writing experience

Practice Self-Compassion for a Better Writing Experience

July 06, 2018
Do you beat yourself up about your writing? Most writers do. It turns out that as humans, we have evolved to focus on our shortcomings rather than our successes. However, if you want to become a more productive writer and enjoy your writing more, shift your mindset from one of self-judgment to one of self-compassion.

Researchers have found that negative self-thoughts lead to negative outcomes and self-compassion leads to acceptance of failures and a willingness to move forward in a productive manner. The study of self-compassion derives from the research of Dr. Kristin Neff, who defined it in terms of three concepts.

Self-kindness means just that, being kind and understanding toward yourself in the face of failure. If you set five writing goals for the day and complete three, do you focus on those you haven’t done or to do you recognize yourself for those you did complete?

Common humanity means perceiving your experiences as part of the larger human experience rather than seeing them as separating and isolating. Do you see your struggles with writing as unique to you and tell yourself there is something wrong with you as a writer or do you view your struggles in light of the knowledge that writing is an incredibly difficult task for even the most experienced academic writers?

Mindfulness means holding painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness rather than over-identifying with them. Do you obsess about your writing shortcomings and spiral down into depression or procrastination or do you accept your situation and calmly move forward?

If you want to stop being so hard on yourself, here are some suggestions to begin your practice of self-compassion with these three concepts in mind.

Self-kindness. Build an awareness of the kinds of negative thoughts you have about writing and about yourself as a writer. As you notice them, meet each critical thought with kindness. For instance, if your inner critic tells you, “You’re a lousy writer” counter with “I write regularly and am making progress every day.” Every time you finish a writing task, practice rewarding yourself with kind words.

Common humanity. Writing is inherently isolating. Recognize that other writers have similar experiences. Make a point of building your own community of writers to share your successes with. Validate others who have encountered writing setbacks and encourage them to view their experiences as a normal part of writing. Take the focus off of yourself. It may surprise you how refocusing on the shared experience with other writers may help you begin to actually enjoy the writing process.

Mindfulness. A mindful writing practice begins by letting go of any self-criticism and becoming accepting of yourself in all of your humanness. To do this, first slow down your thought process by focusing on your breath. Experiment with expelling any negative thoughts about your mistakes or failings as you exhale and then breathing in a kinder, more compassionate thought as you inhale. Fill your entire body with kindness as you set out to meet your daily writing goals.

If you would like to get support with your academic writing projects and feel better about yourself as a writer, the ACW Coaching and Writing Program is designed for you.

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