The Fruits of a Daily Affirmation Practice: 3 Lessons for Writers
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Feeling worthy is a learned behavior.
—Beverly McIver, visual artist

 

Every day for the past 335+ days I’ve committed to a practice that has changed my writing life—crafting an original affirmation about writing and/or the creative process, and posting it on my blog and other social media. This dedication has yielded more personal and professional fulfillment than I could have imagined when I began on Jan 1, 2016. 

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. Affirmations as Rochelle Melander notes in her inspiring book WRTE-A-THON: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and live to tell about it), helps to “challenge and reframe assumptions.” All types of writers use affirmations.

I got the nub of this idea from meeting the writer James Maxey in November 2015.  He told me he was going to use the energy of 2016, being a leap year, to spur him on to write every day and aim for 366,000 words by the end of the year. Intense, I know!

I loved the idea of attempting something inspiring, mind-stretching and ambitious for my creative life in 2016. I thought about what I needed in my creative life and what other folk might enjoy receiving.

What I needed as a writer was lots of practice in self-kindness, plain and simple. I have technique, craft, discipline and perseverance in spades. Many creative people struggle with simply being self-accepting. As you know, we can think the meanest things about ourselves.  I don’t know of any writer that walks around all day with high self-esteem and thinks, “I’m a great writer.” I don’t know of any writer that couldn’t use a bit more kindness in their self-talk. I don’t know of any writer who hasn’t felt like giving up on their writing dreams. I don’t know any writer who couldn’t benefit from helpful, kind self-talk on a regular basis. Anxiety, unhelpful self-talk and inner critics often stop us before we can even get to our projects. Affirmations felt like the right tool for upping self-kindness and encouraging my writing life.

These are three lessons I learned writing a daily affirmation:

Self-approval is a secret elixir of writing

Writers can benefit from using affirmations as our inner critics, judges, and evaluators are often uninvited guests during our writing sessions. The inner critics were loud when I began this project. They kept whispering, “You can’t write that--someone is going to think that affirmation thing is strange.” I kept up the practice, however, and after the first month those inner critics disappeared. Writing affirmations that were quirky, spiritual, practical or poetic opened up a new inner place of permission. Even though I have been writing seriously for the past decade, I finally gained a deep trust about my writing that wasn’t subject to someone’s approval.  I stopped worrying about what “they thought”. Years of playing it safe in my writing melted away. This permission emboldened my fiction and nonfiction writing, too. This year, I wrote in genres that I wouldn’t have dared to before and my submission and acceptance rate is the highest it has ever been. Writers don’t need have to have self-approval in order to write. We don’t even have to like ourselves, but the writing journey is so much richer when we do.

Inspiration is all around us

Writing one sentence a day may not sound daunting, but coming up with new material (in addition to my other writing projects) was no easy feat. Nothing about writing and creativity escaped my notice. I wrote affirmations about every aspect of the writing and creative life that you can imagine: writing tools and aids (e.g. chairs, pens, desks), aspects of the writing life (e.g. attending open mic readings, being a good literary citizen, finding writing teachers, going on literary pilgrimages, etc.), states or qualities of mind (e.g. procrastination, fear, joy, chairs, courage, perfectionism, etc.), and the writing process (craft, storytelling, plot, beginnings and endings). This kind of heightened attention to our environment and daily lives is a quality that you can cultivate now.

Small amounts of writing taps the flow

In the past, I’ve been a binge or bust writer. I did marathon writing jags only to be followed by long periods of dry spells. I’m also a fan of intense writing contests like National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). But, this daily affirmation project made me a fan of committing to a smaller amount of writing on a consistent basis. Knowing that all I had to do was write one sentence (or two at the most), kept me focused on the task. And, I felt immensely gratified to finish that task and do it well. Daily short writing kept my motivation and momentum going. I found myself thinking, Of course I have time to write one sentence!

How might writing in smaller amounts energize your work? This practice can translate to giving yourself short goals like writing a100 words - 250 words a day, or a line of poetry a day, or recording a daily vignette in your journal.

Writing, speaking and even recording affirmations creates a powerful mindset. I’ve provided some examples of affirmations below. The most useful affirmations are ones that resonate with you. Finding the phrases that are most inspiring will be the ones that you stick with over the long haul:

My ideas come faster than I can write, and they’re all good ideas.

Revising is the best part of writing.

I know that there are plenty of publishing opportunities for everyone, including me.

 

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