Monday, September 19, 2011

Beat That Negative Voice!

So, you did it.  You submitted your New Voices entry.  Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the email announcing you're in the top twenty, right? 


Or at least that's how it should be.  Unfortunately, your inner critic often gets louder at times like these.  It'll quite unhelpfully compare your entry to one you just read and enjoyed.  It'll prevent you from finishing your chapter.  It'll convince you that submitting is just too hard.  In short, it sucks.  It's also what's standing between you and your dreams.

The good news is that you can conquer it and here's how:

1. Recognise it.
Whether it's doubt (telling you that you can't or shouldn't do something), excuses (that are so easy to accept but in the long run prevent you from achieving your goals), pressure (telling you it's too hard and to stop now) or fear (that speaks of your inadequacies to prevent you moving forward), you need to be aware of the thought when it happens.  Often this enough to pull it up short.

2. Replace it
Replace it with a positive thought.  At first this may feel idiotic depending on how long your negative inner voice has had free reign but find comfort in the fact that you're not alone.  Olympians use these same techniques and they had to start from scratch too.  If that inner voice is telling you that your writing isn't good enough for New Voices, replace it with the thought that it is.  Of course it is!  Your voice and writing style is unique to you and the judges are looking for new and unique.  If you don't enter, they can't discover you, and that would be a shame.

3. Reject it
If you find your inner critic is on some sort of playback loop you can interrupt it by saying "Stop!" in your mind.  Sounds ridiculous, yes?  Ah, but the mind is a funny thing and this sort of technique is enough to shock it in a similar way to if someone shouted the word in your face. Pinching yourself is another option, but it's a bit more of a shock to the system.  Your mind will associate the thought with a negative response and do exactly as you say: stop.  The more often you break the pattern, the less the loop occurs. 

4. Reconstruct it
When you find yourself thinking negatively about your entry, use the word "but" and point out the positive aspects.  For example, "My punctuation is lousy - but my characters are unique and engaging."  We all want our entries to be perfect but "to err is human" and we often place too much importance on the little things that editors can be quoted saying won't rule you out.  You won't be disqualified for forgetting comma, so don't sweat the small stuff. It's much nicer to focus on the things that are great about your entry because they're what will be responsible for getting you into the top 20.  And if you don't know what they are, how will you repeat themin round two?

So, now you're all set to banish the crows of doubt.  Remember, thoughts have tremendous power.  They've been linked to the recovery or exacerbation of illnesses.  Athletes the world over use these techniques. You don't get to the Olympics by believing you suck.  You don't win the Olympics by believing you suck.  The exact same thing can be said for your writing.

Source: Body and Soul


Maya Blake said...

Great post, Lacey!! I need to print this off and paste it somewhere prominent for when the doubt crows circle!

Aimee Duffy said...

I agree, brilliant post. It honestly gets better after you've hit submit (as long as you don't keep going back and checking it) :)

Anonymous said...

I do think that as writers, we are our own worst enemies and at crucial times like this, the non-editor, editor pipes up more often than necessary.

Thanks for the great post. It's an achievement to work the nerve to enter and when it's done, give yourself a pat on the back for putting yourself out for the universe to see your dream and your effort:)

Anonymous said...

I am a FIRM believer in the power of positive thinking. Unfortunately this also applies to negative thinking as well. GREAT post, Lacey!

Teresa Ashby said...

This is a brilliant post, Lacey - lots of good advice there :-)

Caroline said...

Great post Lacey. Thanks - Caroline x

Catherine Coles said...

Fab post, Lacey, great reminder of the power of positive thinking :-]

Rachael Johns said...

I haven't entered New Voices this year (can't now) but this post is relevant for any writer. Thanks so much for the much-needed Pep Talk!

Patsy said...

I'm getting a water pistol to shoot down those crows.

Christy McKellen said...

Some excellent advice there, Lacey, very well said. I'm trying to keep my angst at bay by reminding myself that NV is a brilliant way to learn and improve my writing. I guess the trick is to be as practical as possible when reading comments. It's a pretty emotional business though, having your innermost feelings out there for everyone to analyse. I love the athlete analogy. I shall be keeping that firmly in mind as the comp continues.


Yolande Pienaar said...

Lacey, I'm just composing a blogpost reflecting on exactly what you said here. For the past couple of days and as each entry is posted, my inner voice kept telling me: "See, you're not good enough!" Thanks for the pep talk - think I'll finish that chapter now and hit the dreaded submit button.