Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Look Out For A Negative Focus

I was listening to the radio and, as part of a discussion on something called Declinism, a psychologist said something like, "it's well established that people focus on the negative."  He went on to explain that this impulse to focus on the negative comes from our primitive ancestors; if someone was on look out duty while the rest of the tribe were gathering food, there was no need to pay attention to the lookout saying, 'there's no lion coming', but if you didn't pay attention to the look out saying 'there's a lion coming', then you wouldn't be anybody's ancestor.

I see this in writing.  Give someone 90% positive feedback, and they fret over the 10% that wasn't so good.  Do a class exercise and focus only on what you didn't get 'right', rather than what you learned. Get turned down once, and decide there's no point in carrying on.

I've done all of these things.  The last one - oh, the stupidity - in my early 20s I had an idea for a book and sent off what I thought was a non-fiction book proposal to a leading publisher. They wrote back saying it was a good idea, but asking for some more information.  I took this as a rejection, and never replied.  Durr.

I have learned to be a bit more positive, fortunately.  Get a rejection?  Statistically, it means you're nearer to acceptance.  Get some negative feedback?  Lucky you - you now know what to do to make your writing better.  Get depressed by all the bad news about the economy, epublishing, copyright?  Stop reading all those blog posts and articles and use the free time to do some writing instead.

It may sound a bit Pollyanna-ish/utterly nauseating, but you've got to have a reasonably positive outlook and enjoy the journey or else writing will simply make you miserable.  And no one wants that.


Cara Cooper said...

You're so right Sarah, you can make your own 'luck' by being positive and grasping opportunities however slim they look.

Jean Bull said...

I totally agree with you and Cara. You have to be positive and make things happen, not by magic spells, but by putting things in place and working towards them so they do.

Sarah Duncan said...

Cara, luck and having a positive attitude are very closely entwined - Richard Wiseman wrote a book about it called The Luck Factor.

Jean - yes, yes, yes! You've got to just keep going and believe that things will work out and they will.

Penelope Alexander said...

In a world where 'satisfactory' [I'm thinking here of schools...] is redefined as its complete opposite...! It's said it takes three positives to overcome a negative, so go for it.

Kristin Celms said...

I needed to hear this today - thank you! I've been especially getting down about the publishing business talk recently: "you thought it was hard to get published before, but that's nothing to how hard it is now!" You are so right - I just need to keep writing and enjoy it.

Sarah Duncan said...

Penny, and for a happy marriage, I think it's supposed supposed to be 5 positives for 1 negative.

Kristin, glad it was what you needed. I got v depressed about a year ago about publishing, then stopped reading all those negative blogs and articles and cheered up immediately.