5 Negative Voices and How to Shush Them

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1. “Did you just write that? That’s pretty terrible. Kind of the worst, actually. Wait, do you even have an MFA?”

Variations of this sentence will snake through your brain and disturb your thoughts many times during the writing process. I’d like to say there is some algebraic equation to eviscerate this kind of thinking altogether, but chances are if you’re a writer you’re not very good at math. There is a little bit of magic available to help, however. There is a time of day where your personal naysayer is sleeping, or not home, or too lazy to bother. For me, it’s at 5:00 AM. Not to worry if you’re not a morning person, plenty of writers achieve this at night. Try out different times of day and see what works for you. The negative reminders that you are untalented and MFA-less won’t stay away all day, but there are pockets of time where it’s safe to venture out and get new material down. Create new work in those magic hours, edit when that heckler wakes up.

(How many markets should you send your novel out to?)


Column by Kim Korson, a writer, originally from Montreal, Canada.
She has written for
O Magazine and Moomah The Magazine. Kim now
lives in Southern Vermont with her husband and two kids. She doesn’t
get out much. Her memoir, I DON'T HAVE A HAPPY PLACE (Gallery
Books, April 2015), was praised by Jon Stewart.
Connect with her on Twitter.

2. “David Sedaris or [insert witer of choice] already does what you’re trying to do, and he/she does it way better. Why are you embarrassing yourself?]

You can spend many procrastination hours comparing yourself to your idols or shiny new writers on the scene, and I have, but all that will do is make you want to quit and take to the bed. My agent recently told me I was not allowed to think like this, that it’s a trap one can’t get out of. Instead, take a circuitous route around the trap. Read your mentors for inspiration, spend your internet hours researching your own material, and focus on yourself. Don’t make me tell you how unique you are.

3. “Your spices need alphabetizing. Now.”

You will find hundreds of pressing matters that need tending to while writing. You will need to redecorate your living room or chop firewood or watch toy commercials from the 70s (that one is research, I swear). You can get to all these things, once you’ve written. Make yourself a schedule, stay in your chair. Invest the small amount it costs to buy Freedom so you can’t check all your social media. No one cares if your onion powder is not next to the oregano, at least not at this moment. Create a reward system for yourself. Scratch-n-sniff sticker charts are nice.

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4. “Who cares what you have to say? Who are you anyway? Aren’t you really just a big fraud?”

I know, I know, everyone feels like a big fraud. This one is tough; a negative thought I struggle with every day. Don’t ask friends to help you with this because they will get very unicorny about it and you won’t believe them anyway. I am proud to report it passes eventually. However, I am not a rookie negative thinker and so I am able to write through it now. But, if you’re a novice pessimist, stay strong. You will eventually develop tiny mental callouses to get you through to the next struggle.

(Hear from authors who are marketing themselves and selling books online.)

5. “Time to hang up your keyboard. It’s probably best you go work at The Gap.”

Settle down, writer. Enough with the negativity already. You’ve read enough tips to know you just have to show up, stay put, and pipe down. And let’s be honest, you can’t fold a T-Shirt either.


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