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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, September 15, 2008

Think Positive! by Diane Gaston

It is vitally important to develop a healthy body, but we also need a healthy mind, one with a positive outlook on life. A positive outlook has been scientifically shown to improve school performance, improve immune function, hasten recovery from surgery, even increase the chances of recovery from cancer. There are many self-help books that advocate a positive outlook, including the hugely popular book and video, The Secret, and, of course, Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking.

How, you ask, can we think positive in the writing field when 99% of the experience is rejection? We’re rejected on query letters, partials, full manuscripts. If published we get rejected on proposals or criticized in negative reviews. We enter contests and get trashed by judges or scored just low enough to miss the finals.

How can a person stay positive amidst all this? Much is out of our control, too. You might write a terrific book only to discover that publisher’s biggest author just delivered one with a similar premise. Or you get this close to selling and the line closes. Or the publisher folds.

You can’t change the writing world, but you can change the way you think about it. You can train yourself to think positive. Here are some tips:

1. Be aware of your automatic thoughts
Automatic thoughts are those things we say to ourselves in response to the things that happen to us. Notice how often those thoughts are negative. We all have them.

For example, you receive a rejection letter from a publisher. You throw it down and think, “I’ll never sell!” That’s a negative automatic thought.

2. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
Don’t let those rejection experiences get you down. You are allowed to say, “That stinks!” but it is a different thing to say “that stinks” than say “I’ll never sell.”

A positive thought could be: “I’m just like Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King and JK Rowling!” Or “Won’t this editor be sorry when I hit the NYT bestseller list.” Or “What can I learn from this?” “What do I do next?”

3. Reframe the experience
Instead of defining the experience in a negative way, find a way to think about it positively.
Before I sold I thought of myself as on a journey to publication. Everything that happened, good or bad, brought me closer to publication. When those rejections or abysmal contest scores came in, I made myself think, “I’m one step closer!”

4. Repeat positive affirmations
I have a friend, Noeline, who taught me about positive affirmations, things to repeat to yourself to keep you in that “positive thinking” mode. Things like:

Never never never give up--Winston Churchill (my favorite)

“Follow your bliss!”

“God wants me to be happy.” (Noeline first gave me this notion. What a revelation! I’ve repeated it often to myself)

“I deserve happiness.” (same thing without a religious context)

5. Visualize positive results
This weekend Noodler Trish Milburn spoke to Washington Romance Writers. She told us about an empty picture frame she kept above her monitor for a photo of herself next to a bookstore shelf containing her first book. She actively imagined that photo.

Here is that photo. Trish with her debut book, A Firefighter in the Family, on bookshelves now.

So, think positive, believe you will succeed, believe you deserve it and picture it happening. You will feel better, be healthier, and will exude confidence in your inevitable success.

What negative automatic thoughts plague you?
What do you do to keep yourself positive?
Do you have any positive affirmations you would like to share?

See Diane’s new book video here! Diane’s Scandalizing the Ton is available now on eHarlequin and coming to bookstores in October.

Diane is also participating in the Unleash Your Story challenge as part of the Wet Noodle Posse Team, raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. Help her earn her donation goal here.

Read Noodler Colleen Gleason's story about her son with CF here.

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At 5:00 AM, Blogger Margay said...

This is a fantastic post! I think everyone - not just writers - should print it out and put it somewhere they can read it every day! Thank you for this.

At 8:37 AM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

I agree with Margay, O Divine One, this is a great post! And I AM going to print it out and hang it up where I can see it. Of course Diane has helped me so much by framing every hard knock I have received so that I can look at it in a better light.

I like Trish's picture frame idea. One of my CPs, Gillian, gave me a gorgeous picture frame when I heard I was a finalist in the Golden Heart. She said it was for a photo of myself when I win the Golden Heart. I didn't win this year, but there is always next year. I am determined to have a photo to put in that frame - either a Golden Heart win or a picture like Trish's of myself with my first book on the shelf.

I like the "I'll show that editor!" attitude. I had a voice teacher who said "Success is the best revenge."

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Margay and Louisa, thank you so much for telling me you found this post helpful!

I've learned so much from this writing life and one of those things is to think positive. I was doing all these things as a therapist but I never did them for me until I started writing. It kept me from getting discouraged when those inevitable disappointments came. Still does!

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I created a positive writing enviroment. Several years ago, I painted my writing space a lovely garnet red and stenciled inspirational quotes on a border. I also framed contest certificates and my GH finalist poster.

At 11:26 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

How lovely, Mo!!!

At 12:01 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Being raised a Christian Scientist (I'm not one anymore), I was trained to think positively. In fact, I think they take it a little too far: If bad things are happening to you, it's because you're not positive enough. I'm almost always optimistic, but when things get really, really bad, I acknowledge that sometimes badness happens, and it's okay to be sad about it. But being sad is not something most people need to learn how to do. ;] Great post, Diane!

At 12:51 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Thanks Diane! You are one of the most positive, affirming people I've had the pleasure to meet.

To stay positive I take joy in my work. I love my stories and have a devil of a good time working on them. (Usually.) I see publication and readership as the inevitable by-product and a bonus.

One of the best things about writing is meeting and communicating with other writers. We're a cool tribe. :-)

Esri, I agree! I hang with a lot of "New Agers," and the tendency in that crowd to take the Law of Attraction to extremes makes me giggle and roll my eyes at the same time. They totally discount other important dictums such as the Law of Chaos and the Law of Whatever.

This behavior has earned me the title of Judgmental amongst my friends. I tell them I prefer to be called Discerning. LOL

At 1:53 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Good points, Esri and Janegeorge!
Thinking positive can go to extremes. There is no doubt in my mind that bad things can happen to good people, but even then you can say, "Okay, this is horrific, but I can endure it."

Check my Risky Regencies post of last week
If Viktor Frankl and Bruno Bettleheim and others could endure the Concentration Camps, maybe I can endure the bad things that come into my life.

The LAST thing I believe is that anyone deserves bad things as punishment -- unless they are child molesters or serial killers or something.

Thanks for saying I'm positive, Jane! I consider that a compliment!

At 2:37 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Yup. It's a compliment.
Staying even keel and optimistic in a healthy, non-Pollyanna-ish way is a real life skill.

You're a good role model. Judging from today's financial sector headlines, we'll be needing role models.

With the passing of David Wallace Foster, I think the difference between thinking positively and struggling with medical depression bears mentioning. Diane's post on Eric Maisel and his book over at Risky Regencies was also excellent.

People close to me struggle with paralytic depression and borderline schizophrenia. I'm grateful that the choice to think positively remains in my power.

At 2:46 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Love this post, Diane. Thinking positive is one of my favorite subjects. I used to complain all the's easy to complain about not having enough time to write, the dust, the weeds, the kids, Oh brother! All that complaining got me nowhere fast. Learning to be grateful for the simple health and my children's health and for having a roof over my head and food on the table is what helped me learn to think positive. It's made all the difference in the world.

Yeah, bad things are going to happen to good people, but worrying about it doesn't help and how we react to bad situations can make all the difference.

I love seeing Trish's picture! I love the empty frame idea. I'm going to give it a shot!

Louisa, yes, there is always next year. Until then, you should put a picture of you with your finalist ribbon in the frame!

At 3:17 PM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Oops, that's David Foster Wallace. And I can't even blame dyslexia.

Yes, Louisa, go for it next year! You've got your Royal Ascot win up on that wall, right? :-)

At 10:01 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

You'd better believe it, Jane! I have all of my finalist certificates and wins up on my wall as inspiration. The really neat thing is I started a tea cup collection - nothing but English bone china. Every time I final in a contest I go to the local antique mall and buy myself a teacup. But for my Golden Heart final my Mom took me to the antique mall and SHE insisted on buying the tea cup. The pattern? Royal Doulton Mandalay. My Royal Ascot 2007 pattern is Staffordshire Mayfair and my Royal Ascot 2008 is Royal Doulton Josephine. I hadn't thought about it, but I have some photos of myself with my lovely pink ribbon. I WILL put one in that frame!

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Jane, I think depression and other mental illnesses like schizophrenia are just that--illnesses requiring treatment, something different than the depressed feelings that come from life's disappointments. Those we can change by changing our thinking.

Theresa, you are right. How we react to our bad experiences is the key. And I agree that there is no sense worrying about something that hasn't happened yet.

Louisa, I love the tea cup idea! All you have to do is look at them and you remember your successes!

At 11:48 AM, Blogger janegeorge said...

Absolutely, Diane. That was the point I was trying to make. Guess I needed to be more clear. Positive thinking is a wonderful tool, but it has its limitations.

In all honesty, denial and self-delusion play a part in holding a dream against tall odds. The "I'll show them someday" scenario is a good example. Self-awareness is the key to keeping it in the realm of positive and healthy.


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