Affirmations for Writers: Do You Need A Few for 2013?
Posted December 31, 2012on:
Why is it so easy to believe the awful and never believe the good?
The use of affirmations has come a long way. An affirmation is a short, simple, positive declarative phrase that as Eric Maisel says, in Coaching The Artist Within, “you say to yourself because you want to think a certain way…or because you want to aim yourself in a positive direction.” You can use them as ‘thought substitutes’ to dispute self-injurious thoughts (as a cognitive behavioral approach), or to provide incentive and encouragement when those seem to be in short supply. Now that many psychologists, mental health workers and coaches advocate the use of affirmations, they’ve become respectable. Gone are the days that affirmations made you think of Shirley MacLaine, flouncy scarves, and quartz crystals. (Though for the record, I’ve liked each of the above at different times in my life.)
Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions. Carolyn See is one of the few writers who writes about using affirmations, saying that they make “a nice counterpart to the other wretched noise that gets turned up in your brain when you write, or even think about writing: “Look at Mr. Big Man!” (in Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers)
She uses them to defeat the din of naysayers and to help her students think differently about their writing challenges. Here I’m quoting from two different passages in Making a Literary Life:
“Everybody’s seen it: nobody wants it,” my own very sweet editor said to me about the (then nonexistent) paperback of my memoir, Dreaming. “Everybody’s seen it; nobody wants it.” Yikes! Ow! The pain! It’s a good thing I remembered that I deserve the very best and now is the time for it” and thus got up the courage to call a friend of mine at a university press. The paperback is still in print, doing very nicely, thank God.”
I can’t tell you how many times my writing students have said to me, “I can’t do dialogue.” Or, “I have so much trouble with plot!” Or, “I don’t know what to put into this story and what to cut. I can’t seem to figure out what’s important.”
I say to them, “How about if you could do dialogue?” Or, “You have the perfect plot, right there in your brain.” Or, “You’re a perfect editor; you just don’t know it yet.”
They don’t buy it; they can’t buy it. So I suggest they say, out loud, in the car, at home, “Up until now, I couldn’t do dialogue, but now I love it I can’t wait to type in those quotation marks and see what my characters have to say!” And, “Up until now, I had some trouble with plot, but now it’s my greatest strength. I’m a fiend for plot.” And, “My natural good taste and fine subconscious mind naturally know what to put in and what to cut out of a story.”
Using affirmations about writing (and creativity) have helped me over the years. I sometimes write a few affirmations as a warm-up to a writing session. I also keep a few posted in key places in my home office. I’m currently reviewing some of my stock ones and seeing if I want to keep them for 2013.
What’s your experience with using affirmations to support your writing? Do you already use affirmations? Do you write them down and/or say them aloud? I’d love to hear what has worked for you.
If not, can you use some affirmations for your writing life for 2013?
I’ve provided some affirmations below culled from Julia Cameron, Eric Maisel, Carolyn See and myself:
My heart is a garden for creative ideas.
My ideas come faster than I can write, and they’re all good ideas.
Revising is the best part of writing.
My writing dreams are worthy ones.
Anxiety comes with the territory. I can manage and even embrace my anxiety.
If I grow quiet, the writing will happen.
To write is to improvise. I will become jazz.
My creative work is highly valued.
I trust my resources.
I honor my writing by keeping the right words and setting the rest free for another day.
For books that combine writing prompts with affirmations, see Susan Shaughnessy’s Walking on Alligators: A Book of Meditations for Writers. Julia Cameron’s Heart Steps (Prayers and Declarations for a Creative Life) is a small but potent book that comforts and uplifts.
Photo Credit: Belinda Witzenhausen (see her site for more great photos of writing affirmations)