Negative Thinking: A Trick for Writers

mimic bird

What is the #1 obstacle to our writing a lot, and with ease?

Well for academic writers, the winner has got to be…

The nasty things we say to ourselves about our selves.

Chances are you don’t need any explanation about what this refers to. Writing has this way of naturally calling up a critical voice in the mind.

Even if you know it’s bad for your writing,

or even if the voice replies “No, I’m good for you. I’m stopping you from creating all that horrible writing and mistakes that will embarrass you,”

even then, chances are you don’t actually believe that.

So it’s not like you don’t know that it is dragging your writing down.

We know we need to take our attention

off of what I like to call “The Inner Trial of You,” and instead get down to the texts we are writing.

But sometimes it doesn’t seem to budge, or rather, it just keeps sticking.

I want to share with you a device you can use right away to defeat this voice in your head and get it unstuck.

The Wedge

I’m going to skip over meditation here, which as you know I am a big advocate of, and which this tip goes great with (and it’s a big skip I know), and go straight to the Wedge itself.

You’re writing along… or else walking around somewhere, or meditating, or minding your own business, and the voice comes in and starts criticizing you, saying things like:

Why are you taking so long to write this?
How could you have let 3 months go by doing nothing!
Look at you—you can’t even write one coherent page!
Forget about good, you can’t even make this not suck!
You are a fraud, and you know it…

And so on. A lot of times it’s there running in the background sapping all the life out of you, and finally it gets loud enough to notice, but it’s too late at that point.

We need to practice the art of noticing it sooner, catching it.

The problem is how can we catch it better, that particular record that is going round and round. That exact one.

And here’s the trick:

Give it a funny numerical label, like “thought number 37” and every time it comes back just make a silent mental note “thought number 37” and go back to what you are doing. Do the same with a different kind of thought, like “thought number 23” for “the you are an imposter thought” and “A17” for the you can’t write coherently thought. Or whatever.

Make the numbers high enough to get out of symbolism. Make them into objects that can be plainly numbered. Maybe you have three “favorite” kinds of negative self-talk, so make three labels.

Label them again, and again, and again. Whenever you notice.

Like a muscle this will grow stronger. You’ll notice the thought named “14C” earlier and earlier, the thought named “47” earlier.

Pro Tip: Keep a litte attention on the tone of your inner voice when you label. Be as calm and matter-of-fact as possible. Sometimes it’s more possible than not, and that’s okay. But do avoid screaming inside, or holding up the label like you are taking a cross to Dracula.

Don’t give these thoughts so much importance that your voice is all worked up about it.

Probably you have only 2 or 3 really, really repetitive thoughts. So give them a catch-all label and practice noticing them sooner.

The thing is,

thought number b29alpha needs your attention and belief to survive,

and especially gets power when we fuse ourselves with the thought and believe we are the thinker of that thought.

We slip on the costume of that thought and believe it is ourselves who are thinking it.

That gives it power and this happens mostly beyond our notice.

That is, until…

We really start to notice.

So try this—no—DO THIS!

It takes some work and habit, and like everything else about Writing, which is an Art of Attention, it takes some time to get it going in the right direction, and some smart effort of inputting the right conditions to get it going.

Becoming aware of negative thought early and often is one of conditions that super-powers-up your writing momentum.

Do specific actions, like this one, to empower your writing instrument (you).

They are small actions which have big results, my favorite kind.

Take care of your writing instrument. Drive a wedge between it and these sticky thoughts.

Writing with Ease and Momentum becomes quite possible when this all this dead weight is cast off.


You can find a great deal of ease with the techniques in my Free eBook Series on Writing

It is both for practicing your writing process so that it’s focused and builds momentum, and exploring writing techniques that bring your work up to the next level, removing the writing obstacles that slow down our prose or make it unsatisfying to you. It’s a joy to write again.

Click here to download it right now: Free eBook Series on Writing