In September 2020 I got a free copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People from Amazon. What’s that got to do with writing? More than you’d think!
Chapter One is rather cleverly titled ‘If you want to gather honey, don’t kick the beehive.’
The main point?
People are emotional. If you criticise someone all the time they’re more likely to resent you, feel hurt, rebel against the advice, or give up than improve or listen to what you’re saying. Being positive is much more effective, as it encourages rather than demoralises.
How does this link to writing?
If criticising others hurts, the same applies to yourself: So don’t beat yourself up if you don’t meet your writing goals. I felt terrible asking for an extension to my MA Final Project when others on my course were struggling and still finished on time, but criticising myself ruined my productivity: My motivation went out the window, it took me even longer to finish my project, and I nearly quit.
So how do you motivate yourself?
Focus on the positives. If your goal is to write every day, reward yourself on days you succeed and let the days you don’t write go. It’ll build a healthy habit much faster than beating yourself up for missing a day!
If you don’t meet a deadline, have empathy for yourself. You might’ve experienced setbacks you didn’t anticipate, like a project requiring more work than expected or a worldwide pandemic. Criticising yourself only puts you on the defensive and creates resentment towards the task you’re trying to complete.
Treat yourself kindly and you’ll be more confident. You might be struggling because the world’s been a dumpster fire for a year. I know I am, and that’s okay. It’s fine to take breaks if things are tough. No one else will blame you, so don’t judge yourself 🙂
If you struggle to let go of criticism, self directed or otherwise, write it down. Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter criticising a General who disobeyed his order to attack. He never sent it, as he knew from experience criticising people ends badly: Someone he criticised once challenged him to a sword fight! Getting his feelings out on paper changed his perspective though, and sometimes that’s all you need.
Principle One of How to Win Friends and Influence People? Don’t criticise, condemn, or complain. Apply it, and you’ll boost your writing confidence and be a happier person 🙂
Thanks for Reading!
If you struggle with negative thinking my post on Writing Demons might help overcome it.
Do you beat yourself up so much it stops you writing, or are you kind to yourself when things go wrong? Share in the comments 🙂
Past Writerly Advice Posts: