The Four Horsemen of Writing: Negativity

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Not even sure I have to go into details with this one.  It’s a destroyer of egos and causes people to quit.  Not only with writing, but with most adventures.  This can birth doubt and keep it fed for as long as it’s around.  One never knows when it will turn up.  Even a barrage of uplifting platitudes can fail if this horseman strikes correctly.  So, what is the last of the quartet?

Negativity

This can come from any source.  An author may create it in their own minds and hearts because they don’t feel right about their path.  They might have a frustrating story section that causes negativity and leads to doubt.  Internal negativity is easier to shrug off, but it’s also the more likely one to remain if it goes unchecked for too long.  Think of it as a chronic mental illness since getting it once doesn’t mean you’re immune.  Negativity always leaves a little behind.

More commonly, we get this from outside influences.  Negativity comes from every bad review, piece of criticism, and day without a sale.  It’s lurking within the words of devil’s advocates who think they’re helping.  Naysayers don’t even hide this horseman since it’s their main weapon to get you to quit.  People may say that you just ignore it or cast those people away, but it’s not always possible.  Some sources can’t be removed from your life because there are other connections.  It’s really easy for someone outside of your life to tell you to get rid of people because they don’t have the emotional connection and won’t be the ones to suffer any backlash.  As for the ignoring, that doesn’t work forever because even stone can get worn down by a constant trickle of water.

Something I want to add is a little bit of psychology that I read about a while back.  If a person is constantly bombarded by negativity instead of positivity, their brains will change to treat that as the norm.  This can lead to semi-permanent pessimism, anxiety when happy, and distrust of anyone offering to help.  All attempts to be optimistic and positive are herculean because we’re fighting against our internal wiring.  It’s not impossible, but it’s a path that can be ruined by even the smallest failure or criticism.  This is where devil’s advocates end up being a problem too.  They mean well and think they’re cheering you on, but they’re really reminding you that bad things can, and probably will, happen.

Question time!

  1. How do you handle negativity?
  2. Have you ever acted against your instincts due to negativity?
  3. Have you ever been the negative person?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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27 Responses to The Four Horsemen of Writing: Negativity

  1. L. Marie says:

    1. Do you mean bad reviews? I’ve received some of those on some books and articles I’ve written. The hard thing is when the publisher tells you to engage with commenters on social media, and then someone calls you an idiot who should be fired. I was taught a while ago to never respond to negative reviews. Some people are looking for a fight, like the person who criticized me on social media. (I had to thank the person for his perspective, so as not to embarrass the publisher.) Or do you mean writing negative posts? Twitter mobs have helped me see the folly of that sort of thing. I won’t name names, but a couple years ago, a guy criticized an author’s upcoming book, stating that she didn’t have the right to tell a story about that people group. Months passed and this author came out with a book. Many people on Twitter jumped on him.
    2. I avoided writing for years because of one editor’s rejection of my book. Years of inactivity because of one person whose name I don’t even remember. Who was I hurting by giving up writing? Certainly not her.
    3. Yes, I have been Negative Nancy, sharing my publishing horror stories and causing people to fear the attempt to get published or to be discouraged in general. I’m not proud of that.

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    • 1. Not really bad reviews, but people just being negative. Bringing up lack of sales or not having a traditional contract. Repeatedly asking if you’ve quit writing and gotten a real job. Though, the sending of a lynch mob might fall into this category. Kind of extreme.

      2. Rejection takes a bigger toll on people than many realize. The whole ‘grow thicker skin’ schtick gets tossed around as if authors can turn off their emotions.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        Oh okay. Yeah, I’ve had a little of this. Mostly comparison with other authors; i.e. “Do you make as much as J. K. Rowling?” I was asked that once during a school visit. Or even a relative who told me that my nephew who didn’t finish college makes way more money as a programmer than I did, having finished graduate school.

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      • I get the comparison thing a lot. Rowling, Tolkien, Martin, MCU, Lewis, and the list keeps going. It’s like I’m being told that I’m a copycat.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s interesting about how negativity can change people’s brains. A lot of the students I work with get a lot of negative input because of their learning disabilities. The teachers in my resource room might seem maniacally cheerful to someone from outside, but there’s such a need counter the negative messages with encouragement.

    I also recall being in a resource room where the teacher was constantly negative. It really affected how I related to the students. The district yeeted me to another school this year, and I’m so glad they did!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve wondered how well the maniacally cheerful stuff works. Probably better for kids because an adult would see it as patronizing. I know I get defensive and soured when someone is being far too nice to me. Makes me think they’re not being genuine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • V.M.Sang says:

      When I was teaching, (Science) I used to give two marks to each piece of work. A number (usually out of 10) for content, and a letter grade for effort. I always told my pupils that the effort grade was the most important.
      I also tried to finish with a positive comment.
      I do this with critiques, too. Start and finish with something positive. (Sometimes that strains my thought processes with some pieces of work!)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Since I was ten I was surrounded with negativity. I knew that if I didn’t develop a way to combat it I would end up being the same. I handle negativity by diverting it. If it comes from others I change the subject or ignore it. If it is inside me I try to think of the other side of negativity to change my attitude. Having been surrounded by negativity and having built an immunity I ignored the negativity in others. I married a very negative person. I have acted against my instincts because of negativity and paid dearly. I really wanted to tell the negative person that we needed to part but hung on. It took an additional ten years to say what needed to be said. With all of that o my knowledge, I have never been a negative person.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. V.M.Sang says:

    I am so glad you said that about ‘getting rid of negative people’. It isn’t always possible, as you said, but those who advocate this never think about that.
    I don’t think I’m a particularly negative person, but I’ll try to answer your questions, because there are always times when this horseman appears for everyone.
    How do I handle negativity?
    I just stop what I’m feeling negative about until I feel more positive. If it’s something I can’t put off, then it’s done with bad grace.
    Have I ever acted against my instincts due to negativity?
    I don’t think so.
    Have I ever been a negative person?
    I have actually answered this, but I would not class myself as negative. Not that I’ve not had negative moments. (Terrible sentence. Double negative! So perhaps I’m more negative than I thought .)
    The trouble with this horseman is that he can be well camouflaged, and you don’t recognise him for what he is. You think you are being rational, but in fact you are being negative.
    I enjoyed this series of posts, Charles. Thanks for them.

    Like

  5. I’ve been negative for years now. I start something with good intention, Doubt takes the first swing, then here I am with Negativity once more. Life has thrown some hard items my way in the last few years. I feel like I’m living behind a shield now. I just try to work through it all and hope for the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ospreyshire says:

    Wow! It’s no wonder I’ve had that semi-permanent negativity in my brain for years and even when I feel happy, it feels so temporary. I’ve been treated like I’m wrong even when I was right or how people get away with things they really shouldn’t yet I get lambasted for doing far less, or being gaslighted despite having a point. This toxic positivity stuff is actually worse because I can see when other people are being negative, but this felt more covert. I wish I could’ve told my younger self how to undo all that cerebral damage and not be so shackled into not wanting to create something.

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    • Toxic positivity is a tough one. Most times, I think the person doing it is simply trying to overcompensate for negativity. They freak out and become the emotional equivalent of saccharine including some tooth pain.

      The difficulty with undoing the negativity that becomes built in is that it takes work. It’s easy to get knocked back down by people who criticize or think you’re being foolish. They don’t recognize the attempts to be positive and shoot them down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Yeah, and it’s even worse when they try to deny reality to stay positive. That’s a good metaphor with saccharine.

        I definitely how how arduous of a task it is just to undo the negativity. Sometimes there’s a reason why one could feel negative themselves, but it seems like everyone has an excuse for their behavior except me if you pardon me being solipsistic. It really hurts when it’s negativity you didn’t pick up on at first.

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      • To be fair, those of us who are negative tend to reject some of reality too. I know I look at events and disregard positive stuff at times.

        I’m noticing that everyone has excuses for their behavior. Some are accepted and some are rejected, but it depends on the group viewing the excuses.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        It’s tough because sometimes I think negativity is closer to reality than positivity, but there were a few times I did some catastrophizing. However, there were times where thinking negatively proved me right.

        It does make me wonder because there are times where I know I have a legitimate reason, but it’s rarely ever accepted.

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      • Reality is probably both positive and negative. Ideally, it would be balanced.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Fair enough, but it is arduous seeing the positive from time to time.

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  7. Dalen Flynn says:

    It’s so much easier to focus on the negative than it is the positive. We just seem to be conditioned that way, but retaining a balance in the face of either or is healthiest way to go in my opinion since there’s both in everything

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    • I think a big part is that people are quick to point out the negative. At some point, those around us stop focusing on our successes and routinely draw our attention to our mistakes. It’s like they think an adult will be able to conjure their own positive energy in spite of having their nose rubbed into the negativity that one would want to escape.

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