10 Tips to Stack Your Writing Mind’s Positivity Deck by Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D
One cruel fact of becoming a published author is that it often feels like an uphill battle because the mind’s negativity has a longer shelf life than positivity. I’ll bet you remember where you were on 9/11 but not the following week. Scientists say the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones to keep us out of harm’s way. It takes three positive thoughts to offset one negative thought. No wonder it’s difficult to remain hopeful and persevere in a publishing career bombarded with the same bad-news bias that keeps us safe. In other words, we are hard-wired to overestimate threats—yes even writing, publishing and speaking threats—and underestimate our ability to deal with them.
Here’s a real example of how our writer’s mind works. One year, after speaking on a Killer Nashville panel, I was impressed with a novice writer’s leadership as moderator. I sent her an email extoling her, “You were total dope with the way you facilitated our panel today.” She wrote back, “At first when I read your email, I thought it said, ‘You were a total dope with the way you facilitated our panel today.’” After re-reading the email, she realized she had misinterpreted it. She told me it was her first time taking on that type of professional responsibility and was feeling insecure. In other words, her insecure thoughts filtered my message and distorted the facts with a story that fit with her insecurities.
But here’s the good news. Grass grows through concrete. I want to share my secrets on how I was able to complete 40 nonfiction books and two murder mysteries by stacking my positivity deck. When that negative voice pipes up in your head, you can learn to underestimate the threat and overestimate the possibilities in order to navigate the tumultuous publishing world, break free from the clutches of writing woes, and finish that murder mystery:
- Focus on the upside of downside situations. “I’ve hit a wall with my novel’s ending” becomes “Other than the ending, I’ve completed my novel and gotten promising feedback.”
- Pinpoint opportunities contained in negative writing events. Ask, “How can I make this situation work to my advantage? Can I find something positive in it? What can I manage, learn, or overcome in this instance?”
- Frame setbacks as lessons to learn, not failures to endure. Ask what you can learn from difficult writing outcomes and use them as stepping-stones, instead of roadblocks. When you ask, “How is this setback happening for me, instead of to me,” you’re empowered.
- Broaden your scope. Look beyond rejection, put on your wide-angle lens. Remember the real reason you write, and let your love of writing steer you beyond the gloom.
- Be chancy. Take small risks in new situations instead of predicting negative outcomes before giving them a try. “If I agree to be on a panel at Killer Nashville, I might fall flat on my face” becomes “If I participate on a panel, I might get to network with other writers and promote my murder mystery.”
- Avoid blowing situations out of proportion. Don’t let one negative experience rule your whole life pattern: “I didn’t sell my novel, so now I’ll never get published” becomes “I didn’t sell the novel, but there are many more pathways to getting it published.”
- Focus on the solution, not the problem. You’ll feel more empowered to cope with writing’s curveballs when you step away from the problem and brainstorm a wide range of possibilities.
- Practice positive self-talk. After big writing letdowns, underscore your triumphs and high-five your “tallcomings” instead of bludgeoning yourself with your “shortcomings.”
- Hang out with positive writers, agents, and publishers. Optimism is contagious. When you surround yourself with optimistic writers, positivity rubs off.
- Strive to see the fresh starts contained in your losses. Every time you get up just one more time than you fall, your perseverance increases the likelihood of propelling your novel to the top of the charts. Each day as you put on your writing cap, remind yourself of the famous baseball player Babe Ruth’s old quote “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
Bryan E. Robinson is a licensed psychotherapist and author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books. He applies his experiences to crafting insightful nonfiction self-help books and psychological thrillers. His multi-award winning southern noir murder mystery, Limestone Gumption, won the New Apple Book Medal for best psychological suspense, the Silver IPPY Award for outstanding mystery of the year, the Bronze Foreword Review INDIEFAB Book Award for best mystery, and the 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award for best fiction in the Southeast.
His most recent release is Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He has written for Psychology Today, First for Women, and Natural Health, and his blogs and columns for writers appear in Southern Writer’s Magazine. He is a consulting editor for The Big Thrill, the online magazine for International Thriller Writers. His long-selling book, Chained to the Desk, is now in its 3rd Edition (New York University Press, 1998, 2007, 2014). His books have been translated into thirteen languages, and he has appeared on every major television network: 20/20, Good Morning America, ABC’s World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News, NBC Universal, The CBS Early Show, CNBC’s The Big Idea. He hosted the PBS documentary, Overdoing It: How to Slow Down and Take Care of Yourself.