Monday, April 29, 2013

A Writer's Self-Talk

As much as we hear about character arc and internal dialogue, how are we doing as the character with the keyboard at our fingertips?
On Flickr by Striatic

I've heard negative comments from writers at all stages: unpublished, contest finalists, and published authors. They compare themselves to others, throw their talent under the bus to boost up another writer, admit that they don't know what they're doing and they wonder when everyone else is going to catch them in their ignorance.

 Do any of these thoughts sound familiar?

 “You don't have what it takes. Perhaps you should give up?”

 “Perhaps if you follow others, you'll be as good as them...some day.” 

“This is a pipe dream.”

“You make so many mistakes. They're going to catch on that you aren't good enough.”

What we tell ourselves in our thought-life eventually comes out in our actions and words. If we're telling ourselves we don't have what it takes, we're not good enough, and berate our every mistake, then we will begin to distrust ourselves and ultimately disLIKE ourselves, and step away from doing bold and beautiful things for God. If we beat ourselves up in our minds, then we'll only have a battered, self-absorbed coward to offer those around us.

On Flickr by Miranda.Granche

Let me tell you, I've been there. I am coming out of it, though. I am realizing that God created me exactly this way, and if I criticize my gifts by whispering demeaning things to myself, then I am really criticizing God. And when I live in bondage to criticism, my mission gets muddied and my abilities are weighed down with disgust.

 Let our writing be an outpour of our hearts, without the ugly conversation in our head, blinding the true gift you've been given with self-doubt.

Why do writers engage in negative self-talk, anyway?

  1.  Pride-- or avoidance of it. We are Christian writers trying to glorify God. If we admit our talent and success, then aren't we being proud? So if we hide it away and tell ourselves “you're still not good enough”, then we won't risk pride taking over our hearts. But isn't it ok to praise God for what He has done? Praise and Pride are two different things. Try praising God for the blessings He's given you. I bet you won't feel proud, but you will delight in the fact that He chose YOU to bestow the blessings upon! 
  2. Comparison game-- UGH! UGH, UGH, UGH!!!! I just needed to get that out! I HATE this game! Then why am I the first to raise my hand to play it inside my head? When I compare myself to other writers around me, I ignore the fact that I am created in God's image, I am wonderfully made, and as Ephesians 2:10 says that I am “...His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” When I compare myself to others, I try to be a different creation, or measure myself up to a person God never intended for me to be. Is it really worth the heartache and effort? 
  3. What you've always been told—This might hit a nerve with some of you, but it's a fact of human flesh. We are shaped by those who've raised us, the families we were born into, the world view we were first exposed to as young children. If you have been criticized and held to unattainable expectations as a child, as a teen, as a young adult, then perhaps, your self-talk is rooted in a generational habit of negativity. Search yourself deeply so you can cast off the old and fill your heart with Truth: 
“You are talented and unique.” 

“You have everything it takes to use your God-given gifts to their full potential.” 

“If your dream is in God's will, it is worth it.”

“It's okay to make mistakes, that's how you learn.”

On Flickr by Adriannolt
Sure, you've considered the internal dialogue of your fictional characters, but have you considered the internal dialogue of yourself? 

What's the most difficult negative thought to get rid of as a writer on this journey? Mine is, "This is a pipedream." But God has shown me time and again, that this dream is in His Will. I need to keep telling myself that!

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous, mothering days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across historical cultures and social boundaries. Angie is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.



Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I love what you said: if I criticize my gifts by whispering demeaning things to myself, then I am really criticizing God.

Oh yes!!! That is so true and such a truth we all need to take to heart! Thank you for that, Angie!

Debra E. Marvin said...

Very true, ladies. But if we want to find a way around it we will. I have even wondered if the 'gift' is really wishful thinking... yes, doubt sneaks in.

Once in awhile, when I hear how rapidly a writer does their editing, I think MAN I AM SO SLOW. and if my writing is that bad and needs that much work to improve it, then maybe I'm not a very good writer after all.

But it's not about how long it takes me to polish something, but the fact I keep at it.

What amazes me more, is how long we stay optimistic! Maybe this is my year -- how many years have I said that? ha ha.

Jill Weatherholt said...

I love this, Angie! When the words flow freely, the self-doubt takes a break. But,when a scene isn't working or I can't find the right words...oh boy, the self-doubt comes in like a freight train. The thought that is hardest for me to get rid of is, "You don't know what you're doing."

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Angie, I needed to hear this today. I question why I'm writing some days. I've been almost three years on the same book. And even as I try to plot out a second story, it's not coming together. The lie comes in. I'm not good enough to do this. I'm not creative enough. I'm not a good enough writer. Blah, blah, blah.

Like Sherrinda, I was totally convicted by the thought that I would criticize God's gift to me (one I've wanted almost my whole life, I might add) of writing. He's called me to walk this journey. I need to trust His timing and His leading and act in faith.

Thanks for this today, Angie.

Unknown said...

Even though I'm pretty sure I did everything backwards :), I started out writing my novel with the joy of thriving in what God had called and gifted me to do. It wasn't until I started researching the publishing process that I began to give in to pervasive doubts. The one whisper I heard repeatedly was: "the odds are against you." I have to continually remind myself that although that might be true, if God has called me to do this, then he will be faithful to see it to completion--no matter the odds. :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Wow! This certainly packed the right kind of punch! Especially this "And when I live in bondage to criticism, my mission gets muddied and my abilities are weighed down with disgust."

Awesome, Ang! Great encouragement here!

Lindsay Harrel said...

The comparison game is the one I'm most guilty of! I do try to remember that God has His individual plan for ME, and it won't look like the one He's given anyone else. That can be really hard, but it's necessary to survival...and necessary for thriving. Beautiful post, Ang!

Angie Dicken said...

Sherrinda, that is something I have had an a-ha moment lately, and it has helped in teaching my children to not talk bad about themselves or others too!

Angie Dicken said...

I am so SLOW when it comes to reading! I think if we weren't optimistic, we'd have quit a long time ago! I truly hope this is your year!!
Keep at it, and don't worry about your are getting it done! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Oh, I have had that thought whisper to me more than once. It's true that when things are going well, our self-talk may shift into affirmations. I wonder how great the fruit is when we talk that way to ourselves during the hard stuff? Bet it helps us get through it quicker, do you?

Angie Dicken said...

I feel your pain on writing the same book for three years. Although I have written two other books, I have just finished the book of my heart which has taken me just about three years to write. Keep at it, girl! And God will make that next one happen!

Angie Dicken said...

Crystal, Thanks for stopping by! It can be overwhelming to when you delve into the process and info that's out there. I am glad that you are able to look up and realize how faithful God is regardless of the odds! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Glad it spoke to you. I have such a hard time with muddied inspiration because of my fighting flesh!
Love ya!

Angie Dicken said...

So, so, so hard to step out of that comparison game, isn't it? I have learned to take the time to process my thoughts when I begin to feel the sting of jealousy, and turn to God's word for me...and His plan for me. Thanks for stopping by!

Susan Anne Mason said...


You are such a wise and lovely young woman. Your children are blessed to have you for a mother. Think of how ahead of the game they will be! So centered and mature! (Sometimes, anyways!)

Beautiful post. Love those affirmations!


Angie Dicken said...

Aw, Susan! You are so sweet! I hope that my children will think that one day!! I deal with negative self-doubt the most when it comes to mothering!!!
Thanks for the encouragement.