Thoughts We Think
Featuring Jane Porter
I’m normally a very positive person, but I had a bit of the blues this past weekend, and didn’t understand why until I woke up this morning dreading that it was Monday. Not because it’s Monday, but because I had to write.
Ah, yes. Fear and dread, close companions of the working writer. We fear rejection. We fear failing. We fear the hard work itself.
These feelings certainly aren’t new to me, as I’ve been writing for over twenty years, and have been published for nine of them. In the twenty years I’ve been writing seriously, I’ve produced thirteen novels that never sold (and never will), and have sold and seen published thirty novels. And not one of those books was an easy book. Not one came together without effort and struggle, but in writing thirty books I’ve learned how nasty and destructive fear and dread can be on the writing process.
Four years into being a published author, I began to suffer so much anxiety that it nearly took over my life. I was afraid I was writing the book that wouldn’t work. Afraid that I couldn’t find the ending. Afraid that I couldn’t handle the stress. Afraid, afraid, afraid. And guess what? The fear only made the writing harder and the anxiety worse.
Realizing I was about to self-destruct, I did two good things: I hit the gym to physically toughen up (there’s such a strong correlation between physical fitness and mental fitness), and I aggressively worked on my negative thought process. Because that’s what it was—negative.
After six months of hardcore exercising I began to hear some of those negative whispers (can’t, can’t, can’t, won’t, won’t, won’t), and whenever I heard them, I changed them to can, can, can, will, will, will. Then I took it one step further. I beat the negatives to the punch by flooding my brain with positives—this is going to be a great writing day! You’re going to have so much fun creating today! My brain is so amazing, it can figure anything out!
Those little mantras sound corny, but if you repeat them often enough your brain begins to believe them. Your body believes them. And your writing muse believes them, too.
Move forward another five years, and I’m astonished by the new me, the one that embraces challenge and seeks change and welcomes hard work. This me really, truly believes that I can do anything and handle anything. I just have to try.
I was asked recently in an interview at what point I know a book isn’t working, and do I ever give up on a book? I thought about it for a moment and realized, no. I believe every book can work. Since first getting published I haven’t given up on a book. I’ve sometimes set a manuscript aside while I mull it over some more, but I’ve never abandoned a book once I started it. I don’t need to. My brain can figure out how to make every book work. My clever little mind can tackle motivation, character, plot, pacing problems and help me come up with solutions. That’s why I have a mind. To help me solve problems. Not to create problems.
Now it’s Monday, and I’m excited about it being the first day of a new week and the start of a great writing week. I’m no longer blue or dreading what’s before me because I know I can do it, and I know once I start writing, I’m reinforcing what my brain believes—I’m a good writer and I enjoy writing—and there’s no room for fear or dread in my life or in the writing process.
For those of us that write, we have to understand that the best way to beat the fear and dread is to understand what’s behind the negative voices, and then to actively address the voices. If you’re feeling fear and dread because you’re procrastinating, then stop procrastinating and jump in there. Get to work!
If you fear not being able to succeed, remind yourself that there’s nothing you can’t do, if you give yourself permission to succeed, and if you give yourself time to succeed. We don’t become successful overnight, but we do get there thought by thought, choice by choice, book by book.
If you dread the hard work, know that it gets easier by doing it. Action, not reaction. Beat the negative thoughts to the punch and flood yourself with positives. You are immensely talented, and you have a great mind.
Our thoughts do determine our future, and the thoughts we think will help us or hinder us depending on what we think. One of my favorite quotes is from Buddha: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. What we think we become.”
So let’s feed ourselves only the best, most encouraging and empowering thoughts. Let’s stomp out fear and dread and enjoy being hopeful, optimistic, and creative people. The writing life is a wonderful one. It’s a powerful one, too.
Jane Porter’s July 2006 release, Flirting With Forty (5 Spot), was picked by Redbook Magazine as its Red Hot Summer Read before being optioned as a Lifetime Christmas 2008 TV movie. Jane's newest novel, Mrs. Perfect, (May 2008, 5 Spot) has also received tremendous acclaim from her readers. www.janeporter.com