Saturday, May 25, 2019


Writers are all about creating convincing and powerful dialog. But do we ever stop to listen to what we’re saying to ourselves in our daily mental conversations?

Self-talk is the constant tape of thoughts and impressions running through our head, over and over, in a never-ending loop. Whether your attitude toward yourself and your surrounding circumstances is optimistic or pessimistic impacts more than your outlook – it can also affect your chance of success, fulfillment, good health and all-around sense of well-being. Maybe it’s time to do some self-editing.

Is your glass half-full or half-empty in your outlook? Listen to your own self-talk. Is it positive or negative?

Negative self-talk sounds like this:

           “I can’t do anything right.”

           “Nothing looks good on me. I’m so fat (thin, old, ugly, short, tall, etc.)”

           “I don’t deserve any better.”

           “I didn’t make my deadline. My career/job is over.”

           “No one else has trouble doing that. I’m such a loser.”

Every time you replay one of these negative phrases, you’re making those irrational misconceptions stronger. Where do these ideas come from? Fear, anxiety, worries, and depression foster negative thinking. We compare ourselves to others until we passive-aggressively blame them for our perceived short-comings. The habit of being overly critical can be something learned during childhood. Poor past experiences can lead to the belief that the past always repeats itself in a never-ending loop of failure. Geez, now I’m depressed . . . Time to break that cycle of defeat.

Negativity breeds these unpleasant habits. If we can recognize them, we can change them. These are the biggest offenders:

Filtering: Instead of feeling good about your accomplishments, you push the positives aside to focus on the seemingly mountainous stack of what’s left to do. That boulder never gets pushed all the way to the top of the hill.

Personalizing: You blame yourself for anything and everything bad that happens, assuming it’s your fault (or narcissistically think every success is owed to your efforts that aren’t being appreciated).

Catastrophizing: You anticipate the worst that can possibly happen in any situation so you can’t enjoy it because you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Polarizing: Things are either good or bad. There is no middle ground. You’re either perfect or a total failure. And how often are any of us perfect?

Writers, because of our isolation, and helped by an enormous creative imagination, can see their career rise or fall because of those consistent(ly wrong) dialogues in our own heads. Advertisers know if we hear the same thing repeated at least three times, it become imprinted upon our memory. Repetition becomes supposed truth. And that truth wins out . . . even if it’s really a self-lie. What have you been saying to yourself?

           “I’ll never be as good as _______.”

           “If I haven’t made a bestseller list by now, I might as well give up. I have no talent.”

           “So-and-so stole that idea from me and now she’s got a six-figure contract. I was robbed!
           I’m so much better than ______. It’s not fair!”

           “My critique group told me my dialog is passive. Who am I kidding? I suck as a writer.”

           “I need to change everything in my WIP and start over because the contest feedback said
           I should change _______ to _______.” (And this replays every time new feedback is
           received . . . and the book – YOUR book – never gets better, just different and remains

Sooooo, how can we break this cycle of self-perpetuating self-abuse? In order to deal with negative self-talk, we need to start questioning it. Before we jump to those self-harming conclusions, we need to challenge them, to demand proof. Catch yourself before that autopilot kicks in. Start by not saying anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to another. Be as gentle and encouraging with your own self as you are with friends and family. When that negative “truth” pops up, evaluate it, see it for what it is, and respond with a positive affirmation or something you’re thankful for. Here are some examples:

  • I’ve never done that before. I’ll fail.> I’ve never done that before. How exciting!

  • There’s no way this is going to work.> I can find a way to make it work.

  • I’m never going to get any better.> What can I learn to help myself do better?

  • No one ever talks to me. I’m invisible.> I’m going to walk up and start a conversation.

  • This makes me look like a whale.> This is a great color on me.

  • I’ll never finish, so why start?> If I start now, I’ll get a jump on things.

  • She’s so much better than I am. I hate her.> I’m so proud of her success. She really put in the work and deserves it. I can and do, too.

  • There’s no market for what I write. I give up.> I’m going to try something new and save this until the market turns around again.
Building your own self-image through affirming self-talk weakens the hold of negativity. Applaud every small step, every initial success no matter how tiny. “Hey, I wrote 250 words! Yeah, me!!” Even a ‘failure’ is proof that you were brave enough to try and gives you something to build upon. “I submitted a query. They weren’t interested in that story, but I have the opportunity to try again with something else, and have a name to submit to!”

Positive thinking doesn’t mean you ignore or hide from unpleasant situations, but rather you approach them in a more productive way by considering the best outcome rather than the worst-case scenario. And nothing strengthens a positive attitude like using those small successes to pave a wide, dependable path to travel.

Enjoy your journey!
Nancy Gideon on the Web


Francesca Quarto said...

Are you living in my house and listening in to my monologues on life?? Loved your insights and promising myself some better conversations while cleaning the toilets, emptying the dishwasher and numerous fun stuff like that, With swimsuit season upon us, I'm not so sure all your good advise will kick-in though. Oh, well.All writers are dreamers too so just maybe there's hope!

Francesca Q.

Nancy Gideon said...

LOL, Fran! We're just too creative thinking for our own good. Yes, swimsuit season . . . the villain of any summer. We need to be nicer to ourselves. We earned thosse stretch marks!!

Patrish said...

I need to read this about three times a day. You know me so well.
As for that glass? It's completely full. Half liquid and half air. Drink up!

Diane Burton said...

Great post, Nancy. I need to remember to emphasize the positive.

Maureen said...

Great post!