The Active Mind

I realized the other day that there is a misconception in the way we think about states of mind—that they are fixed, static, and once attained, never lost. Most of all, that they can be “achieved,” held, and maintained without any further work on our part.

My recent fluctuations in mentalities have proven all of this to be a complete myth. A “state” of mind is no more static and self-sustaining than a ruler balanced on end in your palm—look away or forget it, and it will fall.

Instead, states of mind must be actively pursued and constantly reinforced, built up again and again when they crumble or waver.

This… isn’t the best of news. When you finally seize upon the mentality that you don’t care what people think, you might be tempted to think you are done. Achievement unlocked! But the fact is that you can start to slip, feeling renewed doubts and insecurities, and you have to start that work of not caring all over again.

I think the negative mentalities we all face—in creating, in body image, in self-consciousness, in privilege and indoctrinated racism/sexism—are patterns our minds have learned and settled into, and it takes a lot more work than a single positive thought to undo them. I don’t know if they can ever be completely undone. Instead, you have to continue to tear these thoughts down, to build up your positive mentalities, over and over again.

In writing, I face a very simple cycle of anxiety and calm—I get anxious about length, pacing, and speed, I remind myself that these things don’t matter in a first draft, I calm myself… only to get anxious again in no time. I think it’s the same process that we face with separating ourselves from our desire for quality—we have to tell ourselves, again and again, that it’s okay that it’s bad, that it will get good later. But even when we can acknowledge these truths, we still fall back into doubt.

It’s why you can hear the same writing advice over and over again—write badly, write for fun, who cares?—and it can still fail to sink in. I think it’s because this whole idea of “sinking in” is either false, or takes far longer than a single positive experience. We have to constantly renew our knowledge, constantly go after the patterns of thought we desire, constantly deconstruct the negative mentalities that hold us back.

It’s not a one-time process, unfortunately. But once you learn the skillset of how to do it the one time—how to stop caring what others think, how to continue writing anyway—you can continue to do it. The key is not to get discouraged when the old thoughts remain, when they sneak back in, when they take over again. If you get angry or ashamed at them, you might lose the energy to fight them off. Instead, accept that they are a part of you, that you have defeated them before, and will do so now and every time that you need to.

Just focus on winning the first time—and on learning how you did it so you can do it again. And when you have to do it again, don’t feel bad or give up.

Win every day.

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About J. Sevick

Just write.
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4 Responses to The Active Mind

  1. I love your posts! I know for me, I’m a self-hater. By that I mean I have had several bouts of anorexia, and it’s a continual struggle for me to not hate myself and my writing. I’m doing better now than I ever have, but my fanfiction story was flamed last week, and the self-hatred consumed me once more. Someone wrote a 2,000 word review hating on me, my story, my writing, my health issues, and accusing me of things that weren’t true. I had blocked him a few months ago after he flamed a story of mine (a mini flame compared to this one) and insulted my health issues. I have an emotionally abusive mother who has criticized me for years about my health issues, so I have a zero tolerance policy there. So he created another identity to post this review on my story so I couldn’t remove it. I didn’t reply or block him this time because I knew that’s what he wanted, and I wouldn’t give it to him. I broke down in tears and my heart hurt so bad I thought it was going to break. The urge to starve myself was so strong. It wasn’t just him though. There is an author on that site trying to destroy me, and she and her friends have been attacking me for months. I haven’t said anything publicly about it, but it kept escalating despite my persistence to ignore it.

    I guess the worst part about it was realizing that I am still so fragile. And the realization that no matter how strong I become, I will never fully quiet that voice of self-hatred. I left the fandom after that because it had become so toxic I was worried I was going to relapse into anorexia. I’d been writing my story for 5 years, and had nearly 500 reviews on my story with 30 chapters. It meant a lot to me at one time, but my health and well-being is more important. After my friends helped scrape me off the floor and convince me that I was worthy of eating, I realized I couldn’t do it anymore. I love writing, but both my story and my fandom made me sick. What’s the point in writing fanfiction if it makes you miserable? Their negativity had seeped into my story, unfortunately.

    Once I recovered I thought about what he said, and why it hurt so bad. My sister told me if he called me a green alien would I be upset? Because the things he was saying were just as true. I know I’m not a green alien, so that wouldn’t hurt. But it goes back to my self-hatred. He fed the demons I had buried back in my mind. It’s a constant struggle for me. He criticized my story for being horrible, which has some truth to it. I started it five years ago, and it was my first creative writing endeavor. I’m brutally honest with myself, and I knew my story had lots of faults. I even talked about how much my story sucked in the author’s notes. Nowhere did I say it was great or that I was a great writer. But I wasn’t writing it for him or for anyone else. I wrote it because I loved the characters and enjoyed writing. I was nice enough to share it with the world, but that doesn’t mean he deserved a fanfiction masterpiece. It took some of the pressure off to realize that. It doesn’t matter if my writing sucks or if some people hate it. I’m mostly writing for myself, and my quest to improve is a personal goal.

    As much as the fandom drama sucked, it made me a stronger person, and helped me realize why I started writing in the first place. There will always be haters no matter how good you are. I’m constantly berating myself as a writer, but I don’t need to because the end result isn’t that important, it’s the process. Most of my stories are angst because it’s cathartic for my soul. So yeah, I think it’s important for all writers to stop criticizing themselves so much because there are so many other people waiting to do it for you. What other people think isn’t as important as how we feel about our stories 🙂

    • J. Sevick says:

      I totally agree! If we can, I think it’s important that writers find a way to write in a little bubble of their own personal enjoyment, and not worry about how the world will respond. At some point, if you’re posting online or trying to publish, the rest of the world will come into it–but it doesn’t have to become a part of the writing process, at least not in a first draft. I’m so sorry you had to deal with all of that negativity. Especially in a medium meant for fun, like fanfiction is, quality is not nearly as important as enjoying yourself, exploring your creativity, and growing as a writer. That’s ultimately what all writing should be, at least at first, and that’s the mindset I’m working on maintaining. 🙂

      • Yep, I have to remind myself of it all the time 🙂 Great minds think alike XD I’ve started to write more experimental pieces because I’m not as worried about what others think of me anymore. I wrote a non-linear story, and one guy didn’t like the non-linear aspect, but I did, so I kept it non-linear XD As writers we have to filter through the criticism of what is applicable and what isn’t. Writing is definitely subjective to a degree, and the most important person to please is ourselves and maybe our characters XD If I abuse my characters they tend to not want to play with me anymore, lol. I love causing them mental anguish. I’m such an evil writer :$

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