Normally I kind of shrug at all the motivational advice I see out there. It’s great if it works for others, but me? Nah. I’d like to say I’m too Dutch for that. We’re known as a very practical, level-headed, sober kind of people. Rather than indulge in those kinds of national stereotypes though, I’d probably just say I’m cynical.
Which is why one of Elana Johnson’s recent posts took me by surprise. I saw it was going to be one of those kind of motivational posts, got ready to skim it, and found myself actually appreciating the advice.
Craig [...] said that when he was coaching girl’s tennis at BYU, and the match wasn’t going well, he’d go out on the court and instead of focusing on all the things the player had done wrong (which they were already obsessing over!), he told them to tell him three things they were doing well.
I can totally see this working when I get in a writing funk. It’s easy to beat yourself up–to say that this scene isn’t salvagable, or that you’d be better off doing something else, or that you’ve surpassed previously imagined levels of suck.
Maybe it’s true. But even if it is, by focusing on what you are doing right, you’ll know what to try to reproduce if you tackle the scene from a different angle. It gives you something to hold onto. To strive towards. And it’s always better to strive for the good than to focus on the bad.
We’ve got a word for this in Dutch: doodstaren. The literal translation is deadstaring. It means staring at something–bad results, an unattainable goal–for a long time without changing your approach or goal.
As you can imagine, it’s not a productive habit.
“Sure, you can deadstare yourself at Jean,” people will say, “but she’s married. Get over her, Logan.”
That’s right, Germans.* You’re not the only ones with cool words. (And yes, we do have Dutch versions of Schadenfreude and Sitzfleisch–leedvermaak and zitvlees get no love, I tell you.)
* Speaking of engaging in national stereotypes: bagging on ze Germans is another one. Sorry, Germans. I’m still moping over this summer’s soccer results is all.
Lately, I’ve been deadstaring myself at the ending of my current WIP–a superhero novella. When I open the file tomorrow, I think I’ll take a look at the things I am doing right.
Let’s see where that gets me, instead.