Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Be Nice to You

I'm tired of beating myself up for not writing or for not staying in touch with my story, which results in more procrastination and more guilt. It's an endless cycle that accomplishes nothing.


It's time for writers to stop adding to the already teeming pot of emotions that our craft demands. Instead, we need to adopt a different tactic.

If you don't meet your word count or skip your writing session or whatever, change the message you tell yourself. Instead of saying, "You are worthless! You can't even sit down and write. You're not a writer. What is WRONG with you? Why can't you do such a simple task? Now quit messing around and GET TO WORK", I suggest you say this: "Ok. You messed up. It happens. You're a human being. The key is to try and not do it again. So forgive yourself and try harder next time."

I'd much rather hear the latter than the former, wouldn't you?

I think I'll get more results if I am kind to myself as opposed to being a tyrant. This doesn't mean I let myself off the hook. I hold myself accountable, but in
a far more understanding manner.

Do you do this to yourself? Beat yourself up when you don't do what you're supposed to do with your writing? Do you think changing tactics might help?


  1. I suppose it might work. It depends. What helps me most is some good time mulling over a strategy for plot, characters and building an outline.

  2. I can't recall where I read or heard this. There are two types of people in the world: those that need a pat on the back, and those that need a kick in the butt in order to keep on track and complete a task.

    You're a back person. I'm a butt person. ;-)

  3. T. Anne - That's what I try to do, too - just take time to get familiar with the story again. I just hate that I beat myself up so much for not doing it.

    Rebecca - I agree. There are some of us that need that butt-kicking and there are some situations that call for it. I think that I'm still butt-kicking - but just not so harshly. :-)

  4. I think I'm a b&b hybrid. But I agree that guilt is never an effective tool... maybe firmness is the better alternative.

  5. Oooh I love the new avatar by the way!

    And I don't tend to beat myself up about writing - but i did do that about the revision process because it was so long and agonizing.

    I think with writing I am just so grateful whenever I can write that I don't tend to get agonized as much about it.

  6. I've always been good at the self-blame thing. On the other hand, forgiving myself doesn't work either. The only thing that works for me is a good old fashioned deadline, even if I have to make one up.

  7. Marilyn - Guilt is such an awful feeling and we writers can heap it on ourselves to a staggering degree. I think you're right - firmness is indeed the better way to go.

    Ell - I think I like editing better than writing. I love finishing a novel and then being able to go back and edit to my heart's content. Glad to hear that you're done with the process, though!

    Laurie - I need to follow your example and give myself a deadline. Lately, I've been rather lax on that!

  8. B&B hybrid...LOL too funny! But that's probably me too. I feel better if I treat myself gently. But I procrastinate way too easily so getting off track is something I have to get mean with.

    Not that I always listen to myself, (like now...not on so much of a schedule because work and family is running me in circles) but I keep saying that if I don't treat this as a job now, it won't ever be one for real.

  9. I do sometimes beat myself up for not working, but soon justify why I haven't (whether I'm right to or not).

  10. Ah, this line of thinking would make so many aspects of life better, wouldn't it? Good idea! I've been having similar thoughts recently, that I shouldn't push myself so hard. I have time. Down the line, if there are publisher deadlines, there won't be. I should relish it now.

  11. Sharla - I think there's a time to get a little, well, mean. Actually, I like the term "forceful" better. Positive reinforcement, I say. No need to tear ourselves down in order to get something accomplished.

    Debs - It's so easy to justify why we don't work, isn't it? I do it all the time. :-)

    Janna - Oh, absolutely. There will be a time when publisher's deadlines will overrule any objections we have. Of course, if we could get in the habit now of meeting those deadlines, it might make the transition easier. :-)

  12. Oh, I beat myself up all right. It's hard not to. I get disappointed and frustrated and see myself letting chances slip through my fingers.
    But you're right. It's time to Be kind to you. It's time to just be kind period.
    I need to work on this. Thanks for this great post.

  13. I think I do beat myself up. The line, "you're not a writer" seems to swim in my head.

    Sometimes the kick in the britches is good, and other times I would appreciate a mild approach.

    The key being that getting back into the right habits is imperative. I straddle the fence most days, and you know how dangerous that can be!

  14. Oh yeah! I'm doing something crazy next week. I'm jumping off the naggy, guilty-feeling bandwagon, and I'm doing everything I can to finish my first draft. Sometimes I need a change in routine. And this is definitely one of those times!

  15. I don't really beat myself up if I don't write as much or as often as I thought I should. A lot of times, I believe that my thoughts just need time to simmer, to work out something with the current project away from the keyboard, whether I'm aware of it or not. That usually ends up being the case as some aha! moment occurs to me on a walk, or cooking, or some such nonwriting activity!

  16. L.T. - I'm glad this post was helpful. It's a lot easier for us to bash ourselves than realize that we're human, too!

    Tamika - I agree. Getting into and staying with the right habits is absolutely essential. It's that first step in formulating those good habits that is so hard to take sometimes.

    Jill - What an awesome idea! I can't wait to hear how it goes.

    Joanne - There's a lot of truth in what you say. It is the same for me - sometimes I simply CAN'T write because what I need to say hasn't been formulated in my head yet. And I know if I even attempt to write, nothing good will come of it, so I simply don't write. After a certain amount of time (which can be anywhere from a few hours to a few days) I feel ready to go again.

  17. Yes, and Yes. Absolutely.

  18. Diane - I shall hold you to it! ;-)

  19. That sounds like an awesome tactic! The first only serves to discourage us more! We won't be perfect in meeting our goals, especially with life happening around us. Sometimes we have to give ourselves a break!

  20. I hear you on this one, Melissa. I would not stay friends with someone who talks to me the way I talk to myself. I need to try the nicer way.

  21. Jody - We are so hard on ourselves, aren't we? I think if we treat ourselves better with our writing, we'll enjoy the entire process that much more.

    Mary - Excellent point. I wouldn't be friends with someone who talked to me that way, either! We need to be nicer to ourselves!

  22. I tell myself the down time lets me think about my plot better--and it really does. So when I get back to it, I usually can write even more! You've been sick--take the time to rest and it will come!

  23. Terri, that's a good plan. I think pushing and pushing when there's an obvious problem only makes things more difficult.


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