Negative Thinking Can Smash the Good

The Trap of Negative Thinking

Michael Jai Grant
4 min readAug 2, 2021


I wrote a novel. A good one. A damned good one.

It took me 13 years to get it down because of all the distractions: work, family, work, deaths, house projects, work and work. Then I had to start a worldwide pandemic and force the globe to stop turning long enough for me to finish it, but finally I did it.

I did it. I finished my novel.

The next step was sending it to my college friend, a professional and successful literary agent. I talked to her about it five years ago. And three years ago. And last year. She said she was interested. She said, “I’d be happy to give it a read and we’ll go from there.” I emailed her the manuscript.

I was excited. I knew there was more to come in the long process of publishing, but the principle action of getting it out of my head and off my fingertips was done. I went into the family room and shared the news with my husband. I even made the email “whooosh” sound. He was happy for me. He was relieved for both of us. It was a great accomplishment.

And then he said, “You know, she might not even like it.”

In his mind he was protecting me. He was preparing me for a bitter truth that was certainly a possibility. Maybe even a strong possibility. We’ve started and failed at numerous businesses and artistic endeavors. We’ve pushed that boulder up the hill alongside Sisyphus for years. Millions of people write millions of words that nobody reads. Maybe what I wrote isn’t interesting. Maybe the characters are unrealistic. Maybe it’s not a damned good novel. Maybe it sucks.

Or maybe it’s a miraculous piece of work, an illuminating voice in the wilderness, a breakout performance, a piece of art. Maybe it’s Something Worth Reading.

My mother once said I lead a charmed life, but she didn’t mean it as a compliment. She’s a pessimist who passes herself off as a realist. In her world, even the weather is ironic and I was brought up to believe that the tall blade of grass gets cut first. I was raised with the words, “What qualifies you to do that?” and I moved 1700 miles away to form a continental barrier between my negative upbringing and my innate optimism. I not a naive Pollyanna, but I do believe we find the good when we choose to look for it. When I consider my endeavors and…