My reply to Jennifer:
Is it a negative message to “like” this post? No, that’s how we acknowledge likeness of mind, empathy, resonance with the content or the content maker. My liking the post is my saying, “You are a writer, and I know what you mean, and I’ve been there, and you’re not alone, and thank you.”
That’s just not all you are, but that doesn’t make your writing just a “hobby” either. Terrible word for an aspiring, active and/or publishing-seeking writer. Sometimes our words are our worst enemies, and the mode we need to shift to is a non-verbal, non-linguistic one. I’m considering taking a serious leap into meditative practice, perhaps with the help of a guide. Sometimes we just need to stop thinking so much. For a long time, I felt immediate resentment whenever someone told me–and they did so on numerous occasions as I was growing up–“You think too much.” I would reply adolescently in my mind and sometimes to sympathetic listeners, “Maybe I’m not over thinking. Maybe they’re just thoughtless.”
Over time, I’ve come to appreciate my thoughtfulness more and more and to re-frame my interpretation of those earlier comments to mean, “Wow, you think a lot and deeply. I am impressed and wish I could do that, but since I can’t, I am jealous and will now criticize you for it.” But that’s just a more elaborate childishness. Sometimes they are just right, but it doesn’t make me any less. It’s just a signal to be aware of the need to limit for the sake of off-setting all that thinking with other activities, to create a balanced life. So, sometimes I dance through the house, sometimes I bird-watch, sometimes I give my arthritic dog a thorough massage, and sometimes I read. Sometimes I teach. I am an online tutor. A teacher.
What else are you? Perhaps you’ve heard of the Ani DiFranco song, “Thirty-two Flavors.” “I am thirty-two flavors and then some.” What are your top 10 or 15 flavors? If you are to define yourself by something, let it be your humanity and the diverse modes and beings that encompasses.
Some ideas to replace the negative self-talk in the moment and over time (and I’m listing these as much for myself as for you and all of us vulnerable artists), and forgive me if any of these suggestions betray my ignorance of your preferences expressed in other posts:
1. Find a new form for your creative expression. Poems, short stories, novels. What about a memoir? New poetic forms (poetry is what I’ve written most besides academic papers and journalling). What about painting, sculpture, drawing, crafting, ceramics, mosaics, home decor, graphic design, fabric arts, song, dance, theater, performance art, slam poetry, song writing, playwriting, or joining Toastmasters? Expand your art. Experiment. Play.
2. Read and work with Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I have gone through the 12-week program twice recently and through week 8 in 2006. It’s self-help therapy as much as artistic pump priming. I was skeptical and resistant at first, but then I became surprised by the creativity fueled by it. Much of it involved opening up my self-concept to “artist” with several of the activities in number 1 above.
3. Do something else in that moment. Turn off the flow. Put up the mental stop sign to disagree with the self-destruction. Re-frame the negative thought into a positive message. Verbally tell yourself to shut up. Organize your cabinets, clean the floors, clear out your closet. Go for a walk. Get out of yourself and into other people–call, email, reach out. Volunteer. Burst out singing or playing an instrument. Count backwards from a high number. Cook, bake, find recipes. Read something encouraging. Meditate. Stretch away the crabbiness or gloom. Buy a light box and soak up those mid-winter rays. Distract yourself.
4. Read, research, and study other writers’ work.
5. Teach writing. This is the fastest way I have found to validate my own skills. It works like nothing else to massage my ego and also to frustrate me into making my own writing a priority.
6. Take a nap or go to bed early.
7. Express love to others.
8. Smile. Laugh–watch YouTube videos, Comedy Central, a favorite comedic film, or read or listen to comedians’ work. Make up your own jokes and share them.
9. Create a list of things you’re grateful for.
10. Re-read all your readers’ positive comments. Write down spoken compliments. Compile a list of “things everyone thinks” about you, only the good stuff. Bask in it. Be loved. Love yourself.
Realize that life is life, nothing is a waste unless we think it is, and we make our own meaning. You are a writer; you are not a fraud. Thank you for that authenticity; it means so much more to those who read you than you can ever know. You are a writer, a learner, a teacher, an inspiration, a wife, a daughter, a citizen, a peer, an artist. And then some. These are not hobbies; they are all parts of your humanity. You are full of life. Live fully. Renew your faith. Write with hope.