Bad Writing Days

I’ve just come through a few days of bad writing. Or perhaps it would be better if I said a few bad days of writing. While both are true, approaching the territory of judgment is never a good idea for us writers. We all have plenty we can hold against ourselves. I hear from my clients all the time about their laziness, their lack of discipline, their ignorance, their poor grasp of grammar, their having nothing to say, etc. etc. And I know how they use all of these accusations to keep themselves from the page.

Luckily for my clients and me, I learned long ago that most—if not all—of our self-criticism just isn’t true. Far from it. All the insults we hurl at ourselves are born from our anxiety about writing, anxiety that threads its way back, ultimately, to our childhood. And if we can just stop listening to—and believing—those insults, our words would have a much better chance of finding their way to the page.

We all have bad days for writing. Just like we all have days when we feel less energetic than others. Or less optimistic. Or less content. But once we become aware of the way our moods and health naturally cycle, we know we’ll feel happy and energized once again and are able to brush off the bad days.

For many reasons, we have a difficult time seeing our bad days of writing in the same way. Instead, we let them grab us by the ankles and pull us down, defeated. I knew I couldn’t write, we tell ourselves. My last book( story, essay, novel) was just a fluke. It won’t happen again. I should just give up.

What we need to do instead is note every good writing day, and keep track of these in our writing savings account. Then, when we hit a few difficult days, we can open the account and catch ourselves before we are brought down. We’ll quickly see that just a few weeks earlier, we had five great days in a row. And just before that, we’d hit a snafu that held us up temporarily.

Neurosurgeon Rick Hanson writes that we humans are hardwired to remember the negative. This was once necessary, due to the environment we lived in. Now, however, we are no longer living in a jungle surrounded by hidden predators and enemies, and can rewire our brains toward the positive. To do this, he advises that the first step is making certain to notice pleasurable moments during the day.

Keeping a savings account of good writing days does just that. It helps us remember those times when writing felt fluid and energized, when we were happy to be sitting in front of our computer or paper and putting words on the page. And the more we take note of those moments, the better they accumulate to carry us through and over the kind of bad days writing I recently experienced.

Small Crack in Metal


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