Are you a happy writer or a sad writer?

Yesterday was a happy day for me as a writer after I received an enthusiastic review of my new book "How to Write Short."

But what if it had been a negative review, or a hostile review, or an insulting review? I would like to think that it still would have been a happy writing day. But how is that possible? It's because I've finally reached a point where my self-worth as a writer is not determined by the reaction of others: not editors, not readers, not critics.

Of course, such reaction "influences" my feelings, but it does not "determine" them.

To apply some of the principles of cognitive psychology to the writing craft, here are some of our emotional responses that I now think are "cognitive distortions":

  • "An editor changed my story, proof that I cannot do good work on my own."
  • I've received a dozen rejections on this book manuscript; I must be a terrible writer. Maybe I can get a real estate license.
  • I just received an award for my writing, but that's only because they don't realize what a fraud I am.
  • I can't get any writing done today, so I obviously suck.

It's a simple equation, actually. How you know something determines how you feel about it. That suggests the antidote to discouragement and despair as a writer is to come to know your craft in a new way.

If you need this kind of therapy, get it cheap. Join us this afternoon for a 3 p.m. ET live chat. Get ready to unload all your writing problems. The doctor is in the house.

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    Roy Peter Clark

    Roy Peter Clark has taught writing at Poynter to students of all ages since 1979. He has served the Institute as its first full-time faculty member, dean, vice-president, and senior scholar.


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