Welcome to episode 061 of the Write Now podcast! Today, we’re talking about how we talk about ourselves. (It’s very meta.) We’re not always aware of it, but the way we think and talk about ourselves can have an incredible impact on our self-esteem, success, and abilities as a writer.
How Do You Write & Talk About Yourself?
I tend to be self-deprecating at times, often for humor. So if I stumble up the steps and someone sees me, I’ll say, “Yep, that’s me, the klutziest woman on the planet,” and laugh it off. Sometimes being self-deprecating is a good way for us to laugh at our mistakes and take ourselves a little less seriously.
But other times, it’s not good at all.
For example, I started a new project a couple weeks ago—an audio drama called Girl In Space. I’ve been writing both professionally and for fun for years—nonfiction, fiction, poetry, technical writing, ghostwriting—and I thought that I could pick up scriptwriting quickly and easily.
Turns out I WAS WRONG. (And those of you who are scriptwriters and screenwriters are probably smiling at my naivete.)
I ended up sitting at my dining room table (where I’ve taken to writing lately), crumpled papers and notecards strewn everywhere, thinking to myself:
Wow, Sarah, you suck at this.
Sarah, you’re such an idiot.
Sarah, you’re a failure.
Sarah, you’ve never even taken a scriptwriting class. Why did you think you could do this?
Sarah, just who do you think you are?
Sarah, you’re worthless.
Maybe you’ve talked about yourself like this before, or maybe your journal is full of this type of self-talk. Maybe you don’t see any harm in it.
But as a lifelong writer, reader, and speaker, I believe that words have immense power—even the words we say to ourselves. Sometimes if we repeat something enough times (e.g., “I am such an idiot,”) we begin to believe it. We begin to expect it. And it begins to come true as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Be Honest. But Be Kind.
What kind of words do you use to talk about yourself? Are they similar to or different from the way that you talk about others?
I use my sister Rebecca as an example in this episode (sorry, Bec)—I love her, and I would never say, “Wow, do you suck,” or “You’re so worthless, Rebecca.”
Instead, I say things like, “I really liked that poem, but if you tighten up the second stanza, it would work a lot better,” or “Wow. That novella was amazeballs.” I encourage her and build her up instead of tearing her down.
In the words of Dr. Brene Brown, do you talk to yourself like you would to someone you love?
Because you should, writers. Even when you’re frustrated with yourself. Even when you take up a project that doesn’t go the way you want it to. Even when it’s hard.
Now, I’m not advocating that you lie to yourself. I’ve seen and read about life coaches and career coaches who encourage people to look in the mirror and say affirmations such as, “I am the greatest writer who has ever lived!”
I love you, and I think you’re a great writer, but unless you’re the second coming of Virginia Woolf or James Baldwin, you may not be the greatest writer who has ever lived. (Real talk.)
Instead, there’s a spectrum, and I think it’s a good idea to find a true and healthy place on it. The spectrum goes from:
I AM SLIME <——> I AM THE GREATEST WRITER WHO HAS EVER LIVED
Essentially, it goes from flatworm to writing god. People with low self-esteem tend to think of themselves on the flatworm side of the spectrum, while people who are more confident tend to view themselves with an angelic halo.
But the truth is, we’re all somewhere in the middle. Because we are human. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We take on too many projects and spell words incorrectly and forget to go to our 1:30 interview and trip up the stairs.
Are you truthful, are you loving, and are you kind? Do you realize you are wonderful and worthwhile despite your mistakes? Do you encourage yourself , and pick yourself back up when you make those mistakes?
The way that you talk to and about yourself could determine whether or not you publish that book of poetry, whether or not you finish your novel, or whether or not your audio drama ever goes live.
Who do you think you are? Well, you’re a writer, darn it. So get back out there and write.
- My interview with Mark Rubinstein (Coffee Break episode 043)
- My interview with audio drama writer Paul Sating (Coffee Break episode 029)
- The self-talk article I mentioned by Anne Peterson
- The Liberty audio dramas, a.k.a. this episode’s wonderful sponsor!
How do you talk about yourself? Have you ever created your own self-fulfilling prophecy, for better or for worse? Tell me your thoughts on my contact page! You can also leave a comment below, or simply email me at hello [at] sarahwerner [dot] com. 🙂 As always, I’d love to hear from you.