It’s five o’clock in the morning. You’ve decided this time will actually work for you. You can take 30 minutes to work on some writing, to practice your craft. You’ve got an hour or two before you have to get ready for work or get the kids off to school. Time to do an artist’s workout!
Things are quiet. You can’t hear the hum of the highway or the subway cars, just the wind in the trees or the faint whir of the refrigerator.
You grab your notebook, open to a fresh page, and write the date at the top. You stare at the next line. What do you write? Suddenly, the ticking of the clock becomes very real to you. It sounds like it does in the suspense movies: an ominous, resonant thud as each second brings you closer to your demise.
The impending doom is palpable.
What do you write?
First, take a step back. This is practice. You’re practicing. All art is practice (until it’s not…more on that another time). Whatever you put down on this page is of absolutely no consequence. You get to decide whether anyone reads it. You can publish it to the world, or you can keep it totally and completely secret.
If you’re going to write something, why not simply start by writing out an affirmation or a mantra?
If you go back through my journals over the years, you’ll find whole pages filled with this sentence:
I am a brilliant and prolific writer.
I stole this affirmation (and this idea) from Julia Cameron.* Dr. Nicole Janz mentions this practice in an article about burnout and the “seven steps of healing and starting fresh.” But, if you Google something like “Julia Cameron affirmations,” you’ll find dozens of examples of this.
It may feel hokey or silly or whatever. BUT, you now have words on the page. That was the idea, right? Fill up that blank page! Moreover, you’re now moving into a practice where you can start to interrogate that if you wish. If you want to spend the rest of your time writing those affirmations, great! If you want to spend that time ruminating on the effectiveness of making such affirmations, well, that’s fine, too. You do you!
You don’t have to use this particular affirmation. You can come up with your own. One that’s meaningful to you. Here are some ideas:
- Today, I will be the change I want to see in the world.
- I am a writer. My voice matters.
- Today, I am grateful for this pen. ← You could change this up every day.
So long as it’s positive and constructive, so long as it centers on what you’ve identified as your core purpose or intention (to write, to make, to build, to change), you’re barking up the right tree. Want to change it tomorrow? Fine. Want to keep it the same forever? Great.
There aren’t really any rules here. Just keep it positive!
Making affirmations a part of my daily practice has paid off for me in a few ways:
- The affirmations hook me into the practice. It’s nice to know that (a) I have something to write and (b) my writing is gonna say nice things about me. Silly as that may seem, it turns the idea of “writer’s block” (a myth, in my view) on its head. I always have something to write: my affirmations!
- The affirmations start to feel true. You might not be a big believer in “fake it ’til you make it,” but have you really tried it? I’ll be honest, I didn’t think I was prone to this kind of thing, but I’ve totally bought into the power of affirmation.
- The affirmations come back. When I’m working on something else, I find that the affirmations have set into my psyche; they’ve become part of how I see myself, and they come back as reminders, as positive reinforcement.
You might think it’s silly, but I dare you to give it a try. Stick with it for a few weeks and see how it feels. (This is not, by the way, a one-and-done kind of thing. You’ve got to do it on the regular.)
* If you want some more information about Julia Cameron, here are a couple of articles you might check out:
You can also get a copy of her most well-known book: The Artist’s Way. Highly recommended, though, to be honest, I’ve never actually fully completed it. I wonder if I should…🤔.
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