Listening for affirmations.
While there is power in speaking affirmations, I think that we often overlook how essential listening for affirmations is. I believe that this is largely because we fear opening our ears and hearts only to hear crickets.
Or worse: nothing at all.
So we speak because those affirmations we can pull from the source. The challenge with this is that, as creatives, this can be difficult to maintain when we are low on inspiration, energy, or the time to develop our craft.
So I’d like to propose that we prioritize listening for affirmations instead.
Yesterday, after a fiction workshop at Room Project, I chatted with another one of the workshop participants. She is struggling to feel like a real writer having just taken a job out of financial necessity at a tech company.
Her longing to feel a more solid connection to her identity as a writer was palpable.
We spoke for a long time about the stretch of transitioning from the encouraging container of an MFA program to the “real world” with all its uncaring sharp edges and advice to grow up.
Our industrial model of life makes creative action difficult and, what’s more, the cost of living has made it nearly impossible to scrape by in the service of making your art.
So of course my writer friend is distressed that her identity as a writer feels like it is slipping through her fingers. We all know the way that time creeps by and how, drip by drip, we gradually—without being fully aware that it’s happening—shut off our creative flow.
I recommended that she spend the next few days listening for affirmations that she is still a writer. Even if she’s too exhausted at the end of the day to write a single word. Her writer self is starved for support and so, bite by bite, she needs to remind her inner creative that it’s safe to come out and play.
I also asked her to pay attention to the sinking feeling in her body when she starts checking for affirmations that she isn’t a writer. Or even affirmations that she’s not a serious writer. When these thoughts arise, I suggested that she acknowledge them and then focus on something that affirms what she wants to be true.
Here’s the truth: she’s a writer regardless of whether or not she’s writing.
She’s a writer when she’s making dinner and when she’s doing the dishes. She’s a writer as she commutes to work and talks about tech products. She’s even a writer as she sleeps.
Here’s the other truth: if she continues to feed the story that she’s not a writer—or that every day without writing makes her less of an artist—then she risks making that narrative true.
Art creates connection. Stories allow us to practice empathy. So long as we continue to exist as the complicated species that we are, then we will need creative ways of showing up and processing our shared human experience.
I promise you that if you listen for affirmations, you won’t hear silence. You’ll hear all the ways that you—as a writer, as an artist, as a creative—are what you are regardless of whether or not you’re developing your craft. And the more you listen, the more inspired you’ll feel.
And the more inspired you feel, the easier it’s going to be for you to show up and create. Because everywhere around you is reassurance that, yes, you are a creative. And you and your art aren’t just something we’d like to have access to. They’re something we need.
So, what are the affirmations you hear when you let yourself listen for them?