Inspired by work on by inner Artist’s strength, I have been writing letters to my encouragers
There are many exercises in The Artist’s Way programme to uncover what holds you back. In week 8, the chapter on finding your strength, Cameron writes about using your jealousy as a map. As much as I found this useful to identify the desires that I hide even from myself, I also find it quite a negative mindset.
Envy is a difficult emotion, in an ideal world we could pursue every dream, but berating ourselves for feeling like this at times is very deflating. Particularly, as I am fond of quoting, life gets in the way of other plans. It certainly feels like we can’t always act on our dreams, even if those dreams are mapped out by our feelings of envy of others.
I decided then to consider the other more positive way of looking at things from her programme and from the week on finding connection by considering those “encouragers” in my life. Early on she asked us to gather compliments we had received on our work. I drew a blank. A couple of comments from my writing class aside, until recently few people have ever read my creative work. Julia Cameron (the programme’s author) actually advises against getting your first draft review. Your inner artist, like a child, must be looked after. Discouragement at an early stage of work is very detrimental.
So, with these wise words in mind, knowing too that I am sensitive in criticism, I decided to start using my morning pages time to write to my encouragers.
The structure of each letter is to first thank them for what they did for me:
“You saw my passion and allowed me to take time on the project” or “You taught me the skills I needed to improve my work.”
I then think about what that help showed me about my work, in the examples given they were teachers from various stages of my education so I thought about what they taught me. For me, I need to take time and develop a sense of depth in my knowledge to feel like I am doing good work. Not everyone advises that spending a long time on backstory is worthwhile and I read this really interesting blog post about this issue recently. Certainly Brenda Hill advises knowing the motivation behind using details from a backstory saying, “If…it’s not very important and isn’t relevant to the story. When you’re writing tight, it should not be included. “
But for me, whilst I agree not to spend all your time on back story, I have to weigh this idea up with how I best develop my writing. By remembering my encouragers dedication to my work, giving me time to research in depth and explore the subject around the novel I was studying, I can see what has worked well for me in the past. It reminded me how powerful research can be for me.
Finally, in my letters, I use my imagination to think how they might encourage me now. This has been harder so I use the basis of the lesson I learnt from reflecting on the help they gave me to construct the advice. The person who enjoyed the amusing details about the run down cottage that I described in a chapter she read might suggest I consider where I could add more colour to certain scenes, for example.
Write a letter to your encourager:
So, if you want to construct some advice and complements from past encouragers follow these easy steps
- Choose someone who has helped you with some written work, a teacher may be a good place to start
- Think of a few things to thank them for
- Review how their action has helped you
- Imagine what they might say about what you are working on
- Reflect on any advice this letter is giving you and implement it!
Gratitude is a great practice to cultivate and I hope you might find this idea encouraging too.