Have you ever wanted something to be soooooooo perfect that you ended up doing nothing?
Recently that’s been the situation with me and my blog. I know I need to write a post or two, yet day after day goes by and I write nothing. Zip. Nada. That’s an outcome that gives me two gremlins to wrestle with—not having any blog posts written AND feeling bad about myself.
I finally found relief after remembering some advice literary agent Rachelle Gardner had shared with me. “To be a better writer,” Rachelle said. “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” I had a darling to get rid of.
In writing, the phrase “kill your darlings” means removing something precious that doesn’t move the story along.
My “darling” was believing that everything I wrote had to be profound. That mindset wasn’t moving me anywhere and, in fact,placed crazy pressure on me. Pressure that was self-imposed. Pressure that stemmed from believing something, then forging ahead, thinking but without really thinking.
Belief is when someone else does the thinking. ~Buckminster Fuller
A strongly-held belief is a strength. Yet sometimes that same belief can also become a weakness. If a belief has hardened into dogma, that is, believing our position is the only correct one, than we’re in trouble because we’re not thinking critically about our thinking.
My position that all my writing had to be profound is a perfect illustration of what Drs. Linda Elder and Richard Paul call the “inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked,” i.e., when critical thinking is absent.
What critical thinking …
“…is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way.” ~ Dr. Linda Elder
“…is thinking about one’s thinking in a manner designed to organize and clarify, raise the efficiency of, and recognize errors and biases in one’s own thinking. One uses critical thinking to improve one’s process of thinking.” ~ Kirby Carmichael
“…calls for a persistent effort to examine any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the evidence that supports it and the further conclusions to which it tends.” ~ Edward M. Glaser, PhD
7 actions to follow to take control of your thoughts
Drs. Elder and Paul suggest doing seven things to assure we’re thinking critically. I used their actions to review my “unchecked” thought processes:
- Explore thoughts underlying feelings and feelings underlying thoughts. I believe my writing must always be profound and inspiring or I’ll feel like I have failed.
- Develop intellectual humility and suspend judgment. Isn’t the mindset of always writing something profound rather self-congratulatory when you stop to think about it?
- Develop intellectual perseverance. Why must my writing always be profound? Why can’t I write for fun, to educate or just to share?
- Clarify issues, conclusions, or beliefs. OK, Jane, reflect on what happens if a piece of writing isn’t profound. Can’t people learn just as well from something simple? Not everything has to be intense, earnest, and researched endlessly. In fact, not all writing needs to teach.
- Questioning deeply: raise and pursue root or significant questions. Why am I so insistent on depth and complexity?
- Examine or evaluate assumptions. I want to make a difference and help others do the same. I want the world to react first with kindness rather than rancor. That means change, which is complex and requires deep thinking. Sure it does, however inspiration and learning can spring from lightness, too. Not everything meaningful has to be forceful.
Give reasons, and evaluate evidence and alleged facts. Look at all the articles that take a light-hearted approach and are successful. Not everything has to be deep and full of meaning.
Their process worked. When I took the time (that and a sprinkling of self-reflection fuel the process) to think about my thoughts, I realized I was being arbitrary. I’m going to walk through those seven steps more often!
Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. ~John F. Kennedy
What about you? Has your own thinking ever tripped you up? How did you manage the situation?
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