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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Journaling Your Way Out of Writer’s Block Part 2

The previous post introduced the idea of keeping an appreciative journal where you focus on the positive and on what’s working well in your writing and your life.

How to Write an Appreciative Journal

  • Just the facts JoeFridayFocus on observable facts and state them without judgment. Write about what you’re doing and what’s happening in specific, factual statements, not vague generalizations. Avoid assumptions and conclusions.
  • State your emotions without judgment. Emotions are valuable information from the limbic system. “I’m happy” “I’m disappointed” “I’m frustrated” are statements about emotions. “I feel I did a good job” “I feel I should have gotten better results” are thoughts about results half-disguised as emotions. Delete them.
  • Ask questions that expand your perspective. Rhetorical questions rarely help. Questions that assume the negative don’t help either.
  • State future actions in positive terms only.

Examples of Appreciative Journaling

Instead of the non-appreciative:

“I’m so disappointed and tried of collecting rejection letters. How can they not want this? This is exactly what their readers want. I don’t get it!”

The appreciative approach is:

“I’m disappointed. I got an email from Publisher or Publication X declining my query about Y. I feel frustrated and confused. And I am taking action. My instructor tells us that rejection letters are part of the process. Some editors have told me to try again.”

Instead of non-appreciative rhetorical questions like:

“What do I have to do to get through to this editor? Why do I even try? What am I doing wrong? Why is publishing so screwed up?”

The appreciative, expansive approach is:

“How can I use the relationships I already have to develop new connections with editors? How can I improve my query letters?”

Instead of non-appreciative blaming yourself:

“I need to stop sending query letters before I do my homework. I never do enough research. Problem is I don’t know how much is enough or how to do it right.”

The appreciative approach is:

“I will write my most enthusiastic query letter and remember that’s just my first draft. I will revise that draft after spending X hours researching the (publisher/publication/topic). Maybe I’ll ask my writer’s group how I can improve queries or take a class.”

It’s Supposed to Be Initially Challenging

trying too hard canstockphoto7917520 (2)If appreciative journaling is difficult for you, you’re in luck! The less natural it is for you now, the bigger the transformation you can make by adopting it.

You will probably find yourself “violating” the guidelines. When you do, edit the journal to transform your first draft into a truly appreciative entry. For example, I’m often surprised by how many writers start a sentence with “I feel” and manage to reach the end of the sentence without ever mentioning a specific emotion.

Use this journal as place to notice when you are not being appreciative. As you edit the writing, you’ll start changing your inner dialogue. And as you edit, it’s vital that you refrain from judging yourself. It will get easier to think and write appreciatively as you practice.

Challenging yourself to write appreciatively about your writing life will alter your inner dialogue, which in turn will alter your thinking. Your thinking determines your actions, which determine the results you get.

Why not give appreciative journaling a try for a couple of weeks and see what changes for the better. Let me know what you discover!

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