’ll find order. Try also Flylady.com (my personal favorite).
2. I’m Not Any Good.
This could be true. You may not be a good writer. How do you get better? With practice. Writing is a skill and the most talented writers in the world still have to practice! They did not just spring up out of the ground as NYT bestsellers. They worked on their craft over and over until they grew in skill and confidence. Learn all you can about the craft of writing. Be teachable. Find a mentor. Take a class. And write every day!
What to say to yourself instead: Everybody has to work hard. I’m no different.
What to do: Take 10 minutes and write. Don’t evaluate it or edit it. You just practiced! Then take another 10 minutes and request writing books from your local library’s website, or search Goodreads for the best books and buy them, or go to Writer’s Digest website and spend ten minutes reading. You can learn to be a better writer on ten minutes a day.
3. What If Someone Doesn’t Like It?
Someone is not going to like it. This is a fact of life in the world of artists. If you choose to be an artist, then you’re choosing to have a bad review occasionally, you’ll receive a rejection letter or two and your skin will have to toughen up. But somewhere, someone will like it. This is your first fan. If you don’t write, you’ll never find them. It is for this reader (and all their Facebook friends, Twitter followers and Google+ people) that you write what you write.
What to say to say to yourself instead: What if someone does like it? That will be awesome!
What to do: Read all the one-star reviews of your favorite books on Amazon.com. Some of them are horrible, aren’t they? Notice how this negativity keeps these authors down. (Hint: it doesn’t!)
4. I Don’t Have Time.
You’ll pardon me if I roll my eyes on this one. For nearly every other item on this list, I have great compassion, but I don’t for this one. The truth is you have time for everything you want to do. All you need to accomplish your writing goals is a minimum of ten minutes a day. I know that this is true because between my five children, my homeschooling responsibilities and my homemade bread baking, I found time to pursue my dreams in ten minute increments. It took me five years to write my first book, but I did it. I examined my carefully to find the time, made the time and then worked all the time!
What to say to yourself instead: I can find the time!
What to do: Spend ten minutes looking at your schedule on a daily and weekly basis. Where is there lolly-gagging time that can be devoted to writing? Where are you waiting for your kids? What Netflix show can you forfeit for the sake of writing? I bet you can find a lot more than ten minutes a day.
5. I Don’t Have What I Need.
This excuse is an easy fix. If you are reading this, you’re on a computer or a smart phone. That means you have what you need. Don’t have word processing software? Put your work on Google.docs. Do a search for all the great writing apps for smart phones. Or go low-tech and buy a spiral notebook and a pen. You can get what you need to be a writer very easily. Don’t let this small problem keep you from pursuing your dreams.
What to say to yourself instead: Wow! That was easy!
What to do: Spend ten minutes finding a place at home that will be your workspace — it doesn’t have to be big or glamorous. (I spend years standing at my kitchen counter on an iMac.) Then set up a document, create orderly files, put that journal in your handbag, get a great pen. You can do this!
6. I’ve Failed Before.
We’ve all failed. The first time you tried to walk, you fell. The first time you tried to eat solid food you spit it out. The first time you tried to read, you got it wrong. I can GUARANTEE that there are grammar and spelling mistakes in this blog post. Failure is a part of life. I’m not a psychotherapist, but I’m going to guess that it’s not the failure that’s the problem here, but the feeling of worthlessness that plays piggyback on that failure. This took me a long time to realize but the truth is, failure doesn’t define me. I am so much more than my series of mistakes. I’m going to fail in the future, that’s a given. But I’m not going to let it keep me down.
What to say to yourself instead: I’m going to fail in big and small ways, but so what?
7. I’m Not As Good As Them So Why Try?
Trying really hard not to eyeroll here, bear with me. Of all the excuses on this list, this one is the most cowardly. It’s bad enough that you have no confidence in your God-given skills and abilities, but then you take what you perceive as your weakness and compare it someone else’s strength and naturally come out lacking. It’s a double whammy against who you are and what you were created to be. You are never going to be as good as anybody. Do you know why? BECAUSE YOU ARE YOU! If you have artistic inclinations, then you have a distinct point of view, a unique voice, a perspective that no one else has ever had (you’ll still have to work hard to make it shine, but still). The world needs you!
If you really, really want to believe that the success of other people is the reason to hide your talent under a bushel, then you should be ashamed of yourself. I want this post to be encouraging and hopeful but I’m half-tempted to tell people who actually believe this crap to stay on the couch, stay in front of Netflix, do nothing. Please. I want your future readers for myself.
What to say to yourself instead: Dangit! I have something to offer!
What to do: Put some blinders on. And for the love of Pete, stop comparing yourself to others.
8. I’m Too Old To Try Anything New.
This one is breaking my crap-o-meter. You are NOT too old. Life is going to pass you by if you don’t pursue your dreams now. You don’t want to come to the end of it and wish you’d take ten minutes every day.
What to say to yourself instead: My kids (and grandkids) need to see me pursue my dreams!
What to do: Read this Huffington Post article about writers who got published later in life. One woman was 99!
9. There’s too much to learn, so it’s too hard.
When it comes to writing and marketing and publishing there is a LOT to learn. The bad news is that there’s always an new app or a new social media platform or a new guru to read. The wealth of information is intimidating and overwhelming. Instead of thinking about how hard it is, choose the easiest thing or most interesting aspect of writing/marketing pursuit and only do that. The good news? Nobody knows and implements it all. The most successful people have put limitations on themselves so that they keep the ever growing information monster at bay. You can do that too.
What to say to yourself instead: My time is valuable. I’m going to focus on one aspect of my goals, like writing, and learn a little bit every day.
What to do: Find one or two blogs on writing to follow. Read one book at a time. Don’t panic over what is left, just do what you can when you can.
10. I Don’t Have Anything Worthwhile To Say
Deep sigh. Then a hug. Then another sigh. I totally get this. Sometimes the desires that we have to write are lonely. They don’t exactly have ideas to play with. Personally, I’ve found that ideas, for some reason, inspire other ideas. The act of creating sometimes can spawn new inspiration and then you have something to say, something you didn’t know was in you.
What to say to yourself instead: Hey Muse! I’m going to sit down to work, you’re going to join me!
What to do: Write for 10 minutes about anything. Sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts. Then, watch this Ted Talk about the creative muse by Elizabeth Gilbert (this is my all time favorite Ted Talk. It makes me cry every time!)
Make sure the voice you use is the one that can keep you motivate, encourage yourself to succeed and keep hope alive.
It took me about 20 seconds to come up with ten, because I’ve said every single one of these to myself. I know how powerful these lies are.