These are more than folk wisdom adages; they are a condensation of the social science research that makes up the Appreciative Inquiry approach originally developed David Cooperrider and other researchers at Case Western University. AI is based on the observation that what we focus our attention on profoundly influences our experience.
In one study, social scientists told elementary school teachers that, based on tests students took at the end of the previous school year, one group of students in their new class would excel this coming year and one group of students would struggle to keep up. By the end of the school year, every child lived up to – or down to – her or his teacher’s expectations.
The kicker is that there were no tests at the end of the previous year; the children were selected entirely at random.
When teachers expect students to perform well, they do. When teachers expect students to fail, they do. (The researchers decided it would be unethical to repeat the experiment; after all, who wants their child to be randomly selected to fail or even to be just average?)
When I was in junior high school, I could tell what kind of experience I was going to have in a class depending on which of my older siblings a new teacher asked me about. “Are you Glendeen’s sister?” meant I’d be smart in that class; “Are you Bud’s sister” meant I’d be in the background; and “Are you Russell’s sister?” meant I’d be seen as a troublemaker.
So I know that there is a risk in designing a blog focused on writer’s resistance. As AI theorists have observed, organizations that focus on being problem-solvers (which sounds like a good idea) get more problems to solve, while organizations that focus on leveraging their strengths get more strengths to leverage.
That’s why I see coaching as a way to encourage, challenge and support writers and other artists who are creative, intelligent and responsible and want to hold themselves accountable to sustainable habits so they can take their creative work to the next level. This way I get to work with really cool clients who are doing interesting and exciting things. I don’t see coaching as a way to fix writers and artists with problems because that would mean I’d attract writers and artists who see themselves as lacking and I’d be forever trying to bolster them up.
And this is why I want to keep the focus in this blog on Overcoming resistance. We have to acknowledge the reality of resistance because it does come up for us and if we don’t understand it, it gets worse. We have to learn to identify the subtle forms our resistance takes so we can respond appropriately to it. But our primary focus should always be on how we get past resistance to Enjoying Our Writing.
So the week before Thanksgiving, I invite you all to make a list of the things you appreciate about your writing life. What’s working well for you as a writer? What’s the best thing you ever did for yourself as a writer? What’s so great about being a writer? Tell someone a story about a time when you were excited, maybe even thrilled, with what you were doing in your writing.
What do you have to be grateful for in your writing life? Who inspires you? Who challenges you to be the best writer you can be? Who appreciates you? How can you fully appreciate your writing life?