From Negative Self-talk to P.O.W.E.R Talk: Evidence from my Transition Stage (By Mina Beigi, Ph.D., P.O.W.E.R. Consultant)

 

From Negative Self-talk to P.O.W.E.R Talk: Evidence from my Transition Stage

By Mina Beigi, Ph.D., P.O.W.E.R. Consultant

 

If there were a Nobel Prize for negative self-talk, I would be nominated for a lifetime devotion to it. No matter how well I perform a task, I hear a perfectionist voice criticizing me before I even taste the sweetness of accomplishment. When it comes to judging my own writing, the pessimist cartoon-like character lurking over my shoulder sounds even more critical… a most unfortunate state of affairs for someone who has always been passionate about writing.

 

I took Dr. Patricia Goodson’s writing productivity course in the Spring of 2013. I was both excited and worried on the first day of class. Excited because I had heard that the class would help me overcome my resistance to committing my thoughts to paper, and worried because I had tried a few writing workshops before and they had only added to my perfectionism.

 

As I had published a few scholarly papers prior to enrolling in the class, but having had a hard time writing them and sending them off, I found the technical lessons related to academic writing useful but not new. What impressed me in the class was the instructor’s attitude towards writing. She shared with us how she wrote in small chunks of time every day, how she separated generating text from editing it, and how she logged her writing time regularly; she referred to the whole process as writing with POWER (I came to learn, later, that P.O.W.E.R. was an acronym for a writing support group at Texas A&M University). Dr. Goodson also introduced us to some inspiring books about writing which, to my understanding, were un-put-down-able. And guess what?!?!

 

Dr. Goodson specifically suggested we write about our main worries and concerns before starting our regular writing sessions every day. I decided to start writing down my negative self-talk to see if it worked for me. To my great surprise, I felt as if they were washed away from my mind as soon as they appeared as text! I read my thoughts on the screen and told myself: “Were they really my thoughts?! Why did I torture myself for no apparent reason?” So I decided to write down my negative thoughts as a regular, daily practice. And after I write them, I select the file, press shift + delete, and those demotivating thoughts are truly gone! I liked the idea so much that I started keeping an open screen on my laptop, while I am working on my writing projects, to capture these demotivating thoughts, the minute they creep back into my mind.

 

Below I transcribe one conversation I had (still sometimes have?) with myself in this transition from negative self-talk to P.O.W.E.R talk. As you can imagine, it is not easy to disclose one’s thoughts, especially when they are negative.  I do it, however, with the hope of helping someone else who still hears and might be affected by similar demotivating feelings.

 

Negative me: You have always procrastinated your writing projects, finished them at the last minute and the result has never been an outstanding piece of any kind. By now you should have learned that your writing leads nowhere.

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: Ok! I have been a binge writer! I agree; at least I have been writing. Now that I realize having a systematic plan helps me write more, I will try to change —and it can only get better!

 

Negative me: Don’t fool yourself. As a scholar, you are expected to write in English; English is not even your second language, it is a completely foreign language to you. Writing on a regular daily basis might work for native English speakers who have all the qualifications, but certainly not for you!

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: Good news! If I am a foreign English speaker, it means I can write in two languages. Besides, I have read that many people struggle with writing, both natives and non-natives; once you have an adequate writing strategy, you can acquire any tools you need, one after another.

 

Negative me: It’s good to focus on the glass as half-full, but remember, there is no water in the other half! There are tons of words, idioms, collocations and phrases you don’t know!

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: So there are tons of stuff I need to learn - how cool! I love to learn! I write on a regular basis, every day, and I have devoted a section of my writing session to copying good manuscripts and learning new words; it will pay off (in fact, it’s already paying off… After all, I’m writing this blog post, right?)

 

Negative me: But it will cost a lot too! How long does it take you to master all you need to learn? By the way, how old are you?

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: What will I earn if I listen to you? I have taken your advice for the past three decades of my life, isn’t that enough? All I’ve gained from listening to you is getting blocked from putting down my thoughts on paper!

 

Negative me: I have only stopped you from producing rubbish.

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: Thank you, then. Now that I have heard about other writers and how they manage their writing process, I prefer to write down as much rubbish as possible, edit it as many times as possible, and come up with an acceptable text; there is always room for improvement.

 

Negative me: What is the use of producing imperfect text? Anyone can do that!

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: Getting rid of listening to you, for sure, and starting an enjoyable journey as a practical, not imaginary, writer.

 

Negative me: You sound different and determined!

 

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: I do! And I am so happy about it.

 

Negative me: We’ll see...

P.O.W.E.R.ful me: There is no we! I have seen my improvement, and I need to build everything myself. Please don’t keep in touch!