by Lisa Lanser Rose
Fat-Talk Free Week was this past October, and this video makes an important point in a Candid Camera kind of way (can you tell how old I am?). I wish we had such videos when I was a young woman, or such movements as Operation Beautiful, whose mission “is to post anonymous notes in public places for other people to find. The point is that WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL.”
But I know, had there been such a movement when I was a young woman, I would’ve been snarky about it. Part of me worries this is not just sappy, but pernicious. It’ll backfire. It’ll lead to insecure people who suspect the worst of themselves but can trust no one to give them honest feedback. If it gets too pervasive, it could spell the end of all critical thinking, which will lead to World War III and then, of course, a zombie apocalypse in which the zombies are all weeping in front of mirrors and trying to eat their own brains.
We need some balanced criticism to stay sane and un-undead. But that criticism needs to be accurate, honest, and kind.
Looking back, I don’t wish someone told me I was beautiful when I wasn’t. If I found a Post-It telling me I was pretty from a stranger who hadn’t laid eyes on me, I would’ve thought–known–it was for someone else. What I needed was someone trustworthy to assure me that I didn’t need to be beautiful (or smart) to be loved. My secret favorite song was “Funny Valentine” for exactly this reason.
Many of us need some positive talk–accurate affirmation–to serve as antidote to some of the dishonest and destructive mental sludge we sling at ourselves. Many women writers I know, accomplished or not, sometimes talk to themselves about their craft the same way they do about their weight, their breasts, their wrinkles. I’m afraid they don’t produce or promote their work as much as they might. Meanwhile, men with half their talent go scribbling along, submitting their manuscripts, blogging away, glad-handing at conferences.
When Project: Shattered Silence did a bit on Operation Beautiful, the kindness moved me. Leaving notes for strangers, or loved ones, that are loving and credible can go a long way to buoy your spirit. For instance, one day I wrote in lipstick on my daughter’s mirror “You Are Loved.” It turned out, later that day, she had a rift with someone important to her and felt shattered. She happened to see the note and knew I had written it. She also knew it was true, and it made her feel strong again.
I got thinking, maybe we should have Affirmations for Women Writers, some kind of antidote to the sorts of injurious self-talk that infects us. So, what do you say to yourself that bums you out, holds you back, and shuts down your muse? What stops you from sending your work out into the world? Become aware of those remarks that are much nastier than they are true. Stop saying them, or if you can’t, at least stop believing them. At least quibble with them.
We aren’t all working on the next The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Magic for Beginners, or Twilight franchise, and maybe we haven’t been as productive and “proactive” as we hoped. But you’re doing worthwhile work or it wouldn’t be worth your while. And I bet you’ve been more productive than you realize, if not with your writing, with other worthwhile things. We’re writers, but that’s certainly not all we are.
If you could leave a Post-It for a sister-writer to find, what would it say?
Here are some affirmations for writers in general. I appreciate that this author notes that the affirmations must be honest.
I’d love to hear your affirmations. Here are mine for today:
- Sometimes I’m proud of my writing, all by myself, with nobody patting me on the back. And that’s a good thing. That’s enough reason right there to keep doing it.
I’m a good writer whether I get published or not. It’s okay to keep doing something I’m good at even if I don’t make much (any) money doing it. Doing something I’m good at makes me happy. Deal with it.
The more I write, the better I get. Maybe money will come, maybe recognition, but maybe something more valuable and less tangible will come of it instead, and that’s great. Then again, maybe it won’t. Obviously, I’m gonna keep doing it anyway. I can stop apologizing. Now.
Just because some male writers look right through me and talk right past me doesn’t mean I’m not worth reckoning. It means they’re not worth my reckoning.
It’s risky, but I have to keep sending my work out. If I keep it up, my work may find a home. But at least as important, I have to keep sending myself out. When I do, I always find marvelous minds to commune with. If I don’t take these risks, all is silent.
We would love to hear your affirmations. They may really help a sister writer. There’s a comment area below. Let us know what you say to yourself–or to your friends– to help keep spirits sassy.