When I set out to get serious about writing my novel, I was asked to make a list of all the potential obstacles that would keep me from achieving my goal. Any beliefs, bad habits or barriers were to be written down.
Here are three of my twenty-plus obstacles:
Obstacle: I have young kids who demand my time and attention.
Obstacle: Doubt. Am I a good enough writer?
Obstacle: I get easily side-tracked and caught up in other projects.
Then I was asked to take these obstacles (or negative statements) and write, on a separate sheet of paper, a positive and present-tense statement that would affirm what I want. The following affirmations directly correlate to the obstacles I listed above.
Affirmation: My children inspire me to write. They are so easy-going and wonderful that it’s easy to fit my writing schedule into our day-to-day lives.
Affirmation: I’m capable of writing my novel and of writing it well. I can write a word. I can write a sentence. I can write many words and sentences put together in an intriguing manner. I have poems, short stories, publications, and prize money to prove it.
Affirmation: I’m committed to my writing and especially committed to telling [this] story. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait.
I must admit, at first I scoffed at the process. I worried that it would chalk up to nothing but empty and shallow ‘positive thinking’. I was wrong. Here’s what I learned:
- I was trying to overcome and break through obstacles that didn’t exist–or ones that I made for myself. You see, my kids do inspire me. Their creative minds amaze me. And they are easy-going. I didn’t have to make that up. It’s not wishful thinking. My kids play well together and they each play well on their own–and for extended periods of time. A box of Lego and a bunch of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and they are occupied for hours. My negative belief was simply wrong. It was false to assume that because I have young kids, I have less time/ability to write. Stopping to consider a positive affirmation to my negative belief helped remove an obstacle that shouldn’t have been there to begin with. (And it improved my attitude and relationship with the kids–of course they are an inspiration and not an obstacle!)
- Doubt can be dangerous and it should be subjugated to evidence. We all face doubts. Doubts about ourselves, our abilities, our future, our relationships… the list goes on. Again, to deal with doubts about my capability as a writer, I didn’t need to make up my positive affirmation. I just needed to consider the evidence. And there’s more than enough to commend my capability and support success.
- Obstacles will come, be prepared with strategies to overcome.
- When I re-encounter doubts about my ability (and I will), I can pull out my favourite short stories or read through certain sections of my novel that demonstrates my capability. This ‘evidence’ is also a tool for future use.
- Knowing that I like to get hands-on and involved with a wide variety of projects, and knowing that this behavior of mine will easily side-track me from my novel, my third positive affirmation is backed by a strategy. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait. I will not commit to anything new in the next few months. I’ve wrapped up some outside projects and commitments and I’m prepared to say ‘no’ to the many good and wonderful opportunities that will pop up in the meantime. Why? I’m convinced that finishing my novel is an even greater opportunity for me than any of the others combined.
So there you have it. A brief look at how articulating positive affirmations– rather than dwelling on negative beliefs, bad behaviours, and barriers– helped clear the pathway to my goal. Not every obstacle can be removed, but at least I’m better prepared for when I encounter them.
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Credit Where Credit is Due
Two resources shaped my experience above:
A novel writing workshop led by Andrew Jobling. It’s a useful resource to help overcome the obstacles most of us face while writing a novel. It’s not so much about the craft of writing as it is about the internal and external inspiration and motivation to write.
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger, PhD and Christine A. Padesky. PhD. You don’t need to suffer from a mood disorder to benefit from this book. We all face negative thoughts, emotions, situations, and behaviours. This book equips the reader to deal with them effectively and appropriately.
I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.
New grains of sand: 4,652
Current status: 30,901
It all starts here.