Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 19, 2022

Here Be Monsters: Writers Beware!

by Margie Lawson

Image is an illustration of the post Here there be monsters: writers beware that is a color drawing of an old sea map with Neptune and Poseidon at nine o'clock and three o'clock with eight other sea monsters forming a circle with them.

“Here Be Monsters” was printed on old nautical maps on regions that were uncharted. 

No one knew what was beyond. They didn’t know what they didn’t know. And unknowns were scary.

In those days, cartographers drew in the off-the-map areas. They drew what they feared most. They drew monsters.

They drew monsters devouring ships.

They drew monsters devouring people.

If they’d looked into the future, they could have drawn monsters devouring writers.

Writers have their monsters too.

Mind monsters.

When faulty thinking rules your life, it’s a monster.

Writers often sabotage themselves with faulty thinking. Negative thinking. Catastrophic thinking.

And they let the mind monsters win.

Can you manage your mind monsters? Manage your thinking? Manage your mood? 

Sure. If you identify and challenge your faulty thinking.

Faulty thinking is like the imaginary beasts in those unknown areas. Negative thinking grows and grows and grows until it takes over, dominating your thoughts. Dominating your career.

Review the Faulty Thinking Traps below. You’ll find yourself, your spouse, teenager, mother-in-law, sister, best friend, and neighbor in these thinking traps. Everyone you know thinks and speaks from several of these faulty thinking traps every day.

Or they’ve had a truly insightful, change-driven therapist.

As you read the list, check off the traps that trap you.

Faulty Thinking Traps

Self-Flawed Thinking:  Nothing I do is good enough.

Perfectionistic Thinking: Things have to be perfect for me to be happy.

All-or-Nothing Thinking:  If I cannot be all things to all people, then I’m nothing. I can meet needs of my family or meet my needs—not both.

Telescopic Thinking:  I always feel like a failure because I focus on and magnify my shortcomings and ignore my successes.

Blurred Boundary Thinking:  It’s hard for me to know when to stop, where to draw the line, when to say no to others.

People-Pleasing Thinking:  If I can get others to like me, I’ll feel better about myself.

Pessimistic Thinking:  My life is chaotic and stressful and full of misery and despair. That’s just the way life is.

Catastrophic Thinking: My life feels out of control and something terrible might happen, so I can’t relax. I must be prepared by always expecting the worse.

Helpless Thinking:  I am helpless. Powerless. There’s nothing I can do to change what’s getting in the way of my success.

Self-Victimized Thinking:  Other people and other situations are to blame for my overdoing, my stress, and my lack of success.

Resentful Thinking:  I am bitter and resentful and will never forgive others for what they did to me.

Resistance Thinking:  Life is an uphill battle, and I must fight to get my way and cling to things to keep them from changing.

Wishful Thinking:  If only my situation would change, I could slow down, take better care of myself, be successful achieving my goals. But my situation will never change.

Serious Thinking: 

Playing and having fun are a waste of time because there’s too much work that needs to be done.

Whew! Those are deep traps. 

Have you fallen into any of these thinking traps today? Yesterday? Last Week?

Can you consciously challenge yourself when you realize you are in a faulty thinking trap?

Let’s look at those categories again and see what some writers may be thinking.

Self-Flawed Thinking: 

This is the worst book I've ever written.

I’ll never get another contract.

I’ll never sell enough books.

I’ll never get on a bestseller list.

This book is the worst book I’ve ever written.

My writing will never be good enough.

I’ll never get another contract.

I’ll never sell enough books.

I’ll never get on a bestseller list.

Perfectionistic Thinking:

I’ll never get this scene (chapter, book) right. I keep editing and cutting, revising and restructuring. But every time I look at it there’s something more that needs to be fixed. It will never be good enough.

All-or-Nothing Thinking: 

There’s no way I can do it all. I can’t take care of my family and write. I have to focus entirely on writing for hours at a time and I can never find that time. Not until the kids go to college. I can’t do it all. It’s impossible.

Telescopic Thinking: 

Everyone in critique group hated that chapter. They all thought I was a horrible writer.

Most of them didn’t say anything negative. But I could tell they were thinking it. And they didn’t have to say it. Susan said it all. My characters weren’t well developed.

My scene didn’t flow.

Why did I ever think I was good enough to get published? I shouldn’t waste my time writing.

Blurred Boundary Thinking: 

I have so many commitments, there’s no way I could find time to write.

People-Pleasing Thinking: 

I can’t make writing a priority. I’ve got to do everything I can for everyone else. It’s the only way I can feel good about myself.

Pessimistic Thinking: 

I’ll never find a time in my life when something isn’t falling apart. I have too much stress and my life will always be too chaotic. I’ll never be able to write.

I played with the first seven traps, if you like, get creative and fill in the rest.

I’ll share a quick story about faulty thinking traps.

Image of two women lying in a very large pile of leaves while holding their arms up in the air, illustrating how Margie Lawson manages to maintain her good attitude despite negative people in her post Here be Monsters:Writer Beware

I remember being in an office building back in my psychologist day-job days. And I glanced out a window and said something about it being a perfect fall day.

It was sunny, in the low 60’s, leaves blowing in the breeze.

I wanted to be eight again, and rake up massive piles of leaves, and run and jump in them with my best friend.

While I stood looking out that window, I was happy, happy, happy.

Then someone nearby commented that the wind blew dust in her eyes that morning.    (Negative #1)

She added that the leaves blew in her car when she opened the door and she’d have to vacuum her car out again. (Negatives 2 and 3)

Then she said that the sun glare would cause accidents for the people traveling west, and it would take her twice as long to drive home. (Negatives 4 and 5)

Did she ruin my mood? 

Nope. 

I knew her. And I knew she was negative. 

As soon as I heard the first burst-my-bubble phrase blast out of her mouth, I turned it into a game in my mind. 

How many points could she earn by saying negative things in response to my positive comment? Three? Four? Five? 

I listened well. She earned five points.

Hellooo…  I’m not a total dork. I don’t always count points.

But just thinking of it as a game helps me keep my positive thinking in line. My good mood stays intact.

I made a conscious decision a long time ago to not let other people’s faulty thinking contaminate my good mood. 

What Faulty Thinking Traps did she live in?

Clearly pessimistic. What about perfectionistic thinking? Catastrophic thinking? 

She awfulized. And it seemed like she tried to make others feel awful too. But that was her way of seeing the world.

It didn’t have to be my way. I didn’t have to let her contaminate my mood.

It’s not fun -- or smart – to spend much time around people who think so negatively.

You all know to spend more time around positive people.

Make a conscious decision to take charge of your mood. Catch yourself when you start thinking negatively. Don’t let the mind monsters win!

Want to be a successful writer?

Manage your mood.

Take classes. Make your writing the strongest it can be.

Work toward your career goals.

Make. Change. Happen.

If you’re interested in Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors, consider my lecture packet or course by that name.

If you’d like to work with someone who can help you gear up, help you take charge of your career, or help you make your writing stronger, I’m your gal. Check out the coaching page on my website.

Want to chime in and share your reactions to these Faulty Thinking Traps? Which ones do you struggle with?

I’d love to hear from you.

If you POST A COMMENT – you’ll be in the drawing for a lecture packet (150+ pages) from me!

You could WIN one of these lecture packets!

  • Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors
  • Empowering Characters’ Emotions
  • Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More
  • Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist
  • Digging Deep into the EDITS System
  • A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!
  • Make Your Endings Pop Deep Editing Style!
  • Visceral Rules: Beyond Hammering Hearts

* * * * * *

About Margie

Portrait Photograph of Margie Lawson sitting in front of large rocks on the beach. She's wearing sunglasses and a pink sleeveless shirt, laughing.

Margie Lawson left a career in psychology to focus on another passion—helping writers make their writing bestseller strong. Using a psychologically based deep-editing approach, Margie teaches writers how to bring emotion to the page. Emotion equals power. Power grabs readers and holds onto them until the end. Hundreds of Margie grads have gone on to win awards, find agents, sign with publishers, and hit bestseller lists. Several have had their books turned into Hallmark movies, and some are having their books turned into drama series! 

A popular international presenter, Margie has presented over 150 full day master classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and France, as well as multi-day intensives on cruise ships in the Caribbean. She’s taught close to 200 Immersion Master Classes across the U.S. and Canada, and in seven cities in Australia. 

She also founded Lawson Writer's Academy, where you’ll find over 30 instructors teaching online courses through her website. You will also find Virtual Immersion Classes, Deep Editing Opportunities, and Margie's monthly "Get Happy" event, a virtual open house. (Next month's Get Happy is on November 8th!)

To learn more, and sign up for Margie’s newsletter, visit www.margielawson.com.

Lawson Writer’s Academy Courses for November

  1. Lights, Camera, Tension!
  2. Clans of Ireland, Beyond the Pale
  3. How to Write a Novel in World Anvil
  4. Diving Deep into Deep Point of View
  5. Swag for Authors and Other Creatives
  6. Make ‘Em Laugh: How to Write a Comedy Screenplay
  7. A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!

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42 comments on “Here Be Monsters: Writers Beware!”

  1. Negative thinking is baked into my DNA. I've spent a lifetime trying to overcome it. It's definitely a wip 🙂

    1. Hello Sylvie --

      Thanks for chiming in. You're in the drawing!

      You may need to use something like the rubber-band-on-wrist technique to combat those negative thoughts.

      Find a loose rubber band. 🙂 And each time your thoughts turn negative, give it a little snap.

      Just seeing the rubber band on your wrist will be an ongoing reminder to think positively.

      Good luck slaying your mind-monsters!

  2. Man, did I need to hear this today! I'm my own worst enemy (or at least those critical voices in my head are) when it comes to putting my natural creativity to work for me. Excellent article.

  3. Yikes. At one time or another I've fallen prey to almost all those mind traps. I've overcome a few of them but am still a work-in-progress. Putting a name to some of those pesky still-hanging-around mind traps is a big help. Thanks for sharing this.

    1. Hello Lynette!

      If you name it, you can control that mind monster.

      You can talk to it. Shake your fist at it. Stomp it out.

      Staying tuned in to how it can weasel into your thoughts -- and your life -- can be a mind-monster changer. Keep it in your sight and keep pulling that trigger.

  4. Awfulized. Love that word! I've been querying lately and have fallen into the "Nothing I do is good enough" trap. Margie, your words are very welcome today. Thank you.

    1. Hello DL --

      Querying--anticipating rejection, experiencing rejection--lends itself to monumental mind monsters.

      You'd be smart to create a list of at least TEN POSITIVE THINGS to tell yourself about your writing, your story, and your approach to life.

      When the mind monsters try to stab you, read that list out loud with feeling. The truth of your words and the confidence in your tone will make those mind monsters turn and run.

      Thanks for posting. Check back tomorrow on the blog tomorrow night to see if you won the drawing!

    1. Ami --

      So glad you're here! Because I have a seemingly absurd way for you to crush your telescopic thinking trap.

      Google images of telescopes.

      Print a dozen pages, one big telescope per page.

      Put them up all over your house.

      Every time you see a telescope, you'll be reminded to not fall into that thinking trap!

      You'll consider doing this, right?

      Considering time is up. Just. Do. It!

      It's a winning plan. And since you posted a comment, you could win a lecture packet from me!

  5. I have an inner pessimist who's highly skilled and sneaky. She also has lots of experience and plenty of material to draw upon (and, yes, she'd love for me to recount it). To combat that, I make careful note of how I improve and celebrate those gains. I write affirmations. I meditate, walk, and have a yoga practice. I train my brain to appreciate my writing while seeing the flaws in the same way I critique the books I read. Is my writing perfect? No, but neither are the published books I enjoy, or don't (from my objective and subjective perspective). It's a battle, and I'm prone to giving in, but I've been "clean" now for several years and that's how I spell success.

    1. Christina --

      Good for you for taming, or chaining, your inner pessimist.

      Good for you for training your brain too!

      You've managed your mind monsters for several years? I'd call that BIG-TIME SUCCESS!

      Thanks for digging deep and sharing a heap.

      I couldn't resist another hit of assonance, rhyming vowel sounds. 🙂

      Plus, I shared the truth!

      Be sure and check back on the blog tomorrow evening to see if you WON a lecture packet from me!

      I have an inner pessimist who's highly skilled and sneaky. She also has lots of experience and plenty of material to draw upon (and, yes, she'd love for me to recount it). To combat that, I make careful note of how I improve and celebrate those gains. I write affirmations. I meditate, walk, and have a yoga practice. I train my brain to appreciate my writing while seeing the flaws in the same way I critique the books I read. Is my writing perfect? No, but neither are the published books I enjoy, or don't (from my objective and subjective perspective). It's a battle, and I'm prone to giving in, but I've been "clean" now for several years and that's how I spell success.

  6. Ooof... Such a timely post, Margie! Thank you, for this! xx

    (Am definitely going to check out the Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors Lecture Packet! ;)...)

    1. Hello Jennifer --

      Glad my blog spoke to you!

      Maybe I'll see you in my online class in November:

      A Deep Editing Guide to Make Your Openings Pop!

      Thanks for posting. Check back tomorrow evening to see if you won a lecture packet!

    1. Thanks Diana --

      I love helping writers take charge of their writing lives, as well as take charge of putting power on their pages.

      Check back tomorrow evening to see if you're a WINNER!

  7. I fall into the all or nothing trap for sure. Like if my book isn't an instant hit it's a failure. Or no matter how many people I reach, it will never be enough. How do I define success? It's hard.

    1. Hello Jessica --

      The all-or-nothing trap is overflowing with writers.

      You asked: How do I define success?

      You could use a simple HAPPINESS SCALE to measure success.

      On a 1 - 10 point scale, how happy are you with the finished book?

      If you'd give it a 9 or 10, you achieved success.

      You can control the quality of the book. Which influences reviews. And accolades. And sales.

      That's where my deep editing techniques would make a difference.

      Thanks so much for sharing! Check back tomorrow evening to see if you WON a lecture packet from me!

  8. Hi Margie, another fabulous post. I'm afraid there are an awful lot of those awfulizers out there. I agree with your advice and limit my time with those negative people and look for fun and positive people to be around--like you!

    1. Hellooo Suzanne!

      Always great to cyber-see you. But I'd love to see you in person too. I might drop by Destin (or wherever you are now) on my way to visit my sister sometime.

      Then we'd both be around positive people, each other!

      I'm so glad that you teach for Lawson Writer's Academy. Love your positive attitude with students and your expertise too.

      Thanks for being here!

  9. I've long been acquainted with cognitive thinking techniques, but this is the first time I've seen them applied specifically to the distorted thoughts we deal with as writers. Thanks for bringing the two together in a very helpful and timely post.

    1. Hello Jenny!

      Agreed. Lots of factors contribute to--love your wording--wonky message centers in our brains.

      It's up to us to de-wonkify.

      And managing mind monsters de-wonkifies!

      As always, thanks for sharing your not-so-wonky brain. Thanks for sharing the link to your post too!

  10. SELFISH THINKING: I love my WIP so much that I think I may not want to give birth to it. I want it all for myself. Selfish, I know!

    Here's the trap as I see it...it's so, so, so good. The plot is delicious. The protagonist is broken to perfection. The antagonist is a manipulative bitch like no other. The tension is tighter than an overwound cuckoo clock. And it's World War II in Hiroshima and Paris. Need I say more???? I do, because I made it a duet and I'm drafting the sequel as I finish the first installment!

    And it's all mine.

    But I gotta share it. I just gotta share it. I will share it.

    Thanks for today's blog, Margie. You made me bite my lip, dig deep and look at the door of the maternity room...where wondrous books are born.

    PS: I'm editing. Refining. Frosting the cake. I'm applying what you taught me...and I thank you deeply and sincerely.

    1. Hey Chris --

      Love your selfish thinking!

      CHRIS WROTE:

      SELFISH THINKING: I love my WIP so much that I think I may not want to give birth to it. I want it all for myself. Selfish, I know!

      Thanks so much for sharing your pride and positivity!

      Have fun deep editing and applying all 18,793 goodies you learned from me!

  11. I see my inner voice going down these negative paths even as I work hard to present positivity and excitement to my interactions with others.

  12. Lately, I'm the queen of self-flawed thinking. The doubt is amplified when I'm tired or have too many obligations. The remedy for me is to make sure I get enough rest and schedule writing time on my calendar in ink.

  13. Margie, you are the master monster slayer! Thanks for the reminder on this. I want to keep these handy and fight them daily. Most of these make their way into my thinking every day. It is a constant battle. More than once, I've heard your voice telling me to think differently!

  14. I struggle with more of those categories than I'd like to admit... thank you for sharing your work with us. I really enjoyed your 'What secrets does your character keep?' post. I found it informative and thought provoking. Keep up the good work!

  15. Well this is embarrassing... I just stumbled across this site and so I didn't realize that the content here is written by many different writers. I know realize that you didn't write 'What secrets does your character keep?'. I'm sorry for the misunderstanding!

    Again, thank you for contributing with your content.

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