Don’t Consider What You’re Thinking

All right. So, earlier I had a post that discussed how we determine our own experience, not outside forces, and today’s post considers something related: how our thoughts can determine us, if we let them.

Are you confused? First I tell you to think yourself happy, and now I’m telling you that’s dangerous?

Admittedly, the idea confused me a little too, until I thought about it more. The idea here is very Descartian. “I think, therefore I am.” And that can be the danger. If we think everything we write is terrible, that we’ll never succeed, that there are so many writers better than us, etc, etc, and worse, if we believe those thoughts, that we give them the power to be true. Likewise, if we think and believe we’re the best writer ever, we can do no wrong, publishers will be knocking down our doors and regretting every last one of those rejection letters, we’re likewise in trouble (and probably setting ourselves up for disappointment or a reality check.)

As writers, it’s our job to think about things and capture those thoughts and imaginings in words. We make our thoughts and dreams real all the time by creating our own worlds, people, and events. So therefore, maybe it’s little surprise that we run the risk of doing the same in our real lives if we believe random thoughts that pass through our head.

Our minds are constantly whirring away, reflecting on experiences, input from our senses. It’s natural that if we get a lot of negative input on our writing — think a barrage of rejection letters, or worse, no responses at all – that we’re going to experience some negative thoughts about our writing. The same can be true if you get rave reviews, or your critique partners adore the latest book: we may be more inclined to think, “gee, I’m pretty good at this writing thing.”

But really, what’s the difference between the negative and positive thoughts? Especially ones that are on opposite ends of the spectrum? Not a heck of a lot, since they’re just thoughts, just ideas. And so long as we let them flow through with perhaps a bit of reflection but nothing more, they do no harm. The harm comes when we seize and hold onto a particular thought, trapping it, wriggling and squirming to continue on its little thought-path down Idea River that we get a problem. Because if we make it tangible, it can have very tangible results.

Did you seize on a negative thought? One that told you there were many more writers more successful than you? Your scribbles will never amount to anything? You’ve spent too long trying to get published – it’s time to move on? What is the result? Well, maybe you become negative, focusing on that thought, and  give up. You stop submitting your writing, don’t attend conferences, you ignore anything that could contradict that negative thought, and eventually you miss opportunities, close doors, and give up writing entirely.

Very well, you suggest. But what if the thought wasn’t so negative? What if you think you’re writing is really good, much better than so-and-so. Your grammar is perfect. Your style a delight. Everyone will love every word you write. Still a problem. First, because it seems like your head may be swelling to such a size that you’ll be impossible to live with. Second, because this business is always subjective: someone may love your writing, but not everyone will. Third, and worst, is that if you think you’re the best you can be, what will keep you moving forward? What will keep you improving and honing your craft?

So, let the thoughts pass by in Idea River, but let them keep floating. Some will be pleasant, some won’t be, but what’s important is your writing. Don’t let anything – especially yourself and your own thoughts – distract you from that fact.

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.

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