Stop beating yourself up

Blog Stop beating yourself up

Self-criticism will sabotage your writing career at every turn. You simply must get it under control. This is especially true for those of us who have put our faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Knowing we are sons and daughters of God requires us to silence the negative self-speak with the truth of His Word:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Author and communications consultant RiShawn Biddle wrote on this very subject in a recent post for Michael Hyatt’s blog, titled Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic, which we have excerpted here:

Does this one ring a bell? You, reader, are your own worst critic. Your penchant for nitpicking every detail and harshly critiquing your accomplishments makes it difficult for you to make progress or sometimes even get simple work done.

If it doesn’t apply to you or someone close to you, then you have a great day. If it does, then read on, Macduff.

What your inner self-critics needs to do is learn is that focusing on your strengths is a better pathway to success than fixating on weaknesses. Take these three steps and you will become your best critic and champion.

1. Realize you are more than enough

Self-criticism is normal and even healthy in small doses. But as the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. When you always approach your work with negativity, it’s paralyzing. It also makes you more susceptible to criticism from others who may not have your best interests at heart.

You need to know that much of the criticism in your head has no resemblance to what you are actually doing in real time. More often than not, you are more than enough to tackle the task at hand.

Realizing you are enough starts by applying Apple Founder Steve Jobs’s famed adage that “you can only connect [the dots] looking backward.” Often, it means looking at your past successes, as well as previous pitfalls, and how they can help you tackle the challenges ahead.

2. Stop with the negative talk

Self-criticism starts with negative words. It’s not just the I-can’ts and the not-good-enoughs. Every time you critique a meaningless detail, or nitpick a perfectly good presentation, you put yourself on the path to lifelong self-sabotage.

Simply ignoring the words of criticism isn’t enough. You must combat them with affirmations of your capacity to succeed. This starts at the end of the day by looking at the big picture of success as well as listing and reciting I cans, I ams, and even I wills — affirming your ability to achieve. By affirming these things before going to bed, you get ready for success the next day.

Another strategy is to embrace the concept of good enough. Along the lines of what Wired revealed about what consumers wanted, your colleagues expect your projects be successful, simple, economical, not perfect. Once you change your expectations of what you should do, you become less self-critical.

Finally, write down your past successes so you can reference them every now and then. Even the simplest signposted achievement can cause you to feel positive about your ability to succeed in the future. Those positive words can crowd out the negative words stuck on repeat in your head.

3. Keep building your strengths

One reason why we are so self-critical is that we become fixated on our shortcomings. It becomes easier to focus on what we lack rather on our considerable skills and successes.

This is a mistake. Fixating on weaknesses takes precious time needed from building upon the strengths you already have.

More often than not, your shortcomings are the flip sides of those very strengths you already possess. Lacking a master’s degree, for example, may be the reason why you put so much time mastering your work. Your blunt speaking is the result of your leadership skills. Your stumbles in public speaking are matched by your considerable rhetorical skills as a writer.

Put your energy into building up your strengths. That includes learning more about your strengths as well as the key tools you will need to get better. And learn to tout these strengths instead of talking about your shortcomings.

What you say will affect how you think about yourself. At some point it will probably dawn on you that you were more than enough, after all.

If you find yourself in the text of this article, we hope that you will take its advice to heart, as well as the truths of what God says about you.

At Certa Publishing, we hate the thought of any of our authors beating themselves up through self-criticism. We believe in you and what God has put within you! If you need encouragement today, please reach out.

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Don’t do it! Don’t quit!

 

Don't do it!Don't quit! (2)

We’ve all been there. At the quitting point. When we decide that our work doesn’t matter. Or our voice isn’t needed. Or we just don’t have what it takes to get published. Author Gina Detwiler (co-author of Priscilla Shirer’s highly-acclaimed Prince Warrior series), can relate. Be encouraged by these tips straight from God’s Word:

If I had to pick the hardest thing to deal with as a writer, it’s rejection.

To any young person who asks me for advice in pursuing a writing career, I tell them: get used to rejection. The most famous authors in the world faced rejection, sometimes for long periods. We have a writer saying: “R.I.P.” Rejection Isn’t Personal. But it sure feels like it is! We writers tend to be sensitive, insecure people whose work becomes our identity. If a publisher or editor or agent rejects our story, it’s like they are rejecting us, even though the two are not the same.

I’ll be honest, here: I have quit writing many times. I’ve thought I should get a “real job,” like a plumber. Plumbers bring true joy to people. Nothing like an unclogged septic tank to make you break into a happy dance.

My resolve has never lasted long. But here’s the question: how do you know, when you are doing a thing, that God wants you to keep doing that thing?

One thing I do know, rejection and discouragement don’t qualify as reasons to quit. Remember Elijah? The Prophet of God who, after the greatest success of his career on Mount Carmel, sank into such a deep depression that he wished he’d never been born? (This is in 1 Kings 18-19, if you are following along in your Bibles.) Why? Because his super-duper miracle hadn’t changed a single heart (though it did stop a few). It only made his enemies madder. So, he thought, what’s the point? Why do I even bother?

I love that God answers his weeping and wailing with: lunch.

So, step # 1 When you want to quit: Have lunch. Then take a nap.

God makes Elijah some food and then tells him to take a nap. Can you relate?

Once Elijah is feeling stronger physically, God’s next direction is to take a walk. To the top of a mountain. I’ve found that “walking it out” is a great way to sort through the stuff of life. (Not running, mind you. Nothing good comes of running, LOL.) It’s also a great way to burn off those lunch calories.

Once he’s had a good nap and a nice walk, God addresses Elijah’s spiritual malaise. He asks, point blank: “Elijah, what are you doing here?” God’s not interested in his physical location, but his spiritual one. Elijah starts right in with more complaining: “I’m doing all this amazing stuff for You, but it was a total failure and I’m all alone, so please kill me now” (Paraphrasing here!)

No matter how sure we are of God’s role for us, there are times when we all think: “All I’ve done has gotten me exactly nowhere, so I must be a failure.”

Step # 2: Vent. This is healthy, for a time.

God’s not a fan of us grumbling and complaining to each other, but He’s okay with taking our laments directly to him. After all, there’s a whole book in the Bible called “Lamentations.” God lets Elijah repeat his complaints two times. But He doesn’t say, “There, there Elijah, I know how you feel. I’ve been there.”

Nope.

When Elijah is done venting, God gives him a to-do list. It’s like God is saying, “Okay, feel better now? Great. Here’s what you’re going to do.”

Step # 3: Get back to work. Possibly in a new direction.

Keep in mind: God might tell you to do something you never thought you’d be doing. Elijah wasn’t going to be preaching or performing great public miracles for awhile. He wasn’t going to take down the evil King Ahab all by himself. God has something completely different in mind.

The first thing God tells Elijah to do is to anoint a Gentile king (and not a particularly good one) who would eventually attack Israel and Judah and wipe out all those who failed to heed his warnings on Mount Carmel. Then Elijah was to anoint Jehu as king over Israel, who would take care of all those that the other guy missed, including Elijah’s arch-nemesis, the wicked queen Jezebel.

Long story short: “You do your job, Elijah, and I’ll do mine.”

This didn’t happen overnight. In fact, Elijah wasn’t even there to see it happen, but from that moment on, he never doubted God’s word.

The last thing God gave Elijah: a friend. He led him to seek out Elisha who, the Bible says, followed him and “ministered to him.” Now he was not alone anymore. Their friendship is one of the sweetest and most fruitful in the whole Bible.

Step # 4: Find a friend.

When I was at the point of giving up, God gave me a friend. I found her via the internet, when I went looking for an editor who could help me fix up a novel I had decided to self-publish after trying for months to get a traditional publisher. She turned out to be not only a wonderful writer and editor but a great encourager. We eventually formed a writer’s group. We meet once a month to vent, critique each other’s work, and encourage each other. I can’t tell you what a difference it has made. Having a friend who is walking the same journey as you, who can offer encouragement and correction in equal measure, is vital.

So here’s the bottom line: if one of the greatest of God’s prophets can have a major identity crisis, then without a doubt so will we. Yet perhaps this is exactly the sort of thing we need to move us in the direction God wants us to go.

So until I start getting brochures for plumbing schools in the mail, I’m going to keep doing this thing and trust God with all the rest of it. I hope you will too.

If you feel like quitting, we hope that you’ll reach out to us. At Certa Publishing, we are full of resources, strategies and encouragement to keep writers on the path to publishing and beyond! Contact us today.

John Piper: Why I Write

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John Piper may be best known to you as a writer, or perhaps a theologian. And he is surely among the greats in both categories. However, you may not know that he is also an accomplished poet. In fact, he annually creates story poems centering on Biblical characters for his congregation each year for Advent. Piper’s works were recently published in a 13-volume set titled The Collected Works of John Piper, of which 140 pages are poems.

In tribute to this momentous publication, Piper penned a beautiful commentary on his love for poetry and writing as a whole, named Secretary of Thy Praise, which we have excerpted here. Be sure to continue to the end for his lovely poem I Write.

 

To Gaze on His Glory

Since not everyone revels in poetry, here’s a brief bit of prose to answer the same question, Why do I write so much? It’s a combination of my bent and God’s beauty. At about age 17, something happened. Before that, I avoided reading. After that, I’ve never stopped writing. Does that make sense? The best I can make of it is that, at about 17, I discovered that writing was a way of seeing that more than compensated for reading so slowly.

Hence, the bent. Now add to that, at about age 22, a supernova season of seeing God. I entered a world where the bent and the beauty became a catalytic combination of joyful energy. I have lived in that world for almost fifty years. Here’s a taste of how it works:

  • There is a greatness in the beauty of God. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). And all his works share in his greatness: “Great are the works of the Lord” (Psalm 111:2). I love to look at greatness. Since writing is a way of seeing, I write.
  • There is a wonder in the beauty of all God’s works and words. “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14). Every heart craves wonder. Woe to me if I walk through a world of wonders and grumble about the humidity. Even the psalmist prays to see this: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). God answers this prayer for me through writing. So, I write.
  • There is depth in the beauty of all God’s thoughts. “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalm 92:5). God spare me from wading near the beach for fear of your depths. Few things have pushed me more regularly into the deeps than writing. So, I write.
  • There is a vast value in the beauty of God’s mind. “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17). Life is a constant battle not to believe the devil’s portrait of this world as preferable to the preciousness of God. Writing about this treasure helps me see it. So, I write.
  • There is an endlessness in the beauty of God. It is inexhaustible, and will be, for all eternity. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us . . . they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5). For those who have the capacity to see, there will be no boredom in the endless ages of the world to come. Writing has delivered me from many a fearful season of threatened boredom with life. So, I write.
  • There is a gladness in the beauty of God. And a gladness in finding it out. “You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:4). “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). How can we not make this study the happy work of a lifetime — and beyond. Nothing aids my study of God’s works like writing. So, I write.
  • There is a legacy in the beauty of God. There is nothing better to bequeath. “One generation shall commend your works to another” (Psalm 145:4). “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Psalm 71:18). Writing is a proclamation that will be heard beyond the grave. So, I write.

To Praise His Splendor

Taped in front of me on my computer monitor are these lines from George Herbert. They express my sense of calling:

Of all the creatures both in sea and land Onely to Man thou hast made known thy wayes, And put the penne alone into his hand, And made him Secretarie of thy praise.

Secretarie of thy praise. I only wish I could have done it better. Perhaps in whatever time remains, his grace will make a more ready scribe.

I Write

Some travel where they’ve never been,
    Some trace the paths within,
Some peer into the depths, and grope,
    Some scan the skies, and hope.
They long to see, 
    If faint or bright.
      Since I agree, 
         I write.

Some study, marking ev’ry page,
    Some probe the ancient sage,
Some perch cross-legg’d and chants rehearse,
    Some through the night converse
To understand 
   And seize the light.
      I set my hand 
         To write.

Some eat at gourmet restaurants,
   Some mortify their wants,
Some blitz along the Autobahn,
   Some plod the marathon
To feel the zest, 
   Enjoy the height.
      I share the quest, 
         And write.

Some paint, some build, some act the play,
   Some draw, some spin the clay.
Some cook, some sew, and some compose,
   Some dream, and some propose,
All to create. 
   Ah, such delight!
      I bear the trait, 
         And write.

Some heal, some shield, some educate,
   Some sway the magistrate,
Some feed, some serve to make shalom,
   Some bring the stranger home.
They seek to love. 
   I too invite
      The cordial Dove, 
         And write.

Some sing, some leap, some lift their hands,
   Some bow and keep commands,
Some kneel, some sway, some close their eyes,
   Some lie prostrate, some rise.
And all to praise. 
   Is this my flight?
      Oh, all my days! 
         I write.

And may it be that someday we,
   In heaven, sinlessly,
At last may see, and understand,
   And feel, and put our hand
And spirit to create, and love,
   And praise. Then to the Dove,
All-powerful and pure and high,
   My prayer will be: That I,
With crowning skill 
   And perfect sight,
      Be summoned still 
         To write.

Does Piper’s poem ring true with you? Leave us a comment below and share what motivates you to write.

The Potter’s Tools: The Divine Work of Writing

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Imagine a half-finished sculpture on the artist’s table. Strewn about are various chisels, brushes and tools. Chunks of clay lie discarded on the floor. The master leans intently over the object, pressing it here and there with his hands, refining… cutting… scraping. Yet look at the delight in his eyes. Look at how his fingers dance to an unheard song, molding and shaping, with a sense of what will be.

We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.  Isaiah 64:8

You see, the Lord did not lay down His creative skills on the sixth day. He is still at work, forming and fashioning us into new creations. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  You can be confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

Have you considered that the Lord may be using your role as a writer as one of his potter’s “tools?” But this work is uncomfortable. If you’ve been writing long enough, you’ve surely experienced the sting of rejection. Perhaps an editor has returned your work with more red ink than you thought possible. Maybe your manuscript has not been received with the praise you expected, or has even been panned or criticized by your friends, family or the public.

Scrape. Push. Cut. Do you feel the potter’s tools?

As believers, we have a choice in our response to the pain of His reshaping. Resist or submit. And James reminds that He responds accordingly. God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble (James 4:6).

What if we viewed writing as a new opportunity to submit to the potter’s work? Could we receive the editor’s remarks as a chance to grow and stretch? Can we hold our words with an open hand, allowing the Lord to refine them and infuse them with His voice? When we feel ready to quit, can we ask Him to help us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1)? What if we approached our mentors with a humble heart, asking for their constructive criticism, and appreciating their input?

Jeff Goins, bestselling author and blogger, suggests,

A good writer is humble. Regardless of skill, she is committed to seeing the writing process through to completion. No matter how grueling or hard, she will write. And she will get better…

This all begins with humility. Which really means a willingness to listen and change. To do the work and become a professional.

If you do this, if you take the time to make your work great by never settling for good enough, it will make all the difference. So start persevering today.

Let’s view our writing as more than work, more than a pastime, but as a divine process, a tool in the hand of the Master. Is there really any better place to be than on the table of the Potter?

Writing Prompt: An hour as your 10 year old self

We love this writing prompt from Death to Stock. Write your own response!


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If you could spend 1 hour as your 10-year-old self… where would you go? What would you do?

Let’s say time travel existed, or you suddenly had the ability to revisit who you once were… as a 10 year old.

To be clear: this would not mean you’d be an adult in a 10 year old’s body. You’d actually traveling back in time to the body & mind you had as a kid.

There’s just one catch. You can only spend an hour there. After that, you can’t go back.

Where would you go?

Back to your childhood playroom?

To your particularly awesome 10th birthday party?

To Disneyworld?

What would you do?

Play an old game you used to love?

Hug your mom/dad?

Run through the sprinklers on a summer day?

Think about it. Write about it. Then… maybe go run through some sprinklers.