Recently, I’ve been revisiting The Artist’s Way, which is a book I haven’t read in years. What drew me to it this time around was the artist affirmations mentioned in chapter 1, where the author encourages creatives to write out various affirmative statements about their worth as a creative. A lot of these statements have a pseudo-spiritual bent to them, things like “I am a channel for God’s creativity” and “There is a divine plan of goodness for my work.”
I’ve always been leery of these sorts of statements. Partly, it’s because that as a Christian, I’m wary of making my concept of God synonymous with my creative will or The Universe(tm). Too often, these sorts of new-agey declarations use God as a stand-in for one’s own ego, which can lead to all sorts of wild rationalizations and justifications. Or as I’m often fond of saying, “the biggest difference between God and The Universe(tm) is that The Universe(tm) never tells you no.”
As I develop more as an artist however, I find that having some form of affirmation is actually very necessary to keep on striving. A lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m currently in the Taste Gap part of my creative career, where everything I do feels derivative of much better works by other authors, and nothing I write (at least in the first draft) matches up to the vision I have for it in my head. The only thing that’s been able to exorcise the critical demons that hover around me daily are affirmations and assurances that what I’m doing matters, and isn’t just sinking time and energy into a bottomless well.
With that said, here are a few affirmations that I wrote today before I started my writing session. Because I’m not as comfortable making declarative statements of my inherent worth as Julia Cameron (a fact that my counselor gives me grief for every time we talk), most of my statements are focused on affirming behavior (what I do) rather than identity (What I am):
- If I create an extensive outline and stick with it, I will emerge with a decent first draft that serves as a solid foundation for the final work.
- Single POV is always easier than multi-POV. If I do multi-POV, then I should have a single character who hits all the important beats.
- Remember that you are an Architect. You are a meticulous outliner and a planner. Don’t feel ashamed about that. Rather, know that you dwell in a long and hallowed tradition of writers like Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson, and Tamsyn Muir.
- Scenes & sequels. Scenes & sequels. Scenes & sequels.
- Scenes involve POV, a Specific Goal, an Antagonist, Conflict, and Setback. Sequels involve Emotional Reaction, Logic/Reason, Anticipation, and Choice (in that order).
- The 27-chapter method is an excellent device for grounding your manuscript in a story archetype that people recognize.
- Finish your damn drafts. Every completed draft (especially first drafts) improves your writing ability exponentially. Conversely, an unfinished draft accomplishes nothing. It’s an all-or-nothing game.