I was thinking about things writers do to make themselves miserable (well, things that have made me miserable, anyway). So, I came up with a short list of things I have done (or, regrettably, still do) that can be counterproductive to my writing and what I do to avoid them. Anyway, I thought I’d share. Maybe you can relate.
Overanalyze rejection. Obviously, I think you should analyze rejection because you can learn from it, but there is a good (productive) way to do it and a bad (counterproductive) way to do it. Good, constructive analysis is when an editor sends you a personal rejection and says, “Hey, this story would be great if not for X,” and you spend some time doing a little critical thinking about X, even if you don’t ultimately agree with the editor. Bad, counterproductive analysis is when you receive a personal rejection letter from an editor who praises your work but doesn’t ask you to send more, and you come to the conclusion, after obsessing over the letter for hours, that the editor hates your story, your work, and probably your face. When you overanalyze rejection, you’re usually getting aboard the catastrophic-thinking rollercoaster, which only goes in one direction—down. Really far and really fast. The way I decided to combat this issue was to—you guessed it—create a whole goddamn blog about rejection. I get that that’s a little extreme, but one of the reasons I started this blog is because I’ve often taken comfort reading about other authors’ experiences with rejection. It helped me to know (and stop overanalyzing) that everybody gets rejected. So, when you start to overanalyze a rejection letter, my advice is to look for that shared experience with other writers, on a blog, on social media, or even in person. It can really help put rejection into perspective.
Review surf. Oh, man, this is a tough one. I mean, they’re right there, just a Google search away. This is definitely a do as I suggest and not as I absolutely fucking do. There’s a time and a place to review surf, and I think it’s a bad idea to take a “break” from writing and start plugging your name into Goodreads or compulsively checking reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or wherever. That’s taken a bite out of my ass more than once. Invariably, I will find a bad review, I will read it, and I will sabotage my productivity for the day obsessing about it. I try not to look at reviews until after I hit my word count quota, then if I hit bad one, I’ve got twenty-four hours to shake it off. When I can’t control myself and my browser starts drifting Amazon-ward, I try and only look at the average review score. If my book or story or whatever has a good average score, I don’t need to read that one- or two-star review bringing down my average. I probably will, but I don’t need to.
Compare your success to another author’s. I’m not talking about the bullshit line of thinking that says another author doesn’t deserve his or her success, which, in my opinion, is a really destructive path to go down. I’m talking about falling victim to self-doubt, getting down on yourself because some of your author friends and acquaintances are having more success than you. I think it’s natural to ask “What am I doing wrong?” when you’re working your ass off trying to make it as a writer, things aren’t going exactly the way you hoped, and it seems like your friends’ careers are blowing up. Here’s my personal cure for that. I lean right the fuck in to my friends’ successes, sincerely congratulate them when they announce their achievements, which I know they’ve worked super hard to get, and, yeah, maybe live a little vicariously through them. When I do that, I feel reenergized, and I feel positive and optimistic about my own work again. Why? Because I haven’t let myself stew in self-doubt. I’ve shared in someone’s totally legit happiness, and as it turns out, happiness can be contagious. Who knew?
Do you have habits that can be counterproductive to your writing? Let’s talk about them in the comments.