Monday, September 16, 2013

All the Feels: Reframing for Writers

In my therapy practice I spend a lot of time teaching teens to view things in different ways. This can be as basic as asking them to see drug use from their parents' perspective to completely restructuring the way they view the world around them and their interactions with it. Aaron Beck and his buddies dubbed this intervention "Cognitive Restructuring". Modern therapists call it "reframing."

But it isn't just a trick for shrinks. Writers do this all the time. Heck, that's pretty much what dystopian is all about: changing the way we view the world and all its possible futures. It's what great books do when they touch readers long after the book gathers dust on their shelves. My personal favorite author based an entire book about exactly this concept:

“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”
~~Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockingbird

When we change the way we see things, the things we see change. As writers, we want to do this for our readers, but how often do we do this for ourselves?

From my own experience as a young writer, not nearly enough. It's easy to see the path to publication as treacherous. We hear all the time about how few people actually get agents compared to the number of queries sent, and how many of those agented writers ultimately fail at hooking the big six...erm...five. Oh yeah, and there's that whole thing, too. Heck, less than twenty percent of writers who participated in this month's Pitch Madness contest made it to the agent round. 

There are days when I just want to sit on the couch, eat bacon, and fret--

Confession--I almost always want to eat bacon.

The thing about wallowing is there's not much good about it. It's not fun. It's not productive. And it doesn't solve the problem.

While reframing in and of itself doesn't solve anything, it makes it a hell of a lot easier for you to begin to fix the things that will ultimately make you a better writer. Learning to see the positives in our toughest writing moments not only help us handle them better, they help feel confident handling the tougher moments that we'll face as we move forward. And that's reframing at its finest.

Side note: If you're a sucker for blog contests (or an unagented writer) there's some big news coming to my blog on Thursday, so you will want to check that out, k? K. :)

Here are some other reframing re-motivators I use when writing time gets tough.

~A personalized rejection is better than a form rejection, but a form rejection is better than no response.

~One rejected query ultimately means that agent is not the right champion for your book. Not that your book sucks. 

~A personalized rejection means the agent was invested enough in your story to tell you how you can make it better--which means YOU CAN make it better. 

~You will not become a better writer by instantly getting what you want.

What are some ways you've turned negative thoughts about the writing journey into positives?


  1. I do not write YA but am blessed by your posts.
    I save complements in a special folder and when I'm discouraged, I go back to those and read them.
    I try to remember my reason for writing (my memoir right now) and use that to motivate me to continue.
    I share the negative thoughts with a friend and they point out that that's just my thinking, not based on reality.
    I've learned that if I'm stuck on a passage maybe it needs to be removed from my memoir (I put it in deleted passage file) because it isn't moving my story forward.
    The harder it is, the more deep I have to look at the scene for there is something important in it that needs to be uncovered.
    Sometimes I just wallow for a bit, put the story aside, and come back to it later refreshed.

  2. Sounds like good coping, Heather! Thanks for your comment!!