Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Calm the Chatter in Your Head #IWSG


Welcome, Insecure Writer's Support Group friends! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. If you'd like to join this super supportive group, please clicky clicky here.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know that my YA novel, The Boy Who Loved Fire, releases on January 28th. Stay tuned here and on my Facebook Author Page for news!

Today we have a guest post from fellow blogger and author Tracey Barnes Priestly, who shares tips on how to quiet the negative chatter that battles for attention in our writer brains. Tracey's book, Duck Pond Epiphany, is on sale now.

Take it away, Tracey!

Show me someone free from negative thoughts and, pardon me for being so blunt, but we’ll both be looking at someone without a pulse! How do I know? Because as a therapist, I’ve worked with countless people struggling to move around and beyond the cacophony of "chatter" they live with. 

You know what I mean ... those pesky, negative messages that alternately whisper and scream inside of your head. Sadly, negative self-talk can feel as natural as breathing in and breathing out ... in a gasping, suffocating kind of way. And here’s the thing. No one is immune, including yours truly.

Admittedly, in the early days of my career as a writer, I managed my negative self-talk well enough. After all, I rationalized, a Q&A column for working parents wasn’t exactly writing. No, it was merely an extension of what I already did - teach people skills to improve the quality of their lives.

But then I decided to try my hand at writing fiction. Ha! I quickly discovered a flash mob of negativity living inside of my head. They were a loud, screaming, mass of criticism. One blared: “Write a novel? You? You’re not a real writer.” Or how about this? “Get real. You have no training for something so demanding.” And then there was this gem. “Ha! Even if you managed to write a novel, you’d never get it published.” The chatter was endless and, it was absolutely deafening. 

And so ... I had to put myself on my own couch, so to speak. I knew if I wanted to pursue my dream I needed to wrangle my chatter into submission. 

My first task? To remember that even though my negative messages felt like the absolute truth, they were not. No, all of that chatter was just little old me, giving voice to my insecurities, in a feeble, yet potentially powerful attempt to protect me from failure. How? If I allowed the chatter to be in charge, I would never risk writing a novel, which in turn, would spare me disappointment, hurt, failure, embarrassment, etc. (Please, feel free to fill in your personal favorite!) 

Next, I began the rewriting process. It went something like this:

Chatter:“Write a novel? You? You’re not a real writer.”
Me: “Actually, I’ve managed to successfully communicate, in writing, for the last twenty years. Apparently, I write well enough by some standards.” 

Or ...
Chatter: “Get real. You have no training for something so demanding.”
Me: “Okay, I may have to learn some things along the way but I’m reasonably intelligent. I can do this.” 

Or:
Chatter: “Ha! Even if you managed to write a novel, you’d never get it published.”
Me: “I just want to experience writing in a different format. It’s far too soon to even begin to think about publishing!”

Did my flash mob go quietly into the night? Most of the time. But predictably, at different times throughout the process, they’d pop up. I’d wrangle them back into submission, put my head down, and continue on, determined not to let me stop myself


So please, the next time it gets noisy inside of your head, talk a deep breath, give the chatter some well thought out sass, and carry on. Your dream is waiting! 

Oy, the chatter in my head is constant! How about you, fellow writers? How do you calm the negative noise? Please share!

Tracey Barnes Priestley holds a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and spent many years as a therapist before moving into the field of personal coaching. She currently specializes in working with both writers and performers. An award winning syndicated columnist for 14 years (Juggling Jobs and Kids), Tracey now writes and blogs about issues she, and countless others face in the second half of life. (www.thesecondhalfonline.com) As an educator and consultant, she has offered workshops, seminars, and trainings throughout her entire career.

An amateur singer and performer, Tracey finally earned a percentage of the box office when, inspired by her print column, she co-wrote, produced, and starred in a one act musical, “The Second Half: A Lively Look at Life after Fifty.” Married for 36 years, and the mother of three, Tracey lives among the redwoods of northern California with her recently retired husband and their loyal mutt, Bella von Doodle.

33 comments:

  1. Give that chatter some sass, I like that! Don't let it stop you from doing what you gotta do.

    Happy reading and writing! from Laura Marcella @ Wavy Lines

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    1. Tough to ignore sometimes, but we must!

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  2. I can relate to all of this chatter, and like Tracy, I have been a counselor and understand what the negative thoughts can do to a person. But still they persist. I love the alternative statemens she gave and found myself saying, "yes, that's true!" Julie, congrats on your book coming out this month! I bet you are thrilled!

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    1. Terri, I didn't know you've been a counselor! I'll bet that helps when creating characters and their inner demons. And good when recognizing negative chatter :)

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  3. The chatter is constant! Luckily my characters voices can drown it out 30% of the time. For another 30% I read the positive reviews I've received. 30% of the time I wallow in the negativity and watch hours of reruns on Netflix, and the remaining 10% of the time I get motivated by reading other people's success stories.

    Heh, this year I'm going to try and adjust the numbers even more so I can be more productive.

    Good luck to both of you on your novels and other endeavors!

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    1. Love your percentages! That's awesome. And I can totally relate to hours of reruns on Netflix.

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  4. I wrote about the ticker-tape mind today too. In the midst of all the internal "blah blah" a spark of creativity can often take flight. Learning to sift through it constructively is the key. Thanks for the affirmation that my thinking is on the right path.

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    1. Julie, I'm gonna pop over and read that ticker-tape mind post!

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  5. Release date is coming soon!
    I find if I play music loud enough while writing, it drowns out the chatter.

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    1. Oh, Alex, that's great. I wish I could listen to music while writing. I need it super quiet. I have no idea why I can't do both. Maybe because I'd want to start singing instead of writing???

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  6. Wrangling our chatter into submission, I like it lol
    I'm with Alex though, music helps to drown the chatter.

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    1. S.K. that's so great that you can listen to music while writing. I can only do that with instrumental. Some sort of mental block pops up for me :/

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  7. Tell yourself you are a writer; that you are published so a professional thinks you're a good writer. Say it often enough and you'll believe it. Wishing you much success on the launch of your new boook.

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    1. Diane, I love that! Say it often enough and even our chatty mind will believe it.

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  8. Her first line about negative thoughts and a pulse is fantastic. Writing that one down. Here's to Jan 28!

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    1. Lee, I loved that first line as well! Thank you :)

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  9. Can totally relate to the negative chatter. Congrats on your book release! Excited for you.

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    1. Natalie, that's why I love this group. We can all relate to this stuff!

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  10. It's so easy to get taken over by negative thoughts. I struggle with that too. For this year, I'm trying to be more believing of myself, and keep trying for better things.

    http://lucindawhitney.com/2014/01/miscellaneous/insecure-writers-support-group/

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    1. I think with a great attitude like that, you're already off to a wonderful start!

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  11. Really good post! That chatter can be debilitating! It's hard to control it - but I'm getting better at it. Thanks for the tips :)

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    1. Jemi, we're all works in progress, yes? Thankfully we're in good company :)

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  12. I need a fire hose to keep my negative thoughts at bay. Thank goodness for writing buddies (like Julie) who hit me upside the head when the chatter gets too loud.

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    1. Fire hose! I know where you can get one of those :)

      You help keep ME keep the chatter at bay. Win/win!

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  13. 'Well thought out sass.' Love it! :) This is a great post to help keep all that negativity away. We can all be our own worst enemy sometimes.

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    1. Leandra, that is the truth! No one can doubt us as much as we doubt ourselves.

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  14. I think negative chatter is normal for those of us with artistic endeavors, such as writing. There is no one correct answer for crafting a good story, and perhaps that's why it's easy for self-doubt to sink in.

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  15. Hi, Julie & Tracey,

    The naysayer in our head never stays silent for long. I wrangle it into submission by moving forward and just plain ignoring it.

    Looking out for your release day, Julie!

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  16. Good luck with your book launch!

    Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com )

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  17. I rely on my faith. Talking (praying) helps me to focus on things and helps me to remember this isn't all in my hands.

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  18. So wonderful to hear from Tracey! We all need to calm the negative chatter in our brains. At times we have more of it than others! I usually try to listen to calming music and read through some positive statements I keep in a folder that I have title Happy Thoughts. I place notes, emails, and other happy things that are positive in there. :)

    Congrats on your upcoming book. It sounds great!
    ~Jess

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  19. So excited for the 28th!!!!! And wonderful post here from Tracey. I enjoyed this very much.

    It's going to be a wonderful year. (And I love your new pic, Julie!!!!)

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  20. Years ago, I had the good fortune to live in Japan, where yin and yang rule: There's no positivity without negativity. So, when the negative chatter hits, I know the positivity is taking shape.

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