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Weekend Writing Inspiration: Rewrite Negative Thoughts That Hurt Your Writing

February 15, 2019
“How can I get rid of the negative thoughts in my head?”

When your head is filled with limiting or negative thoughts, it’s hard to stay focused on writing. You’ll get distracted right when you hit a critical story point, possibly not even noticing that you’re bumping up against fear or doubt. Sometimes they’re so minimal, we aren’t even consciously aware of them. But those messages stop us nonetheless, and can make us feel so at odds with ourselves we just want to make it stop.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve given advice on how to survive hearing “no” from the industry and the world when it comes to our writing. I’ve also outlined how to deal with family members’ fearful projections and tame our inner writing gremlins (in the latter, I covered some ways to rewrite limiting beliefs).

All of these are part of the inner game of writing — using mindset strategies and tools to help us stay on track with writing even when the outer and inner landscape of our minds might be slowing us down.

First I’ll address the question of “getting rid of” negative thoughts.

Then, I’ll give you two new tools to use — 1) a step-by-step process for dealing with particularly sticky beliefs, and 2) a way to approach unsupportive questions, which are another sneaky kind of limiting thinking pattern that can trip you up.

Can you “get rid” of negative thoughts?

Let’s first address this question of whether or not it’s possible to get rid of negative thoughts. As a coach who has worked with hundreds of writers, I’m not partial to the idea of “ridding” ourselves of fears and doubts “forever.”

Here’s why: Assuming you’re continually growing, learning, and writing, you’re always going to be bumping into new levels of fear and doubt that manifest as new limiting thoughts and questions.

When a writer goes from spec writing to writing on assignment, for example, there’s a new host of expectations which can trigger new doubts. Or if you go from writing on assignment to selling a script and working with a studio. Or decide to self-publish a novel version of your book. Each new level of success and engagement with the world could cause a cascade of challenges and in turn a new set of thoughts.

When we step outside our comfort zone, we have to in turn up our inner writing game.

My preference is therefore to focus on having tools, building confidence, and cultivating resilience so we can keep writing, meet new expectations, and bounce back from challenges as quickly and easily as possible.

Two tools to use

Here are two new tools you can use to help quiet and calm those thoughts as you move ever further along your screenwriting career path.

#1 — Step-by-step process for sticky limiting beliefs

When you run into a particularly “sticky” limiting belief (one that resists the simpler exercise I gave you last week), you’ll want to dig a little deeper to get clear about what’s happening so you can successfully address it.

Here’s the process I use with my clients to explore limiting beliefs and uncover more positive, supportive, and believable statements to replace them:

  1. Identify the limiting thought or belief. Write it down clearly and succinctly.
  2. Ask, “Is it true?”
  3. Ask, “Does it serve me NOW to have this belief?” (You can also look at how it might have served you in the past, like keeping you “safe” from risk.)
  4. Ask, “What if this were no longer important to me?” or “Who would I be without this belief?
  5. Identify a new supportive belief.

For example:

  1. Limiting belief: I’m not talented enough to be a successful writer.
  2. “Is it true?”: I don’t know. Maybe.
  3. Ask, “Does it serve me NOW to have this belief? How has it served me in the past?”
    • It no longer serves me because it is holding me back from even trying to succeed as a writer.
    • In the past it has served me to believe I am not talented because it has kept me from risking myself and being vulnerable in front of others.
  4. Ask, “What if this were no longer important to me?” or “Who would I be without this belief?
    • If believing in talent as a major predictor of success was no longer important to me, I would focus more clearly on working to master my craft.
    • Without this thought about talent, I would believe that hard work, dedication, learning, and perseverance would get me through.
  5. Identify a new supportive belief.
    • Success comes through hard work and perseverance. I won’t give up until I’ve mastered what I’m setting out to do.

Can you see and feel how that belief can inspire resolve and motivation to get back to work and keep writing?

#2 — Rewrite unsupportive questions

Tony Robbins says that to change our lives we have to change the questions we ask ourselves. I’ve always loved this notion.

When we ask ourselves unsupportive questions, our brains go to work finding answers. If you ask yourself something like, “Why is this so hard for me?” your subconscious mind will look for evidence and information to answer that question, which ultimately reinforces it.

For example, “Why is this so hard for me?” might lead to a host of limiting thoughts, beliefs, and excuses, like:

  • I’m not talented enough.
  • Writing is easy, I should know how to do this.
  • I’m too slow.
  • I don’t have enough time.
  • I don’t know what I’m doing.
  • I must be stupid.
  • My family was right about me, I am too lazy.

When you train yourself to ask better questions, your subconscious mind generates better answers.

For example, asking, “How can I make this easier for myself?” will generate an entirely different set of answers, like:

  • I could give myself more time.
  • I can get a writing buddy.
  • I might work with a mentor or writing coach.
  • I could take more classes and focus on mastering my craft.
  • I can experiment with more brainstorming techniques.
  • I can give myself rewards for my writing and make it more fun by taking a more playful attitude.

To amp up the power of a supportive question, use the phrase “I wonder” in front of it, like this: “I wonder how I could make this even easier for myself?”

Wondering comes from a place of openness and possibility, and allows you to consider and explore options you might have otherwise missed.

As a bonus, this is a great technique for solving story problems, too. 

Your Weekend Writer’s Assignment

This weekend, play around with some of the limiting thoughts and unsupportive questions you’ve noticed coming up around your writing. Are there any particularly sticky thoughts you might run through the process I’ve described? Do you notice any questions that tend to trip you up, which you might want to reframe?

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions I can help with at finaldraft@calledtowrite.com. Happy weekend!

Got Questions You Want Answered?

After working with hundreds of writers over the last seven years, writing coach and Called to Write Founder Jenna Avery has answers for you about how to balance your life and your screenwriting, trust yourself more as writer, fulfill your call to write, and more. Submit your questions to finaldraft@calledtowrite.com or via Jenna’s online form at  https://calledtowrite.com/final-draft and she may choose your question to answer anonymously in a future article. 

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