Are You There, Judy? It’s Me, Elisa

I read these books over and over and over again. They were stories that validated me, made me curious, and made me want to grow up. They were the stories that shaped my own stories, secret stories, like the ones Sally Freeman made up in her head and told no one about.

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When I talk about the writers who have most influenced me as a writer and a storyteller, Aaron Sorkin and Nora Ephron—two screenwriters, predominantly (although Ephron began her career as a journalist and wrote everything from plays to essays to blog posts, and Sorkin is also a playwright)—come to my lips first. In Sorkin I see a kindred spirit of one who hears dialogue like music, and I worship at his altar of “intention and obstacle” when it comes to my novels. In Ephron I find less a kindred spirit and more someone I want to like me, even from beyond. Consequently, after reading Richard Cohen’s book about her, it seems I was far from alone in that regard.

Aaron writes dialogue that sounds smart. Nora wrote smart stuff.

But the writer I talk little about, who perhaps has had an even greater influence on me, for a longer period of time, is Judy Blume.

I was introduced to Judy Blume books in the second grade, when my teacher, Ms. Millman (she was the first woman I knew who insisted on being called “Ms.” instead of “Mrs.,” and she was my favorite grade-school teacher), read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing to the class.

I was hooked from there. As I’ve often said, when it comes to reading, I am a creature of habit—when I find an author I like, I read just about everything s/he’s ever written, often more than once. That was Judy Blume. I took Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing out of the library and read it again. And again. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great came next, followed by Starring Sally J. Freeman as Herself. I remember when Superfudge came out, and my female classmates all clamored to be next on the waiting list at the school’s library to read it.

And then, of course, there was Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

It was the book to read if you were a twelve-year-old girl. And it made an impression on every one of them. Three of my friends and I started our own PTS’s club, complete with boy books and discussion about bras (neither the club nor the books lasted very long; besides, I only had one boy and Paul McCartney on my list—this was post-Shaun Cassidy and pre-Duran Duran).

I ordered a Starter Kit after reading that book. Two girls in my sixth grade class threw a co-ed party and announced they were going to play “Spin the Bottle” (I was relieved not to be invited). Like Margaret, I wanted breasts (I got my wish, albeit not during my teens). I wanted my period. I wanted knitted sweaters with special labels (my grandmother made me dresses for my brothers’ weddings, wraparound skirts, funky vests, and knitted booties, so I’m not complaining).

It’s Not the End of the World turned out to be a refuge after my parents split up, although their demise looked nothing like Karen’s parents. Deenie, Blubber, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t—these were all the books of my childhood and adolescence. I read these books over and over and over again. They were stories that validated me, made me curious, and made me want to grow up. They were the stories that shaped my own stories, secret stories, like the ones Sally Freeman made up in her head and told no one about. I wrote lots of stories in my head. I wrote stories in my notebook and hid the notebooks. I wrote in my diary every day and made up stories in which I inserted myself into a soap opera plot or a Duran Duran video.

Last week I began Judy Blume’s Master Class, and was validated all over again from the very first lesson, this time as a grown up. A writer. An author. A storyteller. And a woman.

I found out that Judy and I share the same phobia of thunderstorms.

I found out that Judy gets ideas in the shower and/or on walks, just like I do.

I found out that, like me, Judy re-purposes the things and truths she both witnesses and experiences and feels in and from her own life into her stories. Not consciously or deliberately, but because they’re there and, to step back into Nora Ephron’s shoes for just a moment, “everything is copy.”

She tells stories about herself as a writer as simply as she writes.

I also found out that there are still a bunch of Judy Blume books I have yet to read. I’ll be visiting the public library in the near future. And heck, I’ll re-read all the other ones yet again, because it’s been so long.

I never got the chance to tell Nora Ephron what her writing meant to me. I got to tell Aaron Sorkin online, and even shook his hand in person. I hope I get those opportunities with Judy Blume. I hope I get to tell her that she’s one of my favorites. I hope I get to show her my novels, and tell her that Andi from Faking It voraciously read Judy Blume’s books. Even mentioned that she did. Sage from The Second First Time probably read all her books too. And Sunny from Adulation. And Eva from Why I Love Singlehood. How could they not? I hope I get to thank Judy Blume for knowing me and writing for me, even though she’s never known I exist. I hope I get to hug her.

I am truly a student of her craft as much as I am a reader of her stories. And I am honored and privileged to be both for the last forty years.

 

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image from http://ashrocketship.com/tag/back-to-school-with-judy-blume/

Holiday Gifts for Writers

If you have a writer in your life, whether they are aspiring or well-established authors, may I recommend a few gift ideas for them…

Today I’m directing my post not to writers, but to friends/loved ones of writers. If you have a writer in your life, whether they are aspiring or well-established authors, may I recommend a few gift ideas for them…

 

Writing journals

If the writer on your gift list is like me, s/he is probably constantly jotting down snippets of scenes, dialogue, novel ideas, and so on. Nowadays our phones come with apps that allow us to do this, but some still prefer the old fashioned way. Journals cost anywhere from $10 to $25 and they are easy to carry, store, and use. Add a couple of nice pens, too (although, if they’re like me, they might be picky about their pens).

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Writing software

Journals are great, but writers need more sophisticated tools, like computers. If the writer on your list has been really nice, a new MacBook Pro might be just the thing. However, chances are they already have a desktop or laptop. What they might need, however, is writing software. Scrivener is great because it accommodates just about any kind of writing, be it novels, screenplays, term papers, etc. It offers features that support the drafting and revision process, a virtual corkboard for outlining and plotting, and will export your files to other programs such as Microsoft Word. It will even format your book for digital readers. Scrivener has both Mac- and PC-friendly versions, and even an app for smartphones. The price is quite affordable as well.

 

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Books about writing

If the writer in your life is just getting started, then books about writing might be just the perfect gift. They’re way cheaper than MFA programs, and many are just as effective. Or, your writer might want a refresher, or to start writing in a different genre. I keep going back to Stephen King’s On Writing, for example. Here are a few of my favorite writing books (including one by yours truly).

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Books for pleasure reading

Writers don’t just write; the really good ones are also voracious readers. We love books. If you ask a writer what’s on his/her TBR (To Be Read) list, chances are it’s a very long list. And depending on your budget (or the book), you can spend as little as $5 for a used or electronic copy or as much as $30 for a hardcover or special edition. Bonus points if you buy the book at your local independent bookstore and support their business. Books make great gifts, and not just for writers!

 

Craig's books

 

Coffee mug

Let’s face it: Ask a writer to name the most important component of their writing and they won’t say their laptop or their craft—they’ll say coffee. Thus, writers can never have enough coffee mugs. And although I don’t drink it, I love fixing some tea or chai and carrying it to my desk in one of my many favorite mugs (including Duran Duran, of course), signaling my readiness to make magic on the page—or, at the very least, add to my word count. Online stores like Zazzle, CafePress, and Etsy have some clever mugs that will delight any writer, be they grammar nerds, sci-fi authors, Harry Potter fans, or plain ol’ coffee addicts. Many independent bookstores sell coffee mugs as well. And you can spend anywhere from 5 to 20 bucks.

 

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Time and space

This may be the best gift for the writer who works at a full-time job and/or takes care of a family full-time. In that case, making time and carving out a writing space, be it the dining room table or a desk in the bedroom corner, if not a room or office, is precious gold to this writer. Perhaps you can take the kids every Saturday morning for an hour, cook dinner and do the dishes every Wednesday evening, or buy a small desk at a flea market and refinish it for them. Maybe you can help clean out the clutter in the basement, or even a walk-in closet, and turn it into an office space. Or you could buy some gift cards from their favorite coffee shop so they can write there. Anything that validates and supports the value of the writing, and of them as writers, is a gift that keeps on giving.

 

9 Key Points of Revision

Revision is where the magic happens.

The following is an excerpt from The Writer’s Habit. It also appeared this past spring on the Lancarello Enterprises site, the freelance business my husband and I co-manage.

We have arrived at my favorite part of the writing process: revision. It’s what I call the blood, sweat, and tears of writing. It is simultaneously the sandbox and the mudpit.

Revision is where the magic happens. Revision is, literally, re-seeing. It’s the opportunity to see your manuscript with new eyes and to make it better. Like a piece of clay that’s been molded into the basic shape, revision is where you take a step back, look at your writing from different angles, and use all your tools to reshape, refine, and add the intricate details that bring your story to life.

Writing is rewriting.

Whereas drafting can be somewhat carefree, revision is more methodical, although recursive. Some rewrite as they go along, chapter by chapter, paragraph by paragraph, even sentence by sentence. With each one they stop, read, and rewrite, reread and rewrite again. There’s no wrong approach to revision, but a writer who doesn’t revise is selling the writing short.

Revision is where the decision-making gets done. Have I chosen the best words? Should I begin a new paragraph? Does the fragment achieve a rhetorical effect, or is it just bad grammar? Do I have enough description? Is there too much telling and not enough showing? Is the dialogue authentic and fluent? Does the action move too slowly? Too quickly? Are the stakes high enough? Am I telling the truth? Have I persuaded my reader to care? To laugh? To respond? To keep reading? Revision gives us the opportunity to keep making it better, to hone our craft and sharpen our skills, and to keep writing.

The number of revised drafts are limitless. Some revise a couple of times, others get into ten or more revised drafts. Revision is never really finished—in just about every book I’ve published, I’ve since found something that I wish I could tweak a little bit more, make a little bit better, be it one word or one sentence or even a scene. But if you’re a contracted author, a weekly television series writer, a student, or a journalist, you have a deadline. At that point, you have to call it finished. Even if you don’t have a deadline, at some point you have to call your book finished, otherwise you’ll never get it published or write another one.

What follows is a sample of revision choices to take into consideration. They don’t have to be addressed in order or one at a time. Chances are some of these are always in the back of your mind at any stage of the process. Some writers even make a checklist (see Nathan Bransford’s revision checklist in How to Write a Novel). Do whatever works best for you.

 

Revise for Meaning

I often don’t know what my novel or memoir is about until after I print out the manuscript, sit down with a pen, and begin to read, making notes in the margins usually in the form of questions or insights. Sure, I’ve just drafted a 55,000-word story. But I still find myself asking, What is this really about? Sometimes that question doesn’t apply to the entire manuscript, but a scene or character’s behavior. I may ask questions like: What does she want? Why is she so afraid? Why are they fighting? Sometimes the answers come right away, and other times I need to dig deeper. Revising for meaning isn’t about explicitly spelling out everything your characters say and do and why. It’s about keeping your reader invested in their journey. Above all, you want to respond to the reader’s foremost question—Why should I care?—with a story that engages the reader through dialogue, description, and all the other ingredients of storytelling we discussed. It’s about getting to the heart of the matter.

 

Revise for Audience

Earlier I said that I don’t think about audience when I’m the drafting stage. However, when it comes to revision, audience plays a role because once your book is out in the world, it’s no longer yours. It’s theirs.

When Duran Duran wrote the theme song for the James Bond movie “A View to a Kill” in the mid-80s, singer Simon LeBon said, “It had to be a James Bond theme. It also had to be a Duran Duran song.” In other words, there were two audiences to consider. (This example also applies to style. And interestingly, the popularity of the song well exceeded the popularity of its namesake.) If you’ve already established a readership, you might have an idea of what those readers love and expect from you. Does that mean you have to give it to them every time? No. But in many cases what they love aligns with what you love. If you haven’t yet built a readership, then I recommend you take a cue from Mr. Rogers and imagine one reader. Stephen King’s one reader is his wife. Mine varies, but I choose one and then stick with him or her. Thus, when you’re revising, read your story through their lens. Will they find this character likable? Will they understand what’s happening? Will they react emotionally? You also need to keep readers in mind when it comes to sentence structure. Long, eloquently worded sentences may be beautiful, but will too many of them interfere with your reader’s ability to process what they actually mean? Likewise, will a succession of short, choppy sentences be too blunt?

Also, keep in mind that you’re not going to be able to please everyone, so don’t try. My mom reads all my novels, but she doesn’t like my use of profanity. Some might think your love scenes are too explicit; others may think they’re not explicit enough. Beta readers help you gauge all of this, which is why it’s important to enlist their help, or the services of a developmental editor.

 

Revise for Genre

Every genre—mystery, science fiction, romance, horror, suspense, action/adventure—has certain distinguishable traits. And although you don’t want to be too formulaic in your application of those traits, you don’t want to stray too far from them either. I remember a writer who branded his novella as a romantic comedy. When I read it, I thought it was well-written and I liked the story. But I saw none of the characteristics of a rom-com—no overt chemistry, especially in a dueling way; no humorous situations spurred on by character flaws; no witty dialogue or banter; no high concept. In his case, rather than rewrite the story, I would simply rebrand it as contemporary or literary fiction.

Genres can be combined—paranormal romance, mystery horror, science fiction fantasy—and those can be quite fun to write, if not to market. Above all, you want to best serve the story and not the genre. If you’re writing mysteries because you think mysteries are trending or will sell better than, say, science fiction, most readers will see through the insincerity of that. However, if you write mysteries because you can’t get enough of reading them yourself, or you have an idea that won’t let go of you, or you simply want to try it for fun, then your reader is likely to join you.

I say it again: write the novel you want to read. Sometimes it’s not so much about finding readers as it is about them finding you.

 

Revise for Organization

In just about every draft of this book, I’ve re-organized either in terms of dividing and classifying the book into sections, determining which chapter comes first, second, third, and even at the paragraph level of individual chapters. (I even rearranged this list of revision choices.) In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I made a big revision at the beginning: Whereas I had originally started with Skye stranded at the Denver airport, recalling a conversation she had on the plane, I revised to begin the story midflight, the conversation taking place in real time, and moved the Denver airport scene to another chapter.

Whether it’s at the paragraph level, chapter level, or scene level, make sure your readers can follow the sequence of thoughts and/or action.

 

Revise for Detail

Have you provided enough or too much? Have you given readers glimpses into the characters’ inner lives, or are they left needing more (something my developmental editor always flags me for not doing enough)? Have you painted a clear picture or is it murky? Did you change a character’s name mid-story without realizing it? (Yes. I’ve done that. Several times.) Check all of these things. Your reader will thank you.

 

Revise for Voice

Regardless of whether you’re writing novels or nonfiction, there must be a distinct voice, be it a character’s, narrator’s, or writer’s. It is equally important to consider tone, especially if you’re writing something like a letter seeking support or action. Tone can be easily misinterpreted in electronic communication, such as a text, social media comment, or email. Even something meant to be friendly can be interpreted as belligerent.

 

Revise for Clarity

Clear, concise, fluent—that’s what I encouraged my students to achieve at the stylistic level. The first one, clarity, is making sure your sentences are properly constructed—no dangling modifiers, bad fragments (as opposed to the good ones that add emphasis or lend to voice), or endless prepositional phrases (another flaw of mine, as are too many parenthetical phrases). Clarity also applies to the story you’re telling, whether a plot point or a conversation between two characters or just the complexity of the story in general. That’s not to say that stories can’t be complex. Stories may have puzzle pieces that readers attempt to put together along the way. However, if your reader has to stop reading, go back to the beginning of a sentence or someplace else in the paragraph, chapter, or book to gain clarity, you’ve taken that reader out of the story. You’ve disengaged them. You’ve made them work harder. And you’ve undermined the story you’re trying to tell.

Reading out loud will help you quite a bit with revising for clarity. A sentence that looked perfectly fine on the screen may be a mouthful out loud or not make any sense at all.

 

Revise for Pacing and Direction

Is your story dragging in some places and racing in others? Are there too many things happening at once? Does the climax come too soon? (No one likes that.) Is your story anti-climactic? Is your timeline accurate? Your beta readers will be essential in determining whether your story’s pacing and direction work. So will reading out loud.

 

Revise for Style

I have to be careful with co-opting someone’s style if I’ve been reading their books or watching their movies or TV shows while I’m working on a novel. For example, I watched a lot of The West Wing at the time I was writing Faking It. I got into Gilmore Girls while I wrote Why I Love Singlehood. And at the time of this writing, I’ve been reading Nora Ephron’s columns and articles from her journalism career.

Revising for style is about making sure every word belongs. My ultimate goal would be to read a final draft of my manuscript and say: “It’s perfect. Every word that needs to be there is there. Every word is the right word. The best word. Every sentence is the perfect length. The perfect depth. The perfect rhythm. Every word, sentence, paragraph, and the sequence of dialogue fulfills its purpose.”

Until then, I’ll keep re-reading and re-writing.

 

revision is where the magic happens

Are You a Mid-Career Writer? (If Yes, Here’s a Survey for You!)

I’ve created a survey that attempts to gather some data regarding topics of interest for mid-career writers.

A few weeks ago, a fellow author and I were discussing on Twitter a dilemma of mid-career writers: many resources tend to focus on beginning writers.

We brainstormed topics we would want to see at a conference specifically targeted toward mid-career writers, and the topic got me thinking about what kind of source book or classes could come out of that as well. When I wrote The Writer’s Habit, I focused mostly on beginning writers, but the rhetorical approach I presented throughout can be adopted by any writer at any stage of their writing and career. That said, the notion of a specific resource for this specific target group has intrigued me.

What is a mid-career writer?

This is by no means an operational definition (not yet; that can certainly come out of this survey and discussion), but I characterize a mid-career writer as someone who, as an author, as published 3 or more books, as a freelance writer, has been working in the field for at least five years, or individuals who have devoted a significant portion of their lives writing, regardless of their place or level in the professional realm.

I’ve created a survey that attempts to gather some data regarding topics of interest for mid-career writers.

I’ve left out typical items such as age and sex because I know more women writers than men (and this survey will likely see a majority of familiar faces) and because I’m not sure if age can be quantified when it comes to career length (many authors, myself included, didn’t begin their professional writing careers until their mid-thirties, for example; my husband’s journalism career spanned 20 years, which meant he was “mid-career” at age 28). There are four questions, multiple choice (you can check more than one item in each question), and you can add in your own responses if there’s something missing from the list.

Also, please provide feedback in the Comments section if you think the survey can be improved.

Finally, please share this survey with as many of your fellow writers as you can. And thank you for your participation.

 

 

survey time

 

The Joy in the Suckage

However, generally speaking, if anyone is going to spend most of their waking moments at work, I just can’t see any other means of getting through it other than joyfully.

The other day, I wrote a chapter in which the words did not come easily. It was a first draft, and full of suckage. I had posted about this suckage on Facebook, but added this: “On the plus side, I wrote today.” It was worth celebrating.

A couple of days later, I wrote another chapter that I felt much better about, and celebrated that as well.

Suckage is part of the process. So is self-doubt. I don’t know any writer that doesn’t struggle with either at some stage of writing, be it a novel, essay, screenplay, you name it. Of course I’d like the words to flow easily and effortlessly all the time. But when it doesn’t, I take comfort knowing I can keep working on it until it’s as best as I can make it.

When my husband or I finish a first draft of a novel, we celebrate. Yes, there’s more work to be done, but hey, he wrote a novel! I wrote a novel! As writers, we created this thing from a thought, an idea, an inspiration, and manifested it in words. And now we each get to shape it, refine it, make it even better. The revision process is something we each look forward to.

A couple of weeks earlier, I came across a post by a writer who had also completed a first draft of a novel. To protect this person’s identity, I will use the non-descriptive “them,” “they,” or their” (even though it’s a singular person) and not use any direct quote. Instead, I will share some of the words they used in their post:

  • Anxiety
  • Lonesome
  • Unsatisfied
  • Doubt
  • Standards
  • Flail

Overall, the post suggested that the accomplishment of writing a novel wasn’t as much an accomplishment as it was torturous experience.

I don’t mean to criticize or be judgmental of this author. Rather, I’m perplexed by the contrast of experience between them and me. Why is it that for some writers, the act is anything but joyful, a slog and a crapshoot and a burden of suffering, while for others, myself included, the process, even when arduous, is something to be celebrated? I couldn’t be a full-time writer if I didn’t enjoy it so much. And I believe I would be doing my readers a disservice if I brought such an attitude to the writing day in and day out.

I wonder if the former is the result of the mentality (and the myth) that artists must suffer for their art. In his book Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins dispels the myth that a writer, painter, musician, or any artist must suffer for his/her art, or that artists can’t make a living from their art. Moreover, while they’re actively working on making money from their art, artists can see “the day job” as a supporter of their art as opposed to an inhibitor of it (that last concept was an eye-opener to me!).

What is the payoff for the suffering that I saw in that writer’s post, evidenced by their word choice? Are they martyrs to their craft? Does it elicit some kind of reverence from laypeople who might find the writing process elusive, even romantic? I don’t mean to suggest that they are intentionally manipulating their readers for this response. Just a bit of amateur armchair psychology on my part. I’m always interested in what’s behind the behavior.

Or maybe they truly are suffering.

In his 2001 speech at The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, Ray Bradbury said:

Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it.

And if you’ve got a writer’s block, you can cure it this evening by stopping whatever you’re writing and doing something else. You picked the wrong subject.

I admit I’m an eternal optimist and an idealist. I have written several blog posts about how important it is for me to love what I do and do what I love, and to make a sustainable living doing so, be it writing or any other profession. I’ve even reached the point where I’m not clinging for dear life to that outcome. I also cop to wishing I could bottle my enthusiasm—whether it’s for writing, Duran Duran, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, or a beautiful fall getaway with my husband, to name a few—and giving it to everyone I know (and don’t know!). Who wouldn’t want to feel this good all the time?

I also don’t mean to be glib or naïve with this subject. Some artists, writers, etc. are making art as a means of expressing their pain, be it from depression, trauma, or injustice. I respect and honor that, and know that such conditions aren’t simply cured by “think happy thoughts.” However, generally speaking, if anyone is going to spend most of their waking moments at work, I just can’t see any other means of getting through it other than joyfully. In this context, joy isn’t necessarily synonymous with feel-good, happy-go-lucky. Writing can definitely be difficult. Stressful. Doubt-inducing. It can leave the writer vulnerable to criticism and pressure. But before, after, and even during those things, there can also be accomplishment. Celebration. Satisfaction.

I’ve never heard my husband refer to his novels as meeting his standards of quality. I have heard him, however, say he was proud of every novel he wrote, regardless of how it sold. He wrote the stories he wanted to tell, he told them to the best of his ability, and loved what he wrote.

That is what I aspire to with every novel I write, and what I wish for all writers.

 

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21 Affirmations for Writers

“What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.”

As a writer, I’ve been quite fortunate in many aspects.

Seven years ago, I self published a book that went to the top of the Amazon bestseller list, and landed me a contract six months later. Two years after that, I was able to resign my teaching position and become a full-time novelist. And two years ago, I met my literary agent through a chance meeting at a cocktail party.

Life wasn’t always so rosy, especially during my teens and early twenties. My parents’ divorce had really shaken me, and other issues/people tore at my self-esteem. By the time I was 20, I’d dropped out of three different colleges and became involved in an extremely toxic relationship. I floated from job to job and couldn’t decide on a career. Writing was one of the constants in my life, but the belief that had been ingrained in me was that I was never going to make money as a writer. I also didn’t believe I was any good as a novelist.

I wrote in my memoir about how Duran Duran’s song “Ordinary World” became a sort of lighthouse for me. But I didn’t mention the book that had changed the course of my life: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay.

In the early 90s, I had been working in a salon as a manicurist when one of my clients recommended the book to me. She must have seen that despite my liking my job, I was in a dead end in other ways. I bought the book, and was instantly riveted.

Louise’s message was this:

What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.

 

At the time I had never seen a book like this before. And throughout years of therapy, no one had ever offered such seemingly simple advice: You can change your life if you change your thoughts. And the way to do that was by positive affirmations.

It seemed too far-fetched at first. You mean all I have to say is “I approve of myself” and life will get better?

And yet, that is exactly what happened. Literally.

I started with I approve of myself. This was quite an effort at first, given how low my self-esteem was. I had actually believed that toxic relationship was the best I was ever going to have, that I didn’t deserve better. He used to be so manipulative and controlling that he would actually tell me how to dress and wear my hair.

Little by little, I started to believe the affirmation.

The more I said, “I approve of myself” (it would run through my head like an endless ticker sometimes, the more assertive I became. One day I insisted on wearing what I wanted. He tried to shoot me down by telling me I wasn’t beautiful anymore, said I looked “nasty.”

“On the contrary,” I replied, “I’ve never looked better.” I believed it too. More than that, I knew at that moment that I would be leaving that relationship for bigger and better things.

 

Opportunities and people came into my life that opened me up, raised my self-esteem, and sent me in a positive direction.

I went back to school, and this time came out with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. While in school, I used affirmations to attract a love relationship, and two weeks later I met a man on campus and we dated for several months. The night before an exam, I would send love into the situation. And so on.

Any time I found myself desiring something—a new apartment, to publish a novel, my dream car—I offered affirmations and surrendered the outcome. Things and situations didn’t always work out so perfectly overnight, and sometimes I struggled a great deal, but in some cases the results were even better than anything I’d visualized.

In my latest novel, Big Skye Littleton, I even passed on the affirmation “I approve of myself” to Skye, who needed it as badly as I once had.

 

Louise Hay passed away last week—she was 90 years old—and I was more affected by the news than I’d expected to be.

This past year I’ve been challenged with lower royalties, and a novel (The Second First Time) that launched almost one year ago had been a major commercial disappointment. I also found myself adjusting to married life (not that that was unhappy) and at times I was overwhelmed.

Upon hearing of Louise’s death, I transported back to the first time I had read You Can Heal Your Life. I pulled the book from the shelf—my copy is over 20 years old, and it is well worn (see photos below)—and held it lovingly in my hands. And I wondered: What thoughts had contributed to the situations I’d been finding myself in lately? I’ve spent the last year making a gratitude list every morning, but when was the last time I’d used affirmations like a mantra? When was the last time I’d said “I approve of myself” and meant it?

I began to read the book yet again—each time I read it, I either connect to something in a way I haven’t before, or discover something completely new about myself. I realized that I’d spent much the year blaming others for the novel’s sales failure. I’d also spent a lot of time focusing on thoughts of being overwhelmed rather than trusting that the change was good.

Thus, I wrote new affirmations. I changed my thinking about The Second First Time, and the dip in royalties. I did more than express gratitude.

Sure enough, in the last four days, sales of The Second First Time are the highest they’ve been—they’re nowhere near the bestsellers list (yet!), but seeing the uptick has been so delightful… I’d forgotten how much fun writing and reciting affirmations could be.

 

You know how at the beginning of every episode of The Simpsons, we see Bart writing on the blackboard as punishment of his latest mischief? That’s what I do with my affirmations.

I write them five, ten times in a row (sometimes even more!) followed by repeated recitation of them—but they’re far from punishment.

And so, in honor of Louise, I decided to offer writers some affirmations to try. You can choose one or two of these that you connect with, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this as often as you can.

 

If you’re struggling with writer’s block or are having trouble getting started, try one or two of these affirmations:

 

Divine Intelligence gives me all the ideas I need.

I relax and let life easily and comfortably provide me with everything I need. Writing is for me.

I trust in the writing process and my skills to compose and create.

My creativity is ever flowing. I go with the flow.

I attract the right words, sentences, and paragraphs at the right time.

Writing is a joy. Writing is fun!

 

If you’re struggling with being too self-critical (and what writer hasn’t struggled with that?), try one or two of these affirmations:

 

I approve of myself. (I recommend this one in any or every situation.)

There is plenty of talent and creativity to go around.

I love and accept myself and where I am right now. (Also good for writer’s block.)

I lovingly forgive myself. I am free.

I see with love and understanding. I hold all my experiences up to the light of love.

I recognize my own true worth.

 

If you desire to make writing your career, want to revive your writing career, or are fighting old beliefs that “there’s no money in writing,” try one or two of these affirmations:

 

My unique creative talents and abilities flow through me and are expressed in deeply satisfying ways.

My books attract plenty of readers.

I earn good money doing what satisfies me.

My work is a joy and a pleasure.

I have within me all the ingredients for success.

I establish a new awareness of success and prosperity.

I am worthy of success as a writer, and I accept it now.

I am making good money as a writer.

My good comes from everywhere and everyone.

 

You may feel resistance when you say some of these affirmations. They may even feel like outright lies. Acknowledge and work through those feelings. Remember: “What you choose to think about yourself and about life becomes true for you. And we have unlimited choices about what we can think.” Continue to say them until they are more than beliefs—they are truth for you.

 

30-Day Activity: Choose one or two affirmations from any or all of these categories, or use them as inspiration and/or motivation to write and recite your own. Write them five or ten times in a row, and recite them five or ten times as well. Do this for 30 days straight.

The Writer’s Habit “Introduction”: Read It Here for Free!

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based.

Here is the Introduction to my book The Writer’s Habit, on which this blog and website is based. I hope it will make you want to read more. You can buy it here. You can also go to elisalorello.com to learn more about me as well as my other books.

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