Listen to podcast episode #18: What Are You Telling Yourself?

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This post originally appeared on Medium in November 2020.

Dear Writer,

I don’t know about you, but there is a lot of self-talk going on up in my head that is not altogether…good.

Sure, there are the positive mantras we learned along the way, being the seekers for answers that we writers intuitively are.
I can do hard things!
I believe in myself!

Unfortunately, as soon as things get challenging (and they do get challenging), these get drowned out pretty quickly with self-deprecating thoughts.
Who do you think you are?
No one is going to care about this.

At least that’s how it goes for me.

The trick is, of course, to notice that we are having those thoughts, acknowledge where they are coming from (fear), and change the narrative.
Yes, this is hard. But it is worth it.
It is okay to be afraid. Keep going.

(Far smarter people than I have written about this extensively. I recommend Elizabeth Gilbert or Steven Pressfield for more reading on working with and through fear.)

What I have found, though, is that there are two thoughts that are not even about what they are saying. And listening to these thoughts, repeating these thoughts, practicing these thoughts can do actual damage.

While on the surface this thought seems straightforward and objective, it is not. The truth is that we all have the same 24 hours in the day. Yes, some people’s responsibilities eat up more minutes than others, but we have all heard the stories of people who wrote their bestseller while commuting to their job, or while their children were napping, or in the wee hours of the morning or night.

If we look closely at this thought, what it actually means is “I am not prioritizing writing right now.” And if that’s the truth, THAT IS OKAY. We all have different priorities at different times. But please, tell yourself the truth. If you don’t, you will never, ever find the time.

Though this thought is connected to the broader who do I think I am, they’ll find out I’m a fraud dilemma that nearly everyone faces from time to time (a.k.a. Imposter Syndrome), on its own it’s completely useless. So you don’t have your MFA. So what? Do you know how many published writers don’t have a specialized degree? (I actually don’t know. But I know it’s a lot. If you know, tell me!)

The thing is, this is a classic fish-or-cut-bait situation. If you want an MFA or other certification, if you truly believe that’s what is best for you, then go get it. Otherwise, just start writing. Practice makes…well, you know. But if you keep waiting for the magical credentials to fall into your lap to make writing easier then, well, you’ll be waiting for a long time.

Writing is hard, whether you have long stretches of open time or have to cram writing into the nooks and crannies of your life. Writing is hard, whether you have an advanced degree or a high school diploma.

Writing is hard.
But that’s okay, because we can do hard things.

Do you need some help with the things you are telling yourself?
An Unstick Your Story consultation is perfect for this! >>