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8 Negative Traits That Translate As Positive Traits For Writers

8 Negative Traits That Translate As Positive Traits For Writers

Writers posses many positive attributes: creative imaginations, a rich inner life, on tap fantasy thinking, and storytelling. However, any writer will also tell you there are often aspects of their personality that many, or they themselves, deem negative: lying, and appearing too intense for some, are just two of those traits many associate with the negative condition. However, for writers, these so-called “bad” traits may actually provide good outcomes, while becoming essential to their craft.

It’s important to note that we are not talking about disorders here, rather those things we carry that do not, or will not, have a major or detrimental impact on our lives, health or well-being.

The following traits can be invaluable tools for most writers; spurring their creativity, offering substantial material, pulling them out ruts, or simply offering encouragement where there has been discouragement.

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Time to turn that frown upside down!

1. You’ve been described as too passionate.

Ever had someone call you “intense,” or describe you as “too much?” Some see you as crazy, a trouble maker, or an obsessed nut, while others are just plain scared of you. Though there are occasions where there may be a need to worry, for many writers, this intensity is part and parcel of what allows them to live outside the ‘norm’ and create amazing tales. Passion fuels intense creativity, arouses emotion, and gets the wheels turning. So although others may be turned-off by your intensity sometimes, for you, it’s a major, and necessary, turn-on.

2. You’re hasty.

For you, there’s no such thing as waiting, you’d rather get to it now. If it doesn’t work, no biggie, you’ll deal with that later. You love to jump in with both feet and don’t see any problem with that. If it’s too hot or too cold you’ll just jump out. As long as you’re not hurting yourself, or anyone else, it works for you. And as a writer, the added benefit of hastiness is that you tend to go with your gut and heart, tapping into your instincts with such focus. This leads to an impressive library of experience; some good and some bad, but all rich.

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Your impatience need not be a problem, but instead a way of exercising that innate need to “get it out,” which in writing terms, more often than not, translates into something great.

3. You’re neurotic.

Your jealousy, anxiety or loneliness can be parlayed into a ground breaking novel, a hard hitting screen play, or a poem that touches souls. Feeling frustrated? Hash it out as a character. Worried? Write a plot full of intense twists and turns. With the ability to pen your emotions into prose or poetry, you can transfer what could have potentially become something negative into positive energy, and watch the miracle unfold.

4. You’re nosy.

You’re a prolific a curtain twitcher; the typical nosy neighbor. But as a writer, you can actually treat this as research, or inspiration for your next project. Perhaps you know a little too much about your neighbors comings and goings, or are intrigued by the couple who just moved in down the street. Turn them into characters and watch them come to life. This curtain twitching behavior offers you rich material, and at a healthy and safe, non-stalker-y distance!

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The world is your museum and you use it to feel a connection to life, and to others. Plus those ideas of nosiness, intrigue and interest have given us some of the greatest novels (think flaneur, detective and thriller) which make for amazing reads.

5. You’re disorganized.

Disorganization appears to be synonymous with creative types. Clothes on the floor, books strewn out across your bed and your desk looks like a bomb went off in a library. Not good, right? Wrong. To a writer, even the most catastrophic looking room contains mountains of organisation and inspiration, somewhere in there.

So to the friend of said writer: don’t go tidying up their apartment or finally hanging those picture frames that have made their home on the floor. It may all be some sort of elaborate and useful set up that makes sense to them and their writing. Sure it could just mean they’re disgusting, but it’s more likely there’s some method to all that madness.

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6. You suck at multi-tasking.

Sure you can handle the odd multi-venture at once but, generally, this causes a great deal of unnecessary stress. Most writers need 100 percent focus when writing. Paying bills, sending emails, screaming kids and cooking all equate to one very detached and unmotivated writer. Stephen King operated a closed door system when writing, and JK Rowling wrote while her baby slept. Many writers attest to the benefits of getting away (sans internet/Wi-Fi), or writing whilst the world sleeps, like Jack Kerouack, who preferred to write from, “midnight till dawn”. The ability to live in that moment, write as though you are reading and block out any distractions is commendable, and essential.

Multitasking may very well be an asset within the workplace, after all being able to multi-task is like having super powers. But to a writer, multitasking is just another word for distraction.

7. You’re a liar.

As well as actors and lawyers, liars also make wonderful writers. The ability to write fictional tales, come up with elaborate plots and create new worlds requires next level invention skills. There is also the understanding that lying requires that side of you that removes itself from the actual and the factual, skews reality, deceives, improvises, and has folks believing it’s all real. Yes, we all know lying is bad, bad, bad, but for the writer, it’s all good, good, good!

8. You’ve been told to grow up

Sure you can be a well-functioning adult like the best of them. You go to work, you work out, you eat right, you’re responsible and mature, and have yourself together, but you also know how and when to tap into that beautiful little child within you, exhibiting that imagination, drive and enthusiasm of a kid. You reside happily within your childlike creativity; making up plots and characters and daydreaming about scenery and dialogue, all the while imagining the outcome of your tale. Sure, you can do the whole adult thing 24/7, but where’s the fun (or imagination!) in that?

Featured photo credit: No Title/Ermin Čeliković via albumarium.com

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Patricia C. Osei-Oppong

Writer, Poet, Marketer

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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