“I’m a Terrible Writer.”
(And Other Expressions of Gratitude)
When I published my educational yoga books for kids and teachers through my company (Birdland Media Works) more than a decade ago, I repeatedly heard, “Hmm … I was always told you weren’t considered a ‘real’ writer if you self-published vs. going through a traditional press.” To which I replied, “I don’t care if people consider me a ‘real’ writer or not, as long as they buy and enjoy my books.”
By then, I had already been a freelance writer for years and had validation that people liked my work enough to pay me to do it. But soon after, and again when I published my newest sci-fi series, The Data Collectors, I let a little doubt creep in. Whether it was a poor review, low sales one month, or that look that people give you when you tell them you’re a novelist (not unlike the look they give me when I tell them I’m a life coach or the one they gave me when I was a yoga teacher), it all hit me the same way. I’d wither under that look that suggested, “Oh, you’re a writer. Isn’t that cute? When are you going to get a ‘real’ job?”
What is it with people’s use of the word ‘real?” Am I a fake writer with a phony job?
My colleague and co-host on the Dr. Roger & Friends podcast, Teresa, says (and I’m paraphrasing) that you cannot be offended by anything unless there’s a part of you that believes it’s true.
Therefore, what did I believe about myself and my ability as a writer? Do I really need high levels of validation telling me how good I am before I believe it myself?
And then there’s the other component to this, and that is the joy in the craft itself. Yes, I realize that at the end of the day, I am a businesswoman who is in the business of writing and selling books and other content; but if I let myself get tangled up in what I think other people are saying about me (which may or may not be true), then my work is no longer alive and fun for me, and I begin to stress over the very thing that was once a source of joy for me.
So, how do we get past the self-doubt, and reconnect with the joy of writing? For me, it’s flipping the switch on my thought patterns. Whatever you focus on, your brain will seek evidence to support it. Focus on the negative, and you will find it all around you. Focus on the good and … well, you get the idea.
Below are just a few creatively-centered exercises in re-directing thoughts. These are also great tools for tapping into our creativity and cultivating positivity. There are probably a thousand more. I’m leaving you with four.
4 Exercises in Reconnecting with Joy and Re-directing Unhelpful Thought Patterns:
1. Listen to one long musical composition or focus on one piece of artwork for several minutes. The idea is to listen and/or mindfully observe without getting distracted by other things (e.g., try not to be reading email or checking your phone at the time). Afterward, jot down in a notepad or simply reflect on what you liked about it, what surprised you, and perhaps what you noticed about it that you’ve never noticed before. You may even want to describe it in detail. It’s up to you.
2. For the next week, do at least one different activity per day of something that brings you joy. It doesn’t have to have a greater purpose. It can be playing a game, singing karaoke, tossing a frisbee for your neighbor’s dog; it doesn’t matter. We don’t often give ourselves enough time to just play.
3. For the next week, when you go to bed at night, write down or reflect on this: “What’s the BEST thing that happened today?” You may find yourself scanning your day and coming up with lots of good things, making it difficult to pick just one.
4. Choose one: “I am a great writer” or “I am a terrible writer.” If you choose to be a great writer, list or reflect on all the wins and look for the “why is this true?” If you choose to be the “terrible” writer, seek out evidence to DISPROVE this. Either way, you’re looking for the successes.
And when you can say, “I am a terrible writer,” and laugh about it because in your heart, you know that’s simply not true, then you’ll have reconnected with the joy of your craft.