Controlling Toxic Thoughts
I’ve been reading a lot lately about current brain research and the huge impact our thoughts have on our creativity, our health, and how we use our gifts. I highly recommend a couple of fascinating books by Dr. Caroline Leaf called Who Switched Off My Brain? (Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions) and The Gift in You (Thomas Nelson Publishers). I couldn’t put either one down.
But Then What?
Let’s say you’re already convinced that your thoughts are critically important. Perhaps you’ve believed for a long time that as a man thinks, so does he become. Maybe you’ve even noticed that you think some pretty rotten and discouraging thoughts from time to time!
Is it enough to just stop thinking those negative thoughts? I don’t know-but I doubt that it’s possible. Even if it were, a totally blank mind isn’t much help to a writer.
Truth Wins Out
Studies have shown that you need to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones, but it does no good to lie to yourself. You could stop telling yourself, “I’m such a rotten writer” and start saying instead, “I’m the best writer in the country!” But you’d know inside that (a) it’s not true, and (b) you don’t believe it. It wouldn’t change anything.
The goal is not to replace a wrong thought with a silly or happy thought. You replace them with affirmative, true, real thoughts.
And that’s where Eric Maisel’s Write Mind comes in. [The subtitle is 299 Things Writers Should Never Say to Themselves (and What They Should Say Instead).] As he asserts, “You want to write more often and more deeply… To meet these goals, you must improve how you communicate with yourself.”
Some of his “right mind/write mind” ideas are humorous, but there’s a lot of truth in them too. “My hope is that you can learn to think right,” Maisel says. “I hope you can learn to say, ‘I wrote an awful first novel and now I’m starting on my second novel’ instead of, ‘I wrote an awful first novel and that proves I’m an idiot.’”
Listen to Yourself
When you’re struggling to write or deal with disappointing writing news, what kinds of things do you say to yourself? Is there something else you could tell yourself that would lift you up instead of push you deeper into a depression? For starters, let me give you a few of Maisel’s 299 suggestions. I hope you will then either buy his little book or make your own personalized list.
- Wrong Mind: “I need what I am writing to be loved.”
- Right Mind: “I need what I am writing to be strong.”
- Wrong Mind: “Somebody has the answer and if I take enough writing workshops I am sure to happen upon the answer.”
- Right Mind: “I learn to write by writing and I learn to market by marketing.”
- Wrong Mind: “I can’t describe things.”
- Right Mind: “I should practice describing things.”
- Wrong Mind: “I haven’t written for six months. That must mean that I will never write again.”
- Right Mind: “I am very ready to write after six months of not writing.”
How’s YOUR Mind Today?
Learn to distinguish your right thinking from your wrong-injurious thinking. You can be your own worst enemy here–or your own best friend. It’s your choice.
If you’re feeling very brave, leave a comment below with one of your “wrong mind” statements and then a better “right mind” statement you intend to tell yourself from now on! Here’s mine: “I’m too tired to write” changed to “I can write ten minutes!”