Writing Tip: Keeping positive

Glass Half EmptyIn my last writing tips article, I talked about that long slow period you might encounter at a show. This week I wanted to offer some suggestions at how to stay positive if things have gotten you down. I know, that is kind of an odd article to come from me. After all, I coined the phrase:

The glass is not only half-empty, the water is dirty.

By nature, I’m usually more of a realist, not an optimist. However, I have learned how to find the positive in things if I take the time to do so.

With that in mind, here are a few tips that may help you remain positive, be it at an event or anytime you are writing or trying to do get something done.

1. Avoid the trap of worrying about something that has not happened yet

Unless it is inevitable—like being in an out of control car sliding toward the edge of the bridge—things may not turn out as badly as you fear. Which means you don’t want to waste your time now lamenting a tragedy before it has occurred. Do not become paralyzed with fear, instead, use the time to your advantage.

If it is more than just idle fear and things look bleak, you probably still have time to make adjustments. Think of it as an edit or revision in real life. We are writers and fixing our manuscript is something we just do. Look around and try to find a way to edit the situation to make it work in your favor.

Even if it does go badly, use what went wrong as a learning experience. We often learn more from what goes wrong than we ever do from what goes right. Take a step back and distance yourself from the situation and be objective about what went wrong. Then the next time, do something different.

2. Try to get some rest

If you are exhausted, you won’t have the energy to put into staying positive. Staying positive when things make you want to be negative takes energy. If you don’t have anything left to give, that can have a ripple effect into your attitude.

Rest is important for how people perceive you. While you may not be feeling negative, if you are at a show and are standing there (or sitting there) half asleep, you are less likely to draw people over to your table than if you are awake and energized. When a group of individuals with energy come together, they form a feedback loop and everyone tends to get even more energetic. Think of it as a “party effect”.

A person without energy can suck it away from those with it. Yawn in a group of people and watch it spread. If those other people are looking for a party, they will avoid the people making them sleeping.

3. Normally, it’s not personal

Criticism is a part of writing. We seek it out to improve our craft and when we are ready for it, we can steel ourselves against the honest feedback.

Sometimes negative comments come at us when we least expect them and if we are not prepared, it can cut a little too deep. The key is to remember, that most honest feedback is not a personal attack; especially if the feedback is from someone who knows us. In the case of honest feedback, put on your clinical hat and examine the information to see if it is relevant. Even if you are an expert in a given field and know all there is to know, you may not be connecting with your intended audience and those comments can help you make a change that improves your work.

If the comments are intended to be hurtful. Well, I say: “Screw them!” But I only say that in my head and then I move on. You never want to get into an open war with someone, especially not on the internet. First, you will lose. Yes, most certainly you will lose. Internet trolls have the upper hand and while it is not fair, it is the way it is. Second, which is probably the more important, you will burn days or weeks perpetuating the negativity you want to avoid.

Put hurtful feedback in the trash and ignore it. I know easier said than done, but do it for yourself.

4. Change your music

For me, music can have a big impact on my mood.  If I am in a particular frame of mind, I can listen to certain playlists and amplify the effect.  When I am in a foul mood, I call it “putting on R.E.M. for a pick-me-up.” I do enjoy R.E.M. and if I am writing certain scenes, I will put on something like Everybody hurts to get in the right frame of mind.

However, if I am feeling a bit negative and don’t want to be, I’ll pick a playlist with songs that are full of energy. It will be something that makes me want to get up and dance. when it is something that moves my blood, before long I will feel my energy return. As I mention above, if you lack energy, it is hard to be positive, but I have found it is also hard to be negative when you are full of energy.

At a show, you can’t really put on some headphones and disappear, but hum a tune in your head and try to move about. If it is slow, take a quick walk around the floor and get some life back in your body. It will help.

5. Pretend to be positive

Finally for this article, a while back I reported on an a TED talk done by Amy Cuddy that said your body language shapes who you are.  In this talk, she described how pretending to be confident actually translated into becoming confident.  If you carry yourself in a confident manner, others will react as though you are confident and eventually, you will just be confident.  The talk is a good one and I really like her “fake it until you become it” message.

I would say the same techniques can apply to giving you a positive attitude. Behaviour tends to be learned responses and if we pretend to be positive (including the body language cues), others will treat us as though we are, and we will eventually just be more positive.


Will I ever completely abandon my realism for pure optimism? No. That would not be me. However, I have come to realize, that excessive negativity only hurts myself and if I will not look out for myself, who will? We each have to be our own best advocates and do what it takes to achieve our goals in life. Projecting a positive attitude is one of those things that can help.