In Zimbabwe, there’s a special word, Kufungisisa. It means ‘thinking too much’. I know this because I read an article about how Zimbabwe is attempting to help their citizens who are feeling down and discouraged, which they believe stems from over-thinking.
Kufungisisa. Thinking too much.
I think a lot of us suffer from this.
I’ve felt this way at many stages of my life. And sometimes this over-thinking starts to shroud my writing. I get down and discouraged. Lingering thoughts stalk my mind:
I’m not a good enough writer
That author/blogger/writer I found out about yesterday is so much more talented
Who am I to think I can publish stuff for other people to read?
Nobody will like what I have to say/write
I have nothing of value to share that hasn’t been said already
on and on
I think most writers have these thoughts at times. It’s not too concerning when the thoughts are temporary. But what happens when they don’t seem to go away? When they interfere with your writing, your life?
There are specific exercises and mindset shifts that help me when I’m feeling this way. Here are five of them. I hope they help you, too.
Remember that over-thinking concept? If you’re feeling discouraged about your writing, you’re probably thinking about it too much.
Sometimes you have to separate yourself from your writing and your writing ambitions. Give your mind a break from thinking about it all. I can tell that my mind is consumed by my writing when I have difficulty shutting the thoughts off and stepping away at the end of the day. I’ve developed an evening routine that helps. But like most things, it’s not infallible. I have to actively remind myself to let go.
Hobbies help, too. If you have a hobby that makes you lose track of time, do that. For me, I skate, take a walk, or do yoga. There’s no one magic pill that works all the time. It’s best to have an arsenal that you can pull from as needed.
We’re a perfectionistic bunch. That’s a strange sentence, isn’t it? I’m sure I could’ve worded it better. See, I’m doing it right now. We pick and niggle and edit and self-critique and berate ourselves for not reaching our word counts or or writing to a standard or completing projects.
This year, I’d planned to be so much further along (publishing-wise) than I am. That’s just one of my failed writing goals for the year. You won’t always meet your goals. But maybe your goals were out of reach, to begin with. Are you trying to accomplish the impossible and then mercilessly criticizing yourself when it doesn’t happen?
I’d guess that you are your harshest critic. And I’m giving you permission to stop. Just like that. Reevaluate your writing goals. Are they even doable? Adjust them if they aren’t. It’ll help stop the never-ending-cycle of self-disappointment.
Enjoy the process where you can
Overall, you should enjoy your writing.
Writing can be boring. Hopefully, this is rare. But let’s keep it real. I’ve had client projects that midway through felt painful. I don’t know any writers who enjoy their work 100% of the time.
When I’m on a particularly difficult writing project and I have to push through, I make a plan to write something fun immediately after.
It can be a blog post, article, poem, or even a book. I’ve written a few novels in non-traditional genres (under a pen name, of course). And why not? They felt fun and juicy to write, and they help me fall back in love with the writing process.
Look for the good
The evidence, as I call it. You’ve got to find ways to focus on the good aspects and experiences of writing. This is your evidence. Find it and revel in it, especially when you’re feeling discouraged.
*Dig up comments, testimonials, and raving thank you emails
*Re-read positive book reviews
*Recall your writing accomplishments that received praise and admiration
Be self-consumed for a day (or as many days as it takes). It’s not ‘PC’ to talk about self-consumption, but sometimes it feels good. Enjoy every minute of it.
Talk to your writing buddy
(or a professional if you need it)
Sometimes there are deep issues troubling us. It can be hard to write through them. And it’s doubly hard to publish anything when you’re feeling this way. Please get professional help if you need it.
You can also get a writing buddy or find a group. Writing is lonely enough. You need someone (or a group of people) you can turn to for feedback (and venting sessions). Try complaining about a writing project to a non-writer friend, they’ll probably roll their eyes and wonder why you’re getting so upset about your ‘hobby’ (yes, I’ve actually been told this before). A lot of people just cannot wrap their minds around the idea that you write for a living.
Other writers can relate. They can also stop you from throwing a whole manuscript in the dump when you feel it’s just not coming together (I’ve been there before, too).
You don’t have to go at this alone. Find groups, a buddy, some type of support system to help you on your writing journey. Every bit helps.