Negative Nelly

During my research, I came across some of the main issues writers struggle with while trying to complete a novel, as well as pursuing a successful career. One of these struggles is dealing with negativity, a concept so highly in practice among veterans and new writers alike, that techniques to avoid it have been implemented in regular routines. Every writer manages negative thinking differently, but by following some of these tips, writers can help make the writing process go much more smoothly.

Banish bad thoughts:

In her article, “Negative Nelly,” Jennifer Lawler discusses ways to help “banish” Nelly: “A friend of mine makes Nelly go sit on the porch when she’s working. Another sends hers to Tahiti. Both have little rituals they use to banish Nelly before they start writing” (31). Sometimes simply clearing one’s mind can help free it of negative thoughts. Giving these thoughts human qualities (treating negativity as a person rather than just thoughts) gives writer’s a tangible outlet for escape.

Fear of failure:

For many writers, negativity stems from a fear of failing and uncertainty. Lawler suggests two very important aspects for negating these fears. The first is to uncover the source of one’s fears in order to extinguish it. “Once you know what that big ball of fear is about, you can do something to address it” (Lawler 31). The second part is to focus on why one is writing to begin with. So what if the book never gets published? It’s important to learn from each experience and hone in on the skills utilized during the process. “In the end, we have to remember that the process is what matters, and we need to focus on that” (Lawler 32). Writing more and focusing on areas of weaknesses can improve one’s overall production.

Remembering the good:

Lawler also touches on how to banish negativity by combating it with constructive and positive thoughts. Instead of thinking “this sounds horrible” or “no one would ever read this”, focusing on one’s accomplishments maintains motivation and progress. For Lawler, those forms of encouragement can be contests the author has won, appreciative reviews people have given about their books, or compliments from editors or other writers. “When I first started, the accomplishment list was more about finishing chapters and sending out queries. It doesn’t matter what stage of your career you’re at, you’re accomplishing something you can keep in the list” (Lawler 31-2).


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