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Saturday, September 10, 2011
The Inner Critic: Tell It to Shut Up
On my fitness blog, GiraggeEggs.com, I just posted an article about My Stroke of Insight by brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor, who at the age of 37 suffered a massive stroke due to a malformation of the blood vessels in her brain.
The point of the post was to pass along what Ms. Taylor learned during her recovery, that when you think positively, your brain will secrete the chemicals — adrenaline, endorphins, testosterone (yes, women have it, too) — necessary to help you reach your goals.
I realized this is a message we writers should be shouting from the rooftops to help ourselves and others reach goals that otherwise seem impossible.
To plagiarize my own article...
The trick, Ms. Taylor writes, is to consciously decide you want to stop thinking in a negative manner — one that floods your body with chemicals that lead to failure — and then actively coach your brain toward a mindset that encourages success.
Here are some other tidbits she talks about regarding the mind's ability to shift quickly from the negative to the positive:
• The chemical surge caused by a basic emotion such as anger can be flushed from the body within 90 seconds: "If, however, I remain angry after those ninety seconds have passed, then it is because I have chosen to let that circuit continue to run."
• Due to the right and left parts of the brain, there are at least two ways to perceive any given situation: "If you approach me with anger and frustration, then I make the choice to either reflect your anger and engage in argument (left brain), or be empathic and approach you with a compassionate heart (right brain).
• By paying attention to the left brain's internal chatter (our internal critic), which, as we writers know, can be unfairly loud, persistent and harsh, a person can then decrease the extent and substance of those thoughts: "In my opinion, making the decision that internal verbal abuse is not acceptable behavior is the first step toward finding deep inner peace."
So the next time you're thinking you'll never get an agent or that a certain story will never get published or that you'll never achieve the skill necessary to become a great writer, let the 90 seconds of anger and frustration pass (preferable while you let a square of chocolate melt in your mouth), then sit your left hemisphere down, and in a soothing, compassionate voice, say, "I know you're attempting to point out the practical aspects of the situation, but now it's time to shut up!"
Someone recently sent me the link to Ms. Taylor's TED talk (TED is a lecture series devoted to "ideas worth spreading").
I'm a writing junkie looking for other writing junkies who are in this gig for the cool of it. People striving to be better writers because that's where their minds fly. I've accrued any number of writing credentials: author of "Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up: A Thorough Primer for the Writers of Fiction and Nonfiction"; writer of short stories published in Watchword, the Berkeley Fiction Review, Iconoclast and other literary journals; journalist of hundreds of articles for such publications as the Chicago Tribune and Inside Karate Magazine; playwright of a play produced in Hollywood. But what I'm looking to create now is a safe haven for writers where they can forget the brutality of the publishing world for awhile and help one another jump literature to a new level. If you're that person, or would like to be, welcome.