Imagine your best friend started going on about her writing woes. She can’t stick with a manuscript. She never finishes anything. All her ideas are stale. She doesn’t write enough per day. She just plain sucks.
What would you say?
Chances are, it’d be something along the lines of, “No! You’re doing so great! I loved that last thing you wrote! I know you can do it, and it’s going to be awesome.” Maybe, if she really were slacking, it’d be more along the lines of, “Okay. Fine. Then what are you going to do about it?” Followed by, “You’re great! I believe in you! I know you can turn this around.”
Either way, the bottom line is that we would never let our best friends put themselves down without either helping to build them back up, or offering to help them get their asses in gear.
So why do we let ourselves do it?
I had a text conversation with my critique partner recently, where she asked me how things were going. I told her, but in and amongst all the little status updates, I mentioned how worried I was about this manuscript actually being terrible, and how discouraged I was by this, and how put off I was by that. She did what any bestie would do, and reassured me that I was making great progress and all my fears were likely unfounded, and that even if they weren’t we’d work together to get the wrinkles ironed out.
I took her reassurances with a grain of salt and changed the subject, asking how her stuff was going. She went on to express her own doubts about how her project was going, and I immediately chimed in to tell her that of course everything was going to work out, because she’s amazing.
Apparently, even my lack of self-awareness has its limits. How quickly did I go from bemoaning all my own problems and assuming the worst about myself to yelling at her for doing the exact same thing???
The great, wise Amy Poehler put out a video a couple of years ago wherein she counseled a viewer on how best to combat body image issues. She first advised the person to be grateful for the things about her body that are amazing and that she can easily be proud of. She then told the person to talk to herself as if she were her own best friend.
It’s a trick us writers could stand to adopt for ourselves.
So I’m challenging myself, and all of you: Whenever you get down on yourself, imagine what you would say to your best friend if she were saying all the stuff you were thinking.
I have a pretty strong feeling you wouldn’t accept that self-defeating crap from her. So let’s not dare accept it from ourselves, either.