I spent the last couple of days in Fire Island writing. Even though I’m in a time-share house this summer and sometimes surrounded by people, my concentration is much better. Here’s a photo of me and the sunset I can see from my office window.
I also worked with one student on their novel and another on a screenplay. In both cases was a question that I’m often asked: how can I make my story great? Of course, my answer is always, how do you know that it isn’t? But unfortunately, this inner sense of knowing is often distorted by our relentless self-criticism, which leads to self-doubt, which leads to disappointment, and indecision. Then we become so emotional that we can’t write.
1. Commit to paying attention to your thoughts all day long.
2. Notice when you start to feel disappointed.
3. Ask yourself what you were supposed to do and finish that you didn’t do well enough.
4. Notice what the expectation was that you failed to meet.
5. Write it down.
6. Go for a walk or do something to get yourself back into a good mood.
7. Look at what you wrote. From a perspective of rational thinking, determine whether or not this expectation is high, low, or reasonable.
If your expectation makes you feel bad, it means that it’s not accurate. Your job is to decide what is appropriate and determine what steps you must take to make it happen. Repeating this process often, sometimes 100 times a day, will help you see how the destructive pattern begins, and then you can stop it.
8. Prepare a series of positive thoughts in advance. You can switch from a critical to a happy thought if you are prepared. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Each time you successfully switch, you generate happy, feel-good chemicals in your brain. The brain tries to reproduce the last thought you had, so you can see why creating a stream of happy thoughts can be very beneficial.
Professor Marilyn Horowitz