In my last post we discussed striving to find balance and giving ourselves permission to be imperfect. This brought about some interesting discussion and I’d like to expound. I confess. Americans are notorious for “shortening” the language.
We use a lot of words as synonyms when, truth be told, they aren’t. Or we have “blanket words” which mask truth, thus prevent us from making progress in life, with relationships, our career or even ourselves.
As writers, we of all people should appreciate the power of words. We have the ability to create entire new worlds that could possibly endure hundreds or thousands of years…all by using various combinations of symbols. Words have creative and destructive power. This is true in non-fiction, fiction and in life.
When I began college, I was on scholarship to become a doctor, thus spent over three years as a Neuroscience Major. Though I eventually earned my degree in Underwater Basket-Weaving (International Relations/Economics), I’m still a geek when it comes to science.
I subscribe to Popular Science, Popular Mechanics, Discovery Magazine and inhale science books like candy, but brain science is of particular interest to me.
Did you know, for instance, that our brains cannot discern the difference between truth and lie? So, if we walk around with a self-dialogue that says, I’m just going to fail. I never finish what I start. I can’t do this. Our brains metaphorically shrug and say, “Okay. As you wish.” It is the human will that makes the difference, and will is guided by self-talk and belief.
I love leadership books and self-help, and I know they catch a lot of flack. I don’t buy the Think It and It Will Happen because this is only part of a much larger equation. We still have to put in the sweat equity. BUT, self-talk can act as an internal guidance system, which means we have to be careful of our thought life as well as what we tell ourselves and others.
Another interesting fact is that the human brain begins listening at the first ACTIVE VERB. I see this bungle in advertising all the time.
Don’t forget to sign up!
When does the brain begin listening? What is it really “hearing”?
Forget to sign up.
Changing how we talk to ourselves and others can make a HUGE difference. Instead of saying Don’t forget where you put your keys, replace that with Remember where you put your keys. You’ll be surprised how much your “memory” will improve.
Blanket words are particularly dangerous because of their vagueness. We cannot change our self-destructive behaviors, rid poor habits, gain better habits, achieve or even properly communicate if we get lazy with the language. All right, maybe some can, but life can already be tough enough, why make it tougher?
I’ve told this story before, so forgive me if you’ve heard it. Part of how I became a writer is I have HORRIFIC food allergies, which often can be diagnosed as other illnesses. In my case, I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy.
The misdiagnosis destroyed my career and wrecked my immune system. I’d had pneumonia three times in a year and couldn’t get well. I lost everything and had to move in with my mother, which was humiliating and demoralizing.
I recall my mom coming into my room one day and I was still in bed. I’d always been a neat-freak. In fact, when I was in sales, I once moved and the movers were shocked it took less than three hours to move me and took less than four hours for me to completely unpack. They teased me that I was the “House the Rubbermaid made,” meaning everything was neat and organized and labeled and in an appropriate box.
So fast-forward to me living with my mom. Laundry everywhere. I couldn’t have found my own butt without GPS and a flashlight. I’m still in bed. All I want to do is cry and OD on chocolate. My mom comes in and asks if I am depressed. This was an A-HA moment for me.
I said, “No, I’m overwhelmed. I’m angry. I don’t know where to start. I’m heartbroken.”
For the first time, I refused to use this blanket word depressed. I spoke aloud the truth of what was really happening inside and, for the first time, this empowered me. What could I do about being “depressed” other than maybe take meds and go to yet another shrink who wanted to talk about my childhood and have me journal to my Inner Child? (I walked out of the last psychiatrist’s office the second she mentioned “journal.”)
And journaling might have been productive had I been being specific instead of playing the internal violin and using nebulous words like sad or tired or depressed. When I finally confessed I was overwhelmed?
Well, Kiddies, we can do something about that.
We can make lists of everything that is scaring the bejeezus out of us and break those frogs down into manageable parts for positive change. Anger? We can confess that and let it go. Figure out WHY then change that, too. Tired? Are we really tired or are we disillusioned, overwhelmed, or wounded? Maybe we are simply dehydrated or need more exercise and sleep.
I was really proud of my mom the other day. She works a tough job as an RN. Instead of saying, “I had a bad day” she said, “I had an arduous day.” Note the difference? Bad is a blanket and amorphous qualifier that risks tainting our overall attitude. Arduous?
“Arduous” is limited to the circumstances of that day and even implies a bit of victory because, despite the day being difficult? She MADE IT!
Careful of False Synonyms
This dovetails into my next point. There are a lot of words we use as synonyms which really aren’t. For instance, someone might say, “She is such a mature eight-year-old.” No. Maturity is only birthed from experience and, unless this eight-year-old just escaped a concentration camp? Unlikely she is mature. Now, the child might be precocious (seeming older than her years) but she isn’t mature.
She’s still a delicate little kid who needs the support of adults. “Mature” implies she’s earned emotional armor she doesn’t have and often can set the kid up for facing things alone when an adult really needs to be there for guidance and support.
Mad or angry are other false synonyms. What are we really? Disappointed? Ask the tough questions because those yield the best answers and thus can reveal the best plan to remedy the situation.
If I say to my husband, “You are such a jerk and I’m mad at you,” this limits what either of us can do.
However, if I say, “I’m really disappointed. I feel like too many of the plans for global domination and laundry are being left to me and I need help. I’m overwhelmed.” THIS implies a reality which has a plan of action to remedy the situation. Let HIM train the sea monkeys Ju-Jitsu for a change.
Situational Versus Conditional
This brings me to the impetus for this blog. “Striving for excellence” and “perfection” are two different things. If I’m caught up in “perfectionism” notice the “ism” at the end. The —ism is Latin for the condition of things. Alcoholism, racism, sexism. See how this implies a belief and a continuing state rather than an event?
The reason perfectionism is particularly nefarious is perfection is an impossible goal. Thus, when we buy into perfectionism we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure, disappointment, self-loathing and neuroses. Perfection can’t be attained so the goal can never be reached.
There will always be someone who doesn’t like our blog/book/article. We cannot please everyone. There will always be someone fitter, thinner, richer, more talented, and The Perfection Gremlin goes nuts when faced with any kind of “competition.”
Striving for excellence? Totally different story. We can be excellent without being “perfect.” Excellence ships. Excellence has deadlines. I can finish and let go of an excellent book. A perfect book? Good way to still be editing the same book for a decade.
Perfect steals the life from life and from art. Life is messy and rough and often what we humans love. We don’t like “perfect” people or “perfect” characters because we can’t connect and relate.
Perfectionism is qualitative, where as excellence is QUANTITATIVE. We can’t measure an imaginary ideal. We can, however measure PROGRESS.
Make it a habit to say, “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be. I’m growing every day.” Say it even when you don’t believe it. Eventually the brain with catch up and so will reality.
Tell Me What You WANT
I get onto my mom about this all the time (yet she still loves me and IS improving). For instance, after a major surgery last year, she started working on rebuilding muscle. She’d say, “I don’t want to be an old lady who can’t even get off the toilet.” I corrected her and said, “Okay, now tell me what you DO want instead of what you DON’T want.”
I want to be extremely fit. I want to be an energetic, athletic older woman.
Same with writing. Instead of, “I don’t want to be a failure.” Tell me/yourself what you DO want. And going back to one of the point I made earlier in the post, look at what negative and even positive goals are REALLY telling us if the brain is lazy and only begins listening at the first active verb.
I don’t want to be fat.
I want to be fit and healthy.
I don’t want to be one of those writers who never sells books.
I want to be a successful author who makes enough off my writing to quit the day job and live even more comfortably doing what I love.
This is why I LOATHE the term “aspiring writer.” Aspiring gives us a pass. It labels us as hobbyists who are holding back out of fear. “Pre-Published Author” comes with responsibility, confidence and a plan of action.
To achieve anything, we must set goals. From finishing the laundry to finishing the novel. Yet, a key component of solid goals is they are positive, actionable and attainable. And don’t let the attainable throw you off. Yes, timing, luck and chance can factor into this. BUT, I can have a goal of, “I will be a NYT Best-Selling Author” and take steps to make that reality…like, um, writing.
Testing What We Believe
One of my first jobs as a writer was I wrote textbooks for teaching forensic writing analysis. To do this I trained for months with investigators studying thousands and thousands of writing samples (and I used to give a super cool presentation on this subject).
The FBI can look at handwriting and tell A LOT about the person and it’s a fantastic way of constructing a psychological profile. Why? Handwriting doesn’t lie.
***And people will say, Oh, but my writing is always different. I have at least five types of handwriting. To the trained eye? Nope. There are fundamentals that will remain consistent.****
I can look at a sample of writing and tell if the person still has her wisdom teeth (there is a neurological hiccup that will give an extra dollop of ink at a particular hesitation mark in rounded letters like “o” once those particular teeth are removed).
The trained analyst can see anger, aggression, level of self-esteem, suicidal tendencies, depression, emotional repression, psychosis, immaturity, narcissism, self-confidence, joy, love and on and on. The “science” (though only a tool and not admissible in court) is truly remarkable and frighteningly accurate.
There was one tidbit of my training that I’ve kept with me for the past fifteen years. In our handwriting (for most people) it is impossible to lie. Our subconscious will tattle on us every time. How? Spaces.
Most people aren’t sociopaths so we kinda suck at lying. If forced to lie in a conversation, one of the ways others spot our lie is in our hesitation.
Where were you?
I was at the movies.
The same phenomena happens when we write. There will be a space if we don’t believe what we’re writing. The bigger the space? The more we disbelieve what we’re “saying.”
Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write things you know you believe versus something you know is completely false (at a normal speed of writing) and look at the difference. I do this to double-check what I believe about my goals and see what I really feel on a subconscious level.
I will be a New York Times Best-Selling Author!
I will be a New York Times Best-Selling Author
Often I will crosscheck with silly sentences to compare.
I will give up writing for life in the rodeo.
Thus, if I get:
I will finish my next novel by May.
I will give up and go back into sales.
I can cross-compare and SEE what my subconscious believes is truth. And, to be blunt, when I began as a writer? I didn’t believe I’d succeed. I’d write:
One day soon I will be published.
The spaces represent what we either don’t believe, accept or even where we might be emotionally distancing. Other things that might happen in this exercise is, if we don’t believe? We will misspell things. If we believe? We can see !s or even underlines. This shows we really are believing what we are writing.
When I began doing this 15 years ago, I didn’t believe it when I wrote I will be a successful author. I got:
I will be a succsessfull writer
But, as I took steps to learn the craft, build a platform, read, train, and finish, guess what happened? Eventually my belief changed and I could literally measure how my subconscious self was improving over time with this simple exercise.
I went from:
I will be a succsessfull writer
I will be a successful writer (notice the spaces closing and no longer misspelled)
I am a successful writer (Hmmm, no punctuation and still have gaps, but notice the verb change)
I am a successful writer (No more spaces)
I am a successful writer. (Improving)
I am a successful writer! (BINGO!)
I believe that success, finishing, joy, peace, reaching dreams and making them reality begins in the mind. We can only achieve that which we can first conceive. I’m very careful about my self-talk. If I catch myself saying, “Don’t forget to send out that check.” I stop and say, “Remember to send out that check.”
I only permit the positive. I used to chant, “Oh, I am such a failure. Why hope for anything good? I’ll just be disappointed. I’ll never finish this book.” I expected rejection and failure, so guess what I got?
To be blunt, this transition wasn’t overnight. I had a lifetime of bad habits when it came to how I spoke about myself, my situation and others. I had to first be aware of what I was thinking and saying. Then, I had to change that and learn to rephrase in the positive. Changing my way of speaking changed my thinking and then finally my beliefs.
But, it was a process and it’s one that never ends.
Even in the darkest times when life was kicking me in the teeth, instead of playing the Woe is Me tune, I began thinking and saying, “What is this challenge developing in me? In my character? How am I going to grow stronger because of this?” It might even be something as simple as remaining peaceful. We don’t have to be at the mercy of circumstance.
We can’t choose our situation, but we can choose our attitudes. We can change how we see ourselves and our futures. And this is like bathing, it should be done daily. There is no Magic Thought Wand that’s going to transform us overnight. This is a process and a habit and it must be maintained (and paired with work), ergo why I really love that writing exercise. It’s clear when I’m slipping and allowing negativity and doubt and perfectionism to take over.
What are your thoughts? *bada bump snare* Do you have negative self-talk? Are you working to break the habit? Are you conscious about your thought life? Do you struggle with the trap of perfectionism? Are you now terrified I will see your handwriting? 😀
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Also, I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. THANK YOU!
Oh, Kristen, ye of so much wisdom! I never thought about the words I use when thinking. I will now, for sure! Thank you for this post. I needed to hear it today.
Hello and spectacular post! I am a horse trainer/riding instructor forever helping clients with word choice. Horses manufacture our thoughts in an instant so “OMG, we’re gonna die” is poor word choice. I am also a writer, with a successful blog and a book two weeks from done. Writing and Riding… so very close. Thanks, Love your blog.
I’ve done this for years–decades, actually. I’ve blogged about how I’ve set myself up, over and over, for not being able to write for years, or how I would find myself unable to want to show my work to anyone because I kept telling myself I was a horrible writer. I still get this way at times, but it’s not nearly as bad these days.
Positive Affirmation goes a long way. When I’m in a rough spot in my life, I definitely put it to the test. Recently it’s been something as simple as feeling sluggish and uninspired, since I haven’t been working and haven’t been feeling the pressure of a timeline to get things done. So when I go to bed at night, in an attempt to make the next day more productive, and lay there and tell myself that I will be energized and ready for the day when my alarm goes off. It’s been working. I’ve been getting up with only having to hit the snooze once, opposed to three times, which is something. I have been getting up and going straight to my own personal work. It’s nice to feel motivated again.
The mind is the most powerful thing we have. It does more than we give it credit for as well.
This is where I am right now–working to embrace excellence and change my thoughts to positive tracks instead of the negative tunes I’m used to. I’m so glad you posted this and especially for saying it’s a process. I’ve been crawling toward awareness and positivity for over three years, at least, and I’m still overwhelmed, confused, and doggie-paddling. I’m about to mix way too many metaphors, so I’ll just say thank you. 🙂
Man, did I need this today. I woke up feeling sad and realized that what I really am is disappointed. It’s the last day of my writing retreat and because I didn’t accomplish everything I’d hoped to, I’m telling myself the whole thing was a disaster. But of course, that’s a lie. I wrote every day and made real progress with my novel.
Still trying to root out all the crazy expectations my perfectionist tendencies generate. Getting better with practice, but it’s a slow process. Looking forward to using your suggestions to make more progress!
Your site is quickly becoming one of the first that I visit each day. I absolutely love this post and I’m going to bookmark it so I can come back often. But now, I have some handwriting to do.
As I typed that first paragraph, I realized that it’s become easier for us to lie as technology advances. You can’t see the extra spaces in typed words, which many of us rely on now.
I really want to go back and compare my handwriting now versus in from last August, since I had my wisdom teeth out in September. Thanks for that, haha.
I didn’t realize I had such negative self-talk going on in my head until I read this post. Awareness is the first step to recovery, right?
The story where you moved home is relevant to me. I was fired a month and a half ago, moved home (I feel like I’m 16 again) and my room and life are disheveled. I thought that this could have been the opportunity to chase my dream to complete a manuscript and seek publication. It hasn’t been easy with the voice of doubt telling me how impractical that dream is. This post rattled me though, in the best possible way! The biggest hurdle has always been me, telling myself no one would read (let alone pay) for what I write. Well, I am reminded how to carry on and actually accomplish this dream. A huge thank you for the supportive post!
Oh Hon, I have SO been there. Not only did I lose my job, I was sick, not getting well, drowning in medical debt and evicted from my fancy apartment. I was so weak from the pneumonia I left almost half my belongings for the apartment to throw away because I was too broke and frail to move them. I felt like such a loser and a failure. But, I wouldn’t trade moving in with mom for anything. I changed my attitude and decided to view it as an opportunity no matter how much the rest of the world labeled me a “deadbeat.” You can do it!
Your replies always give me cause to smile and think. Time for a new line of internal dialog. Thanks for the message!
You can do it, Scott. Life throws us curveballs and we have to shift a bit to hit them out of the park. Keep it up and believe in your dreams!!!
Thanks for the positive message Tamara! I have been reminding myself this week that we all hit bumps and, as you said, adjustments must be made and patience exercised (easier said than done)…mostly patience with myself.
Reblogged this on Lynne St. James and commented:
Great post by Kristen Lamb. Definitely hit a lot of nails on the head for me!
Such perfect timing! I’ve been working on “The Science of Suckology,” to show the arrogance of believing our personal writing is so special it sucks more than anyone else’s. I’m reblogging for back up.
If I walk into the ring with one of my Salukis, whatever the competition, with a negative attitude, I can pretty much guarantee we won’t make the first cut. Especially if I try to warn the dog “don’t be an idiot” instead of pointing out to them how clever they are and how well we’ll do.
Words are precious and need to be used appropriately.
“the arrogance of believing our personal writing is so special it sucks more than anyone else’s” – the dark(er) side of Pride.
Reblogged this on Mona Karel Author.
Kristen; Your articles are always interesting, and I find it very easy to take at least one thing away from what you write. Today? Spaces…and how to use them in writing. You opened a whole new vista which I can explore. Thank you, Silent
I know it’s more than the power of positive thinking…but I do like that phrase. Nice article, Kristen.
Kristen, what thought provoking piece that is! Thank you for sharing. I will work to break my habit of negative thoughts and I will be careful about spaces in my writing. I look forward to reading your book.
Thank you very much for this column!
Reblogged this on Brian Parkin's Blog and commented:
Please take the time to read Kristen’s thought provoking piece.
This was one of your very best blogs! Underwater Basket-Weaving, lol. I was having a discussion with my husband yesterday about “perfection”. My debut novel is out and has received very good professional reviews, but I still stress about the mistakes in the manuscript (typos, commas missing, words missing). Because I know they are there (and where they are located), I find myself apologizing at conferences or book speaking events. The compulsion to re-tool the manuscript is sitting on my desk–not because I want (or need) to be perfect, but should it be the only book I write, I want it to reflect good grammar and be the best reflection of my talent. Perhaps we all have enough human flaws. Writing and publishing creates a sense of being naked in front of others. Striving for accuracy (what a burden) is as essential as breathing. That’s how I feel about writing. Other areas of my life? I can screw up a recipe and laugh. I can forget where I put things, miss an appointment on a calendar, and generally, don’t take myself too seriously. The new label “author” has created a beast. Hopefully that beast can learn to relax and fix what needs to be fixed, stop apologizing to audiences and move on to writing the next novel.
I can really relate to this post today. Since losing my husband back in August of 2013 it’s been hard to get back into the saddle with my fiction. I’ve written two nonfiction books and dabbled in some poetry. Instead of scolding myself for not writing the fiction, I should be speaking positively and saying- “Hey, you’re not writing fiction, but you’re still writing.”
I’m so sorry for the loss you are experiencing. You can also take the language up one more notch, “I am writing.” No qualifiers needed. 🙂
Reblogged this on Jane Started It! and commented:
Read this. Especially the part about being overwhelmed. That’s me these days.
I love this post. It ties into something incredibly important that I learned only a few years ago – the importance of gratitude. “Okay, this is awful, but how is it making me better?” I wouldn’t go to sleep at night until I’d found two things to be thankful for that happened that day, and it had to be one good thing and one bad thing.
I’d never thought about the impact of language this way – this is something I now want to work on.
Out of curiosity, do you have any recommendations on good books on handwriting analysis? I’ve always been curious about the subject, and it’s something I’d like to learn more about.
Reblogged this on jbiggarblog and commented:
That’s what we all need to strive for, a positive attitude can take you anywhere you wish to go 🙂
I’m printing this out and hanging it on my wall at home. I am going to read it once a week and keep striving to put it into practice each day. Wow. Out of complete curiosity I am dying to send you my handwriting for analysis too – lol. But I will spare you that. 🙂
That thing about the handwriting is fascinating! I’ve got to try it!
Enlightening post. The “I don’t want x” thing is very curious. I’ll have to see how much I do that. I also just tried to write out I will be an NYT besteller and could barely do it. But I can write out I will have a publishing career and I will sell my book to a publisher. I’m still a little conflicted where my career will go given I’ve got one foot in the traditional sphere (agent) and desires to write outside of my chosen genre and potential self pub (who knows?). I suppose any way you slice it, I want to write books and I plan to publish them.
I also get down on my mom for weird word choices, and “questions” that are actually oddly-phrased statements–what are you really trying to say? I see it because I do it! (Like mother, like daughter I suppose). The handwriting thing is fascinating. My handwriting has degenerated in the past few years because I mostly type. Funny.
Reblogged this on Kelly Rae & Jocelyn Bell Books and commented:
Just another inspiring blog from Kristen Lamb… I will be a successful writer! I will, I will! It’s amazing how much positive thought can create positive action, which then manifests itself into positive results. Wishing positivity to all of you on this and ever day!
I am so looking forward to seeing what my handwriting has to say about my confidence that I will be a successful writer – which of course means something different to all of us – just as soon as I find a damn pen that works! Always love reading your blogs!
“Are you now terrified I will see your handwriting?”
Hee hee. Nobody sees my handwriting unless I write them a check or send them a holiday card. I should’ve been a lefty, but was taught to use my right hand and have struggled ever since. My printing is slow and laborious, full of mistakes, errant strokes and missed words—in part because my brain is already on the next sentence. (I can type much faster.) I haven’t written cursive since 6th grade; now I don’t even know how. I can only imagine what that says of me.
I love the distinction between the situational and conditional frames we put on ourselves. So true! We can do real numbers on ourselves. I find it very interesting that, in your handwriting analysis experience, you put conditional frames on others. Is that helpful? And pardon me, but by extension, since we should focus our attention on action and situation and let go of thinking of ourselves as being in conditions or states, why should we invite someone else to project their impression of conditional states onto us?
Well, forensic handwriting analysis’s purpose is to look into the conditional situation. For instance, if a woman is receiving threatening letters, investigators aren’t into “self-help” as much as they need a snapshot of the mind of the person behind the threat. Who are they looking for? Are they looking for the quiet, repressed overlooked nerd who seems like a nice guy? Or are they looking for the boastful egomaniac? Does this person exhibit violence, misogyny, explosiveness? Or is this someone more prone to manipulation and head-games? And yes, professionals can see all of these things. We can even see predilections for pedophilia and sexual deviance. I’ve actually done a presentation where I show the progression of Ernest Hemingway’s signature and can demonstrate the point where his handwriting literally screamed he was about to commit suicide.
Wow, I’d love to see that slide deck!
Laura – Actually me too! So fascinating!
That is *so* interesting!! I’d actually love you to analyze my handwriting lol – such an awesome post. Fascinating as well as encouraging.. Thanks 🙂
So would I Sara! And thank you for another thought-inspiring post Kristen!
That would be so interesting to see!
Add another to the interested list for this one!
I didn’t think there was anyone else out there that went thru being taught to write righty when I a natural lefty. I have most of the same problems as you. Sloppy and hard to read, even for me, and I never use cursive (I quit using it completely after Highschool) except for my signature which no one can read. I wonder of the space analysis works on sloppy printing or just on cursive.
The space is in reference to your OWN writing. That’s why I recommended writing a sentence you KNOW is a lie as a reference. Like, “I am going to be a professional ballerina.” At 40, that’s not something I am likely to want let alone believe. So I write something I KNOW is utterly false and that’s the litmus.
I know I negative self talk and it’s a never ending battle to curb that. The information about handwriting is really fascinating. I didn’t realize that you could find out so much about a person by studying their handwriting. That makes me want to send my writing to someone for analysis and see what comes back. 😉 Thanks for the great post, Kristen! Your posts hitting my inbox are always a high point in my day.
Wow, what an amazing post. I know because until a few years ago my self-talk was terrible and helped facilitate or prolong many dark times in my life. Depression dogged me most of my life and medications prescribed by irresponsible practitioners nearly killed me on more than one occasion. In recent years I’ve kicked doctors to the curb and taken control of my life and some of the techniques I employ look a lot like what you talk about.
It’s also taken me a long while to see the difference between excellence and perfectionism and in many ways that difference can be seen mathematically. So often we can achieve near-perfection (excellence) in a relatively short time (on a chart shown as 95-98%). On the other hand, that last 1-2% can take an eternity (in human terms) to achieve. We’re talking that exponentially curved line that never intersects with 100%. Chasing that intersection is a fool’s endeavor and I’ve been that fool in the past.
According to my subconscious, “I will be a NYT bestselling author” is more true than “I will become the hot dog queen of Georgia” but slightly less true than “I will be abducted by aliens.” So either I need to work on that self-talk a bit, re-frame my definition of success, or get ready for the mother ship! 🙂
Reblogged this on Ontyre Passages and commented:
Wise words that are helpful to everyone, and not just writers. As I’ve mentioned before, our self-talk (and mindfulness) is crucial to healthy living. Here are some new insights and techniques worth investigating.
This really hits home for me! For so long I’ve been torn between the surety that ‘thinking doesn’t make it so’ and the realization that my own fears and negativity have been my biggest stumbling blocks. I couldn’t understand how someone could just go around saying they were successful or beautiful or smart when the brain *knew* the difference.
And yet I know without a doubt, if I ‘see’ myself doing something, it happens. If I don’t see myself doing something, it won’t. So bridging the gap between the naysayers in my head and the desire to rid myself of poisonous negativity is something that has really been on my mind lately.
This past weekend, I went to see “Frozen.” Say what you will about Disney princesses or the messages we may or may not want to teach our children, but something in this movie really spoke to me on so many levels. Today, I am furiously cleaning the house while belting out “Let it Go” at the top of my lungs. And it feels *good*. I don’t care what anyone else says, if a middle-aged woman can find strength and self-empowerment through a Disney Princess, then nothing else matters. 🙂
Wonderful post. It rings true for me as I often say my memory is terrible and as a result I beat myself up every time I forget something. And yet I hold down a great job while writing part -time. A job so filled with requests and actions that I’m not surprised I don’t always remember. I will remember everything! He. He. I’m going to write down, “I will be a best selling writer earning enough that it becomes my full time income each and every year.”
I’m going to read this article in more detail later as there is so much information in it. Thank you.
Really enjoyed this post and I’m going to share a link for it with my creativity group. Now I really do want to have my handwriting analyzed!
Thanks for sharing from the heart and imparting some wisdom along with it.
Reblogged this on Dancing Doll Fins.
1. I really want to send you a sample of my handwriting now to see what you can tell me. Lol.
2. This is mind blowing. I’m sitting here trying to wrap my head around the number of areas that I’m pretty much shooting myself in the foot with my self talk without even realizing it. I have an 8×10 picture frame by my front door that just has some pretty scrapbook paper in it. I write little inspirational things or reminders to myself on it in dry erase and try to remember to read them before I get out and about for the day(thank you, Pinterest). I have been unintentionally reciting negative things to myself!
Thank you, Kristen! You always give me so much to think about. I’ll be rereading this a few times before reblogging.
I really enjoyed your article. I have a master’s degree in mental health counseling and have been trying to people realize this for years.
But I find that professionals are often poor advertisements for their own professions. For example, doctors and nurses are often the worst patients and counselors disregard research and logic when faced with a personal crisis.
Thanks for the refresher.
Thanks! that was very inspiring!! Now to write… 🙂
I’m just floored…this is awesome…nuff said.
Have a GREAT weekend!
Just what I needed to read today. Thanks.
Loved this post! Not a writer here, but an artist and the negativity is such an issue. I’ve been working on more positive self-talk for years, and I love the practical tools that you’ve outlined. Thanks!
I’m very surprised to have found this subject. I’m glad I subscribed to your mailing list(blog list?).
I’m a pre-published author, for now, and what this post talks about is what actually pushed me to get back into writing(fiction, fantasy) and psychology.
Words have way more power than most people give them credit for. I started to see the world differently. I grew and learned, gained understandings and perspectives I didn’t know existed. That bit about the hand writing is new to me and to be honest it is extremely eerie, yet fascinating.
Thank you for this, I feel like it is a call back to my roots, it’s giving me reflection to see how far I have come recently. This is good because I actually live in the “future” and have trouble reflecting on everything I’ve done in detail. I’ve been changing my thoughts for years. And with this extra bit of insight from your wisdom I will go about in a better way 🙂
A sad fact about the human condition, but I don’t thing there’s a human on the planet (excluding certain pathologies) who doesn’t have the self-destructive sort of negative thoughts that sneak up and bite us on the arse when we least expect them to. The trick is, to consciously deconstruct them, and replace them with something that fits with our awareness of who we truly are, deep down in hearts and spirits … and then get our butts back in the chair and write some more!
Yes, I’m terrified that you will see my handwriting an uncover all my deep, dark secrets.
Like—I’m a recovering perfectionist. How do you recover from perfection? That’s the rub.
I still struggle with all this negative self-talk because I heard plenty of it aloud and directed at me when I was a kid. No matter how hard I tried, I still didn’t measure up. Ugly.
So here I am at 45+ and I’m pursuing my dream for real. No outside job. No safety net. Me with my rear in the chair writing, editing and reading for hours every day.
Yep. I’m a pre-published professional writer who will one day have many best-selling books on her backlist.
I don’t think one can ever fully recover. I’m a recovering perfectionist as well – I mostly do well, but sometimes the perfectionism attacks!
Do you have negative self-talk? Are you working to break the habit? Are you conscious about your thought life? Do you struggle with the trap of perfectionism?
I am more conscious of my thought life now than I have been. A friend (one of my coaches) taught me that anything that happens in reality will first happen in the mind. “It will happen between your ears before it ever happens between the white lines.”
But I find that I need a balance. If I don’t have a little negative self-talk, it is easy for me to become overconfident, and prideful. Usually the moment I start thinking, “I got this” is the moment I’m going to release a half-baked article or a say something incredibly stupid.
I am really curious what a handwriting expert would tell me about my handwriting (assuming he could read any of it – people tell me I have the handwriting of a doctor).
This is a spectacular post. The bit about the difference between excellent and perfect was spot-on, and something I’m going to write down and post on my wall, so I can see it every morning after waking up. I suffer from negative self-talk and perfectionism. It’s gotten especially bad in the past few weeks. I moved to a new state and there has been a lot of change going on, so I let myself take a break from writing. As I tried to get back into it, however, I wrote a few sentence and then stopped. The thoughts would enter my mind: “Why would that happen? Seriously, I just wrote that? God, this is all crap, isn’t it? It is. What am I doing? This is cliche, this is overdone, this isn’t probable. I need to scrap it all, start over.” And then I tell myself, “It’s the first draft. It’s allowed to suck! It’s /supposed/ to suck!” I write another sentence, and then am stumped for another day. I’m hoping to get out of this state soon. I think I’ll have to start my day with this mantra: Excellence can be measured!
Reblogged this on late nights and coffee stains and commented:
Since I was just talking about writer’s block…
Thank you for writing this blog post. I generally don’t have trouble with self-confidence when it comes to my writing, but I’m also not in danger of being over-confident! 🙂 It’s good to read this both for the encouragement and for the practical steps to take towards making myself believe what I want to happen.
Just what I needed this week! I read your posts every once in a while when I have time (I can’t keep up with your prolificness – I know that’s not a word…) but don’t usually comment (just because I don’t feel I have anything to add or whatnot). But this post dovetails nicely with my recent attempts to think more positively about my writing. I recently started sitting down and “meditating” for 5 minutes before I start my writing – just shut my eyes and remind myself that I can do this; I can write my way out of these dead ends; I can finish; etc. etc. I will definitely also try to incorporate thinking of/saying what I *want* now instead of what I don’t want. (Very interesting about the wisdom teeth thing!) Thanks for this post!
I love this post! There are just so many good points! I’ve spent the past ten years of my life diligently training my mind, letting go of old beliefs that no longer serve me, and aiming to exist in the highest consciousness I am able.
I’ve learned that the mind has no sense of time, that is why whatever we think and say has so much impact.
Thanks Kristen. You speak the truth. I’ve over-thought my way out of motion and into misery moore than once.
I love what you say about spaces in writing. I work with Kindergarteners just learning to write. The confident ones will fill the page with their thoughts, and they generally don’t have spaces. The timid ones carefully and meticulously
Put in a one or two finger spaces. They have fewer words and less interesting writing.
Reblogged this on Angela's Hub On WordPress.
It’s a wee bit scary how timely and pertinent this post was for me. Thank you, Kristen. You’re one smart chick. Seriously. The more I learn about you from your books and your blog, the more impressive you are to me. Ew. That sounded super sycophanty, but, whatever. It’s the truth. I digress.
I’ve been in therapy (yay for therapy!) for a few months now, reading a ton of books about this kind of thing and your post makes sense to me in the way that certain healthy foods make sense to our bodies (although, I’m guessing with your allergies, your list of foods is somewhat shorter). Nutrients for the mind and soul.
Although I do find chatting with my inner child helpful (and sometimes I hug her because I’m a hugger) your advice here is spot on and so important to building and maintaining the confidence and knowing we need to survive in this crazy world. Not just as writers, but as human beings.
I recently read a really interesting book called Psycho-Cybernetics which talks about this very thing – that the subconscious mind is our servo-mechanism, basically a machine that drives us toward our goals. Whatever we tell it we want (or don’t want) through our conscious mind it will work toward achieving. Powerful stuff.
Thanks for being brilliant and all you do for this community, Kristen. I’m on my second read through Rise Of The Machines now, just finished my word cloud. 🙂
YAY! And flatter away. Keeps me going on the bad days, LOL. That sounds like an interesting book and YES, we should never underestimate the power of our subconscious.
Indeed. Something I never gave much credence to till recently. I think we come to learn things when we’re ready to hear them in our lives. I guess it was my time to learn and understand how I’ve been standing in my own way for so long. Thanks again for the post. 🙂
Great post…. Positive affirmations pave the way ahead for us, I believe.. sue
Wow. Thank you! I’ve been working on my inner thoughts, especially silencing my over-developed inner critic, and the vague phrasing really hits home. I need to work on being more specific when I describe my goals and feelings about them.
Also, we’re currently saving up to have my wisdom teeth out. I’ll have to remember to look for the bit of extra ink afterward. 🙂
There is only so much room in your mind for thoughts at a time: if it is full of negative ones, the positive ones can’t get a word in edgewise (lit.).
The funny thing is you can change the self-talk FIRST, and the other will follow. It is the principle behind CBT, but it is very hard for people to believe – including me.
It’s the principle behind many faiths. As a Christian, the Bible says, “The power of life and death is in the tongue. Therefore, choose life.” I use this scripture to correct my mom and Hubby who tend to be more choleric personalities. They’ll go to state something negative and I pop in with, “Out of your mouth you speak life and death, choose life.”
I did a personality/aptitude test when I finished high school which suggested only two careers for my creative/analytical blend: fur designer (I always assumed they grew on animals) and graphologist. Now imagining tiny inkwells under my wisdom teeth, just waiting to get out…
Thank you for the window into my subconscious! Apparently I believe I’m a good writer, but not one that can give up the day job – fair enough, I can work on that!
I needed to read that! Nuff said.
Great post, I guess it really is all about being positive even in the way we write and talk! 😀 I am trying to become more optimistic rather than pessimistic, but it’s amazingly hard to break the negative way my brain immediately reacts!
This is some powerful stuff, and it all has to do with the inability for the subconscious to process the negative statement in your word.
If you say you are an “aspiring author,” you will always be aspiring. You’ll never get to the point where you’ll attract opportunities because you keep putting in the request to aspire.
And then you get frustrated and beat yourself up for being “stupid” or “dumb,” but your over soul and subconscious gave you what you asked for.
This is a good reminder to everyone (including myself) to make sure you word your requests properly. It also helps to make sure you write them down since writing it down does wonders for you!
To remind myself about power of self talk I often repeat the statement: If you say you will do something or you cannot do it – you are always right. (I do not remember who said it).
When I saw that you had 80 comments, I hesitate in adding mine but finally decided to join the ranks here.
This post is going to help me so much with this first writing project. I’ve been using a Thesaurus like crazy but I sometimes think I’m still not writing what I really was to say. Now I know that although the Thesaurus is a great tool, I need to use my brain for the right words as well.
I still see them all :D. Thanks for adding your thoughts. I love all contribution.
For years I believed I wasn’t “enough,” that everyone around me was “perfect” and only I wasn’t. Not old enough to be included in my brother’s activities. Not thin enough to be liked by the other children. Not smart enough to get into the best college. You get the picture. When a psychologist pointed that out, I wasn’t quick enough to recognize it, until I started writing. Then it was, your stories aren’t good enough. It wasn’t until my seventh novel that I finally found out I was good enough and published my book. I thought self-talk was foolish, but words are important. My husband keeps trying to drill that into my head. I am a successful writer. I have a published book. I will publish more. It feels great and liberating. The trick is doing it everyday and not falling back on the negative. Any suggestions?
I need to read your post everyday, use it as a mantra. Thank you.
I factor this writing exercise into my routine. The goals I want to achieve. Maybe I have gaps or misspelled words, but I am WRITING what I want and making it real in my head. We often spend so much time thinking of the fitness of our bodies and forget the mind and the soul. We have to take care of and strengthen those too to keep them healthy :D.
Kristen, I have been reading your blog for some time now but seldom comment. This is the most valuable blog I have read. I am amazed at your willingness to share your self and your hard earned wisdom. I will read this post several times. And, I am going to do the handwriting exercise. I’ll watch for the spaces but…spelling? My spelling is so bad spell-check can’t figure out what I’m trying to say half the time. Thank you. You are a treasure!
This was a fantastic post, Kristen, and has given me a lot to think about and apply. Particularly in regards to my own self-talk. Thank you.
This is a very interesting technique for self discovery.
However, how do you manage to keep your conscious mind from forcing the corrections that you want to see? Knowing that the gaps can tell me something leaves me wondering if I am forcing corrections and choosing gaps as I go.
Is my internal editor helping me to lie to myself?
Or, do you write the thing repeatedly and then compare them to each other to see where you ended up?
Actually that wouldn’t be a bad thing ;). You’d be consciously modifying your core beliefs and so long as they are positive it’s a win-win :D.
Wonderful post, Kristen, just teeming with incredible advice. I’ve linked it on ladysmut.com as part of our Sexy Saturday Roundup so hopefully even more people will discover your beautiful words of wisdom.
When you wrote that you enjoy brain science, I had to jump down and tell you about Dr. Michio Kaku’s new book called “The Future of the Mind.” I got it from Audible the other day, and from what I’ve listened to so far, you might like it too. (I’m not connected with Dr. Kaku in any way – I just think he’s a science rock star!)
Now I’m going to finish your article.
Reblogged this on Lara McGill and commented:
Kristen’s brilliant, as always!
I love this post.
First, thank you for saying that about the ‘mature’ child. I was told that from the beginning, and though I am a leader, I’ve had more people thrust me out doing things I was not ready for simply because they thought I could handle them. It still happens, though I now know to say something when I need guidance because I’ve actually gained some maturity.
Second, I needed the reminder about being positive in my work. I was dreading taking on this work, but I need to. And changing my outlook from “I don’t want to do this” to “I can do this, and make it through until someone can help me” will probably help me get the work done.
Wow. This might have been the most important blog post I’ve read this year– at least, for me personally. I’ve come a long way, but I’m sure negative self-talk is still holding me back, and I now suspect it’s the root of the fears I’ve been feeling recently regarding my writing career, and the “dead in the water” feelings I’m having right now. I have a history (since childhood) of quitting things, not following through, and backing down from anything that looks like a challenge I might not ace. I think I’m subconsciously still identifying myself that way, and I’m actually expecting myself to back out of this when things get tough (because hey, that’s what I do, right?). THAT’S what’s making me not want to put the effort in– I think I’m going to back down before I have a chance to fail. Though I don’t tend to think it consciously, “I never finish what I start” sounds very familiar to my brain.
That was fairly eye-opening.
Time to replace those thoughts with something more positive. Thank you!
Reblogged this on disregard the prologue and commented:
Well THIS was eye-opening. I think I understand now why I’m having these motivation issues. Thanks, Kristen!
This post is fantastic! 😀
A wonderful post, Kristen, but then, in your case, this is merely belaboring the obvious.
As a sidebar, however, if I might, since many of your readers are writers, it’s interesting how “brain listening” is related to what can broadly be termed the use loose and periodic sentences.in “real life” as opposed to “in literature.” Whereas loose sentences have a practicality in everyday situations, in writing they can lead to reader complacency. On the other hand, periodic sentences can provide spice and suspense. One school of explanation is that they capitalize on the syntactic processing (which includes assumptive parsing and often subsequent error correction) that’s done in the left inferior frontal gyrus of the brain.
Fine writers know this intuitively without having to receive a doctorate in neuroscience. However, they and all writers can only benefit from trying to understand their art/craft from as many perspectives as possible. It’s great that a writer of your caliber is leading by example by spotlighting the scientific one.
Reblogged this on MARSocial Author Business Enhancement group's Blog.
I… can’t even… this is a fantastic post.
So many things I hadn’t thought about and this is a super productive way to go about one’s life.
Today is the day I make exactly those changes and let them feed into everything else I do.
Hear me roar.
Kristen, I totally understand your point about positive versus negative self-talk. I have degrees in psychology and have been a follower of Albert Ellis’s Rational-Emotive School for decades. It made an incredible difference in my own life. I’ve even tried teaching that way of thinking to my students when I taught at Brevard College. The biggest problem is that this system places the responsibility for our own lives squarely on our own shoulders, so to speak. Many people don’t want to hear it: They would rather blame other people, fate, God, what-have-you for their problems. You have to be willing to give up your own faulty thinking patterns before you can really use the Rational-Emotive system to bring yourself up by your bootstraps. It’s not easy, but it is so worthwhile once you’ve made the commitment to change your self-talk patterns.
Reblogged this on Dog Bones From Our Frynds.
Very inspiring message. Life has knocked me for a bunch of unexpected loops in the last five years and it has really impacted the way I look at myself. This was a great reminder that I should not let myself be defined by the circumstances around me.
I work every day to keep negative thoughts from my brain. When things get touch it gets harder. When I really can’t control my thoughts I have several positive mantras that I start to repeat over and over in my mind and that drowns out and eventually stops the negative thoughts. I love your phrase “I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be. I’m growing every day.” I will use that. Thank you for sharing it. In working so hard to be where we want to be it’s easy to forgot how far we’ve come. So important to remember. Thanks so much, Kristen!
Fascinating. I’m aware I have a bad habit of negative self talk which I am working on breaking. Not easy to do – if you fail: ‘Oh I am so rubbish I can’t even think properly!!!’ 😀
As for the handwriting thing, is it common to have the wisdom teeth removed in the US? I don’t think we do it as standard over here, only if they are problematic. Mine might be confusing, what would the analysis make of one came through, broke and had to be removed, another is half through and the other two have never surfaced at the age of 41? I have to conclude I lack wisdom… 🙂
I expect my handwriting would show my arthritis, not sure if that would also cause issues of interpretation. I’ll have to try the spaces thing. I don’t do much handwriting any more because of the pain. It’s a shame because I used to do medieval calligraphy.
Yes, arduous! This is my mantra now. Thanks for the wake-up call!
Reblogged this on yvonnekoechig and commented:
It would have been a crime not to have re-blogged this exceptional post by Kristen Lamb.
Thank you Kristen! You are quickly becoming my favourite blogger. I am not at present a pre-published author. I am aspiring to become one when I am finally an ex-boutique owner but I love reading and I love writing and you inspire me. This entry is a gem.
( this second entry is more excellent than the previous since the perfectionist in me had to fix up some minor faults )
Great to know and happy to serve ((HUGS)).
Do I do the negative self talk thing? Yes, I’m afraid I do. But I believe I’m learning to be positive. Actually when my dad first got sick I had cognitive behavioural therapy, which I highly recommend, because I felt torn in two between helping him and my mum and looking after my boy. Bit of a Sophie’s choice, and the answer still eludes me. But the absolutely enormous, universal truth you have in there is that the only thing a person has any control of, in life, is how they react to it.
I don’t know if my inner monologue is healthy or not. Perhaps I’ve been too well-trained by my parents (or whatever) but I have trouble thinking to myself “I will be a successful author.” My thought process tends to be “I hope to be a successful author but I am doing the right thing by working a regular job and writing on the side in the hopes of being published someday.”
Does that make me a special case?
Since reading this though, I will try and turn that thought process around. Like you said, it’s not easy, but something that I -can- do. Thanks for sharing!
My husband was a phenomenal artist, particularly with cartooning. His early dream was to work for Hanna Barbera. His mother suggested he get a teaching credential ‘to fall back on’ This was enough to stifle that dream…yes he was over sensitive, it’s just a shame he couldn’t over come that suggestion. On the other hand he taught for more than thirty years and inspired students to strike out on their own. They opened their own businesses, struck for the moon and made it. A success for him in a different way.
He was always very careful not to stifle any dreams
That’s the key, I think. Never lose sight of your dreams. Easy to say, hard in practice. But worth it in the end! 🙂
Reblogged this on Boggledee and commented:
Absolutely love the idea of this. I am sure to try this. From an abusive childhood, I have gotten to where I feel I don’t matter and will never amount to anything. I have noticed the negative way I see things and the negative words I use for myself. That will change! I hope. I have always believed that there is Power in words and thoughts, just didn’t know how to change mine. I too have been in therapy and have tried numerous meds with no good outcome. Either I go from caring and worrying about everything to carrying about NOTHING. Or the meds will upset my stomach or give me headaches. I will noticed that it really isn’t the answer and will soon quit the meds, I will quit going to therapy and I end up at the same point. But after reading this post. I will retrain my thoughts, I will have a positive attitude about myself, and I will SUCCEED! Thank you for this post.
Aaaahhhh…. the power of positive thinking. I am trying this for years… so far it hasn’t helped… I have not even that book on the market…
Reblogged this on The Spidereen Frigate and commented:
I didn’t realize I had such negative self-talk. Kristen Lamb points out that the brain starts listening at the first active verb, so when I say to myself “I won’t fail this test,” what my brain is hearing is “Fail this test.” Changing your self talk to positive, active verbs can help: “I will pass this test.” Read the rest of Kristen’s blog to see how you are sabatoging your own positivity.
Wow! That was quite a post. Must go check my handwriting immediately!
I am a superstar,thought leader,guru,most sought after speaker,successful entrepreneur,genius billionaire playboy philanthropist. Oh kristen,I was getting “depressed” until I saw your blog.Now I know,I am just overwhelmed.Thanks.
I’m thrilled Writer Unboxed posted your story. Wow, I needed this! I’ve been beating myself up all week because I’m not a NYT Best Seller (yet). It’s always a wonderful reminder to pay attention to the self talk. I’ve been saying blanket statements like ‘depressed’ and ‘alone’ and ‘fat’ – and they aren’t serving me at all.
I posted these two gems on my desktop:
1) I’m not where I want to be, but I’m not where I used to be. I’m growing every day.
2) I want to be a successful author who makes enough off my writing to quit the day job and live even more comfortably doing what I love.
Thank you, and it’s a pleasure discovering your blog. I’ll find you on twitter.
It makes a difference. I’ve been teaching at a conference and didn’t realize they’d posted this but Writer Unboxed ROCKS!!!!!! Writers OF ALL PEOPLE should appreciate the power of words and yet…we don’t. We have to be careful how we use words. Out of the mouth comes life and death; choose LIFE.
Love the post!
it reminds me of new skill acquisition.
When people are told “what to do” when learning a new skill, they generally can do it well. When they are told “what not to do” they usually have a hard time.
Question for you: When reading other peoples writing (not handwritten) can you tell if they were in a good present place while writing? Is there subconscious still peeking through?
Yes, just differently. Word order, use of pronouns or lack thereof. There are clues.
Reblogged this on My Blog.