You’re a writer, this happens to you: you go into a hole. Maybe it’s because you’ve had a big rejection or lot of little ones or maybe it’s just cyclical and the way you are, the way you unfortunately have to be.
I’d like to say that it gets better.
But that’s a bit Hallmark Card-like for me.
So instead, let me offer you this: it gets different.
And that is better.
A smart, funny, quick TED talk by the author of huge hit Eat, Pray, Love (UK book and film, US book and film) – and specifically about how you have to keep creating, how you need to survive both success and failure. She has a particularly thought-provoking idea about what she calls going home to your creativity.
Writer Ken Armstrong's weekly blog this time covers the technological way to feel like you're not doing enough. Or anything. He has a Sky+ box and:
…now, alas, my beloved box seemed to have turned on me. It has become, for me at least, a whole new way to underachieve. It’s over there now, taunting me. I can feel its red eye upon me.
A Whole New Way to Underachieve – Ken Armstrong (May 2014)
Just read it. And the go read the Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff every week. Like I do.
I have a bad opinion of myself. You can't tell because I write books, I do a lot of talks, I run this news website: plainly I have an ego. But you can probably guess. I'm a writer, the collective noun for us is neuroses. Sometimes this opinion of me gets in my way and I wrote recently about how criticising oneself in the third person is surprisingly more successful than doing it the usual “I bollocksed-up there” way. (I liked that post a lot: Must Do Better.) Now there's more.
Now there's the idea that you just change yourself to fix this bad opinion:
Let’s say you want to become the type of person who never misses a workout. (If you believed that about yourself, how much easier would it be to get in shape?) Every time you choose to do a workout — even if it’s only 5 minutes — you’re casting a vote for this new identity in your mind. Every action is a vote for the type of person you want to become.
How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good – James Clear
It's not the greatest of reads – Lifehacker's coverage of it is better – but try the full post.
Getting up, for one. Probably eating. Exercise if necessary. But then also at least something, just something of whatever you're working on:
NO ZERO DAYS. A zero day is the day when you don’t do a single thing towards your goal.
Its 11.58pm and feel like you didn’t do anything? Do that one pushup. Write that sentence. Read one page.
You may say its not much but hey, its not a zero. 1 is much much better than a zero. Zero is your enemy. Fight it, ruthlessly.
It's similar to the Jerry Seinfeld Technique (now famously denied by Seinfeld who says he has no idea where it came from or why it's named after him) and it's similar to my own Bad Days advice. So that's three people or three entire philosophies in agreement: can it possibly be wrong?
Nod to Lifehacker for reading Limitless
If you had to criticise someone, you’d probably use what’s called the criticism sandwich. “That was an excellent idea, admittedly the execution was unbelievably amateur and I wish we’d hired someone else, anybody else, but you know, you typed it up beautifully.” That kind of thing. But when you’re criticising yourself, you don’t look for any bread to wrap it up in.
Sometimes you refuse to eat the baloney in the middle and sometimes you wish you’d started this with a more robust analogy that could stand any chance of lasting the distance.
So I could’ve chosen my analogy better but let me take that criticism and change it to how I’d address anyone else being as slack with their writing. “We got the point you were making, you made it clear and obvious, but you should really have got out of Dodge at the end of the first paragraph.”
Incidentally, usually I’d be saying to myself that: “I bollocksed-up that, didn’t I?”
You can see the difference, can’t you? It’s not that one is positive and one is negative, it’s that one is third- and one is first-person. From the Wall Street Journal:
When people think of themselves as another person, “it allows them to give themselves objective, helpful feedback,” says Ethan Kross, associate professor of psychology and director of the Self-Control and Emotion Laboratory at the University of Michigan.
‘Self Talk’: When Talking to Yourself, the Way You Do It Makes a Difference – Wall Street Journal (5 May 2014)
That’s from a piece that is laden with sports analogies that I can barely understand but it’s a persuasive point. And I thought it was persuasive or I wouldn’t be here telling you about the full feature, but telling you made a difference. I look at this and in particular I look at the way I usually criticise myself. I wanted to find an example of how I usually am compared to how this lot say I should be and that searching, that thinking, fixed it in my head more. It’s like you’ve told me to lighten up and I’m listening to you. So thanks.