Monday, November 17, 2014

Affirmation is my Albatross

We all know that writing is a long waiting game, whether you're yet to be agented or published, on submission, or awaiting reviews for your published work.

In these stages, it's common to look for sources of affirmation. I'm lucky to have a group of people who support me when things get challenging, but sometimes, affirmation becomes my albatross. I get so consumed with the external--what people think, and confirmation that I'm doing all right--that it's easy to get desperate when affirmation doesn't come my way.

Unfortunately, this makes me look a bit like John Cleese in the beginning of this Monty Python YouTube clip (language NSFW).

And here are some other reasons why having affirmation as my albatross is a bad idea (the fact that John Cleese has his around his neck is probably no accident):

1. I look desperate. ("Alllbaatrosss!")

2. It's extremely unsatisfying. ("I haven't got any choc ices, I just have this albatross.")

3. Sometimes I get defensive. ("Don't you oppress me, mate!")

3. And at the end of it, I'm still left with a gigantic bird that weighs down my psyche. ("Of course you don't get f*#king wafers with it!")

So here's what I'm going to try. I'm going to look within, and find what matters in my bones, no matter whether the affirmation comes or not. Namely, I'm going to ask myself the following:

1. What are five things I've accomplished?

2. What am I most proud of?

3. What do I value most?

4. What keeps me going when things get tough?

Often, when I answer these, I find I'm further along than I thought. Plus, it helps me keep focused on the writing itself (a great source of internal affirmation). With these tools, I'm optimistic that I can eventually drop my albatross for good.

So what about you? What is your albatross? In what ways does external affirmation (or conversely, disavowal) affect your writing life?


  1. I think all artists are affected by this. It's when I have to stop and rediscover the joy in what I do. Your questions are perfect to help put things in perspective. I also like to look back at how far I've come.

  2. Yes, I definitely have to interrupt the self-critical cycle with more positive and affirming words every once in a while! You have to get to a point where the validation can come from within, especially when reviews start coming in (haven't had to deal with that last part yet, but I know it will be soon [bites nails]).

  3. Ooh, good one PK. I'll have to add that one to the list. And Angelica, exactly. I've read Crow's Rest. There's a lot of awesome in there, and I'm glad the book will be going out into the world!

  4. I think we all have a bit of an albatross in our lives.


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