I recently came across a list of Depressed Thinking Distortions and, in a stunning epiphany, realized that while I'm not depressed, historically, my relationship to my writing career has been. Ugh. I've sworn to change, to recognize my "distortions," and so far, it's working really well -- I'm catching them, and I'm feeling much better. Here's the list (I've changed the examples to make them specific to writers).
How many of these Depressed Thinking Distortions for Writers are YOU guilty of?
You believe that because you've had one bad experience, the bad experience will always repeat itself in similar situations. Words like never, always, all, every, none, nobody, everyone are tip offs.
Example: "I always get bad reviews." "Nobody understands how hard I work." "I'll never write a bestselling book." "Everyone thinks my writing sucks."
2. Either/Or Thinking
Believing situations are always terrible or wonderful. You are either perfect or worthless.
Example: "If I can't publish this story, I'll never be able to write again." "This is my only chance to make a mark on the literary world. If they hate it, I'll never get another chance."
3. Rejecting the Positive
You focus on the negative and find reasons to devalue popular experiences or compliments.
Example: Your agent likes your new book and agrees to take it on, and you think, "it's just because she's having a slow year, and she probably won't be able to sell it anyway."
4. Focusing on the Negative
Selectively paying attention to the negative in a situation and disregarding the positive.
Example: Your book comes out to positive reviews -- except for the Washington Post, which calls it 'insipid and boring.' You focus on those adjectives exclusively (you even, in a cynical mood, make it your Tag Line at Red Room), and you forget about the seventeen printings and the thirteen glowing reviews.
5. Thinking Feelings are Facts
You believe that what you feel about life, situations, and people must be true.
Example: "I feel so unaccomplished. Those other Red Room authors are clearly better writers than I am." Or "I feel hopeless about my writing. I must have a disintegrating brain -- I will never be able to write a good book again."
6. Expecting Perfection
Making inflexible demands of yourself or others about how you "should," "must," "ought to" act. There is no allowance for variations in situations or changing conditions.
Example: "I should never feel jealous of other writers." "I ought to write every morning, I'm clearly a terrible writer because I don't."
Labeling yourself or others with a negative name or stereotype.
Example: "I'm a loser." "I'm not creative." "Editors are a bunch of blood-sucking, sadistic, insensitive writer-wannabes."
8. Feeling Controlled
Believing that you can't influence the most important things in your life. This belief can lead to blaming situations or others for your unhappiness.
Example: "What's the point of even sending my manuscript out? The industry is prejudiced against anybody who isn't this year's ethnic flavor of author." "Editors hate anybody who isn't a fresh, never-published-twenty-nine-year-old. That's why I'm drinking myself to death."
9. Feeling All-responsible
Believing you have control and responsibility for everything and everybody. You must fill every need and comfort every hurt; if you don't, you feel guilty. This thinking results in blaming yourself.
Example: "If I don't meet this deadline, the editors will have to work overtime and that will probably cause this small press to fold."
10. Hoping for Heaven's Reward
Expecting that personal sacrifice and self-denial will "pay off" in appreciation or returned favors. When this doesn't work, you feel resentful, hurt, or disappointed.
Example: "I worked for ten years on this book, refused paying work, and didn't take those sculpture classes I always wanted because I was writing so hard a book that I thought would change the face of American Literature. And nobody cares! Fuck them all!"
11. Comparing Worth
Thinking you are not good enough unless you are "as good as" someone else in all areas.
Example: "She knocked out two novels and a screenplay last year! I only got one small poem in print. I'm a terrible writer."
12. Always Expecting Disaster
You notice or hear about a problem or situation and anticipate the worst possible outcome.
Example: "I'm blocked this week. That means that I'll never write again, and I won't be able to earn a living, and I'll lose my house."
13. Predicting the Future
You make a negative prediction about how something will turn out or how someone will act.
Example: "Everybody's going to hate this book, it's too controversial."
14. Believing You Can Read Minds
Thinking you know what someone else is thinking or feeling without checking it out.
Example: "That bitch totally saw me in the audience at her reading and didn't say anything to me afterwards! She must think I'm a terrible writer."
(I don't know who to credit for this list!!!! A version of this list was distributed as a handout by Kaiser Permanente in the Parent Support Wing of the Teen Depression group. This list (and Kaiser's handout) is based on the work of Albert Ellis, PhD., Aaron Beck, M.D., David Burns, M.D. and others. The terms and descriptions are from the Kaiser handout, but all examples -- made specific to writers -- are by me.)