There’s no getting around it: creative writing is hard work. It challenges us simultaneously to look deep into ourselves, as well as to look outside of ourselves and engage with the world with radical empathy and honesty. It can be a very lonely process, and requires the commitment, stamina, and courage to push on through and keep going when that little voice whispers in your ear, “You don’t have anything new or unique to say. You’re a fraud. It’s not worth it, you should just give up now.”
If you’ve ever tried to write, I know that you know what I’m talking about.
Which is why I feel in love with WriteNOW cards as soon as I came across them on Twitter a few weeks ago. Seeing these bright little affirmative phrases, I felt as though their creator, Frankie Thompson, had read my mind and had an answer to all of my creative insecurities. Because, as I wrote for Darling recently, if you push on through and make creative writing a regular practice in your life, you can strengthen three key “muscles” that all of us need to live a happy and fulfilled life.
I thought you might like to hear what Frankie shared with me recently about how she stays positive and keeps writing:
“I’m a busy working mother of a toddler. Most days I only really have the opportunity to work on my fiction in the evenings after my son’s in bed. All day I look forward to these writing sessions and yet when the time comes, I still feel resistance. I’ve been writing long enough (over six years) to know that this is part of the process, so I normally do whatever I can to force myself to write anyway. Sometimes this results in a respectfully productive writing session—500 words, 1000 words maybe, or a few pages edited—but just as often this ends up with me distracted and unfocused, staring at a screen alternating between Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest until my eyelids fall heavy. The result? No progress with my manuscript and I feel terrible. I had an opportunity to write and I wasted it. This leaves me feeling worse and worse about writing and inevitably going back to the page the next day is harder…
This was my writing life until just over a year ago when I realised that feeling bad about myself and my writing does not encourage me to write more. It has the opposite effect. So how do you stop that very instinctive slippery slope into punishing yourself about not writing? How do you stay feeling positive about your writing, even when you’re not writing or not progressing with your writing the way you want to? I’m sorry to say I haven’t found a fix-all solution or magic pull for these problems—they are still part of my creative process—but I have found a way to counteract these negative feelings so they don’t overwhelm me. And it’s a surprisingly effective, affordable and easy; it’s positive thinking, or more specifically affirmation.
When you say positive statements out loud repeatedly your brain begins to believe them. In many ways, you are actively doing the obsessing that your brain naturally does over something negative, only this time it’s a positive line of thought. This can apply to anything in life, but I’ve found it particularly powerful in writing because there is so much self-doubt, fear and guilt to be felt as a writer. Affirmation—which takes minutes and is completely free—can actively reduce the presence of these difficult feelings. It can also keep your brain focused on the real reasons you write, not the reasons you don’t write. Affirmation has helped me forgive myself when I have a social media scrolling session instead of an hour’s writing, and I always come back stronger for this kindness I show to myself. That’s why I created WriteNOW Cards for other writers to try affirmation.
Be kind to yourself, dear writer. Writing is not easy, nor is it the same for everyone. Focus on you and your journey and the joy it brings you. Focus on the positive, not the negative.”
Do you struggle to call yourself a writer? I know I used to, and many people I’ve spoken to about their love of writing start by saying something like “I’m not a proper writer, but I do love to write.”
I wonder what we’re waiting for, though. Will we only be happy to call ourselves writers when our first book has been published? If we get some kind of degree or certificate, telling us that we can officially call ourselves a writer? I’m sure these things help boost a writer’s confidence, but personally I believe it’s possible to be a writer without ever publishing a word, winning any competitions, or getting any kind of certificate (i.e. without having any kind of external stamp of approval). If you write regularly, and it sets your soul on fire to do so, I believe that makes you a writer.
If this resonates with you, and you haven’t already joined my online creative writing club, find out more and sign up for The Writing Habit email prompts, here. I’d love for you to join us on our mission to carve out more time for writing in our busy lives!