Thursday, March 18, 2010

Compounding Pessimism

My husband and I were talking about the frustrations I've had in my quest to lose weight. It was an easy discussion, since this has been a good, losing week for me. And I think that losing and upbeat mindframe is what helped me really see just how negative it can get while struggling to make this habit a lifestyle, and a lifestyle that pays off.

I've likened weight loss to the writing journey before. We begin with intentions, we learn the basics and add our own twists. We find a program, a writing method, an exercise routine or diet that work for us and we... well, we work it. And we sometimes see great early successes, we sometimes see huge letdowns and we often hit brick walls that just make us want to tear our hair out.

My writing journey has been like that. I started writing and saw some immediate success. A request from my first query. A final in my first contest. Multiple Golden Heart finals (not as many as some awesome people, but enough to keep me on the edge of joy/frustration). Rejections, firing an agent, almost-sale-then-the-line-closed close calls.

A lot of slides into pessimism. If you write, how often have you asked yourself if you'll ever sell (if you've already sold, admit it, you asked the question before the call, right?) How often did we take the rejections, the setbacks personally? See them as a prognosis of overall writing success. Or worse, as a measure of ability?

And with each one, it's just another layer of doubt. Layer upon layer upon layer.

My husband calls it compounding pessimism. Each hit, each rejection, each week on the scale without a loss - all add another layer of doubt. Of negative self-talk. Of whininess (maybe that's just me?) As a hypnotherapist, I know the power of compounding messages. What we hear over and over again, what we hear over and over again in different ways, we own. We take to heart. We embrace and embody.

The trick is, compounding optimism is just as easy. And the last few weeks, I'm seeing the results of it. Just like I refused to give in to the beat-down of rejections and quit writing, I've refused to give in to the frustration of not losing weight despite my best efforts. And by not giving up, by continuing to work it just as hard as before and tweak things here and there (just like in writing) I've started seeing great results. The weight is coming off. The inches are dropping away. I'm optimistic, and with each day, I add another layer of faith and optimism to my psyche, sure that yes, I will see this goal achieved.

Compounding messages. What kind are you giving yourself? Have you ever listened to that self-talk, those thoughts that seem to sneak in? Do you see the different ways you're giving yourself the same message, over and over? And does that message help or hinder your enthusiasm as you work toward your goal?

Tawny Weber writes hot, spicy stories for Harlequin Blaze. In January 2010, her novella, YOU HAVE TO KISS A LOT OF FROGS, was out in the Blazing Bedtime Story anthology and her next full length Blaze,, RIDING THE WAVES, will be out in September 2010. Come by and visit her on the web


Sally Kilpatrick on March 18, 2010 at 10:08 AM said...

I'm awful about talking mean to myself. My husband has said on more than one occasion that he would punch someone who talked about me the way I do--or he would punch anyone else who wasn't me.

I think I've gotten better, and I can't really tell you why because I'm still struggling with weight loss--currently on a plateau with my only hope that I could button my summer shorts. I had a serious muffin top going on, but, hey, we all have to start somewhere. Even worse, I have never finaled in a contest. Most of my Golden Heart scores have been abysmal, but I keep writing. I don't know why because the good Lord knows I've had people here and there incredulous that I've not won contests or that I've not been published, but none of those people have actually been editors or agents.

All I can say is that the theme of 2009 and 2010 so far is to keep on keeping on. You're absolutely right about finding a program and tweaking it, though. My greatest frustration is that when I find something that works for writing it often interferes with my exercise program and vice-versa. I suppose I just need a few extra hours in the day.

Michelle Butler on March 18, 2010 at 10:40 AM said...

What great advice, Tawny! Attitude is so important to both writing and weight loss. I do have to say that my attempts to be more zen-like about my weight loss has also extended a little to my writing life, and it's been extremely helpful in both areas.

Given I can be such an emotional eater, the pessimism and negative self-talk can lead me straight to overeating or binging which can lead to guilt which can lead to a further spiral down. Calming down about it all, being much less stressed, being patient and just not obsessing about (temporary) outcomes but rather just focusing on doing the process the best I can have all been very helpful.

I've read several pieces that have helped me with this. In terms of weight loss, the Zen of Eating was the most helpful.

In terms of writing, there are a couple of RWR articles that were very helpful. Julie Ann Long and Steve Axelrod's piece on the Tao of Writing was very thought-provoking as was a short article in the March or February 2010 RWR that was about being a more productive writing.

Finally, Dennis Palumbo's book Writing from the Inside Out: Transforming Your Psychological Blocks to Release the Writer Within helped me a lot too.

Reading this stuff, absorbing it, and trying to start living this approach have really changed my attitude - my success - and subsequently my happiness. I don't torture myself mentally much anymore - a much healthier place ot be.

Tawny on March 18, 2010 at 7:01 PM said...

Sally, hugs on the stresses. I hear ya! I think the hardest thing to do is to learn to separate what works from what doesn't (in writing and weight loss). Which methods, skills, types of exercise or levels of exertion click for us - not just click so we like to do them, but click so they really work. Which ones work? Its like finding your writing voice, isn't it? Lots of experiment, some frustration.

But then... once you find it, it all comes together. You know what you're doing, you see what works and how to make the most of it.

For me, two years on the elliptical didn't work. I didn't lose a thing. I hated that machine, but figured hey, it was cardio, right? But it wasn't the right kind for me and it just didn't work me to the level of exertion I needed. It wasn't until I switched to the treadmill, got the right shoes and really started pushing that I saw any results. Now I make sure I push every workout as hard as I can, making it tougher than the last one.

We really are our own worst enemies. We talk horribly to ourselves, and those messages build up and layer and cause so much stress. Like your husband says, we'd punch anyone else who talked that way to us.

Tawny on March 18, 2010 at 7:02 PM said...

Michelle, I think Zen is one of those great blessings that--once we figure it out--sort of works its way through our entire life :-) I'm so glad you're finding yours!

Great book recommendations.

Anonymous said...

I so needed to hear this. I've been going to the gym 3 days a week since February and no weight loss. But, I must be reshaping myself because I'm back into jeans I haven't worn in awhile and even during the dreaded time of the month -- no weight gain. So something must be working. So, just like 'just keep writing' I will 'just keep getting healthy'.

Tawny on March 19, 2010 at 1:59 AM said...

YAY on getting into the smaller jeans, Jill!!! That rocks :-) And see, that's the payoff for working so hard. I remember a few years back when I worked with a personal trainer. After 5 weeks, I hadn't lost an ounce and was beyond frustrated. At least, until I realized I was now able to wear an entire size smaller.

There are so many measures of our success, and unfortunately we tend to fixate on the scale's measure. So go you on focusing on health instead :-)

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