The Way You Think Is Directly Linked to Your Writing Success

Ideal Dream LifeThis is a touchy topic because most writers aren’t even aware they have a problem with it. It’s something we all do, but that we examine very rarely. And when we try to change, our resistance kicks in big time and freezes us in our tracks.

It’s the curse of limiting beliefs.

A limiting belief is a perspective on some part of the world that you take to be unquestionably true, and that has rooted down into your psyche at the level of the subconscious. It’s a cognitive blind spot that blocks and disconnects you from your true potential.

And every writer has them.

Some of the most common limiting beliefs I run across in writers are:

Artists have it harder than people in other professions

Writers face more competition than people who work in “conventional” careers

Writing demands that you put in years of thankless hard work before you can even be noticed

The publishing industry is offering less to writers and opportunities for new writers are scarce

The thing about a limiting belief is that when it crops up inside your head it presents itself as an objective truth. This “truth” makes you feel depressed and alone—and powerless. Needless to say, your ego swallows it hook, line, and sinker. And most of the time, we’re more than willing not to fight the ego on it. Limiting beliefs become entrenched for a reason: They’re comforting, and familiar.

If we’ve been giving ourselves an excuse as to why we’re not reaching our full writing potential, the last thing the human ego wants is to have that excuse taken away from it.

So how do you spot limiting beliefs?

The trick is to start paying attention to your negative emotions, and then to trace those emotions to the thoughts hiding just behind them. You can usually catch your limiting beliefs embedded in the thoughts that explain to you why you can’t do something, or why you have to do something else. The main theme is powerlessness. Your limiting beliefs want to ensure that you feel cut off from your power of choice.

Another red flag is when you find yourself blaming others—especially abstract, general, faceless entities. Like the government. Or the publishing industry. Or a whole body of other people you’ve never met and who you don’t know personally.

A typical limiting belief sounds like this:

I’ll never get published or be appreciated for my work. The writing industry today makes it impossible for writers like me.

Okay, so you’ve identified a limiting belief just as it buzzed into your ear like a bloodthirsty mosquito. Now, how do you swat it?

First, cut the crap on the blame game. Your life is your responsibility and no one else’s. Your writing success is completely up to you. But that doesn’t mean you get a free pass to turn the blame around on yourself. Blaming is never helpful, in any form. To get clear on the truth we’ve got to disengage with blame and move into open-minded acceptance.

So now that we’ve cut the blame we’re left with:

I’ll never get published or appreciated for my work.

The next step is to write that statement down and then follow it with the word because. You can list as many reasons as come up for you in that moment. The important thing is to be as honest as possible, even if what comes out doesn’t make sense. The subconscious logic behind our limiting beliefs is never rational, so don’t stress yourself out looking for reason. For instance, something like this might come out:

I’ll never get published or appreciated for my work because…I don’t deserve it.

That’s a very common limiting belief. If it shows up for you, rest assured that you’re in very good company with a ton of other writers who struggle with the same thing.

The last step is to compassionately look at the reasons why you feel that way, and to replace your past, skewed reasoning with a more balanced and truly objective view. Like this:

Everyone deserves a fair shot at success, and I am no exception.

Uprooting limiting beliefs and replacing them with a real, accurate assessment of your strengths and abilities can be life-changing for writers, and for all creative types of people. Start by giving a few minutes each day to your thought patterns, and whether or not they’re holding you back. When you’re ready to take the next step, level up your game by rewriting your thoughts to reflect the new, more balanced you. The you who realizes every single one of us has the power of choice.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out:

Why Do Some Writers Have So Much Trouble Actually Writing?

7 Signs You’re Living Your Life Purpose

The Surprising Truth about Successful Writers

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6 Comments

  • Reply Kim Smith 3 December, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Lauren, this is exactly what I’ve been working on recently, although not directly in relation to my writing. I’ve been seeing a therapist as I go through my divorce, and she has taught me a great deal about how powerful our thoughts can be. I’m learning to be more aware of my thought patterns and to alter them to reflect a more positive outlook on life. It’s amazing when you start paying attention to what you’re telling yourself with that silent voice that never stops talking. I’m realizing that I have the power to completely change my life, just by being more aware of my thoughts. It’s very empowering. And now I’m looking forward to seeing how my writing will improve too. Thanks for this!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 4 December, 2014 at 9:35 am

      I totally agree with you Kim! Our thoughts can be our most powerful ally, or our most powerful enemy. It’s so interesting how they can affect everything down to the smallest detail in our lives. Thanks so much for reading and commenting on this. The more I learn about it, the more fascinated I am.

  • Reply Bethany Reid 5 December, 2014 at 9:15 am

    Love this post and am forwarding it to the people in my Artist’s Way group. Thank you!

  • Reply Glynis Jolly 5 December, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Although I’ve always believed that I could write something worthwhile, I stopped myself for years because I thought I’d need to put in oodles of time to achieve anything. Now I’m 60 years old and am writing the first draft of my first book because I finally feel that I have that abundance of time to spend on it. Why didn’t I use the bits and pieces of time I had all along? Your guess is as good as mine.

    I may take forever writing this story but I’m determined to get it done now.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 6 December, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Well, I have just published my book, but I spent several years procrastinating, because I couldn’t face the work involved (and it was as hard as I feared). Once I had honestly eliminated the other reasons for continuing to play with the manuscript, this was the only option left. I didn’t think I could do it, but yesterday was official publication day. So, if anyone needs encouragement, you can amaze yourself.

  • Reply Carnival of Creativity 1/18/15 | The Writing Reader 18 January, 2015 at 3:14 am

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