If Living with Praise is hard, writing with praise is even harder. This is counter-intuitive to be sure – and a sure sign that we all need more praise in our lives generally, and in our writing lives in particular.
Writing with Praise is also something I do every Tuesday Night at Salon, the brain-child of author and book shaman Suzanne D. Kingsbury, the founder of Wild Words, and a creative force who fosters positive energy and great writing.
Salon is a place for writers to assemble in creativity, leaving our solitude and day jobs to write together and with abandon. Suzanne gives us a prompt, which we can follow – or not – and then we write for an hour. No matter whether I’m stuck in my novel or writing well, attending Salon is always a blast of creative energy that boosts me to new, unexpected twists of discovery. There’s a powerful synergy that develops just from ten people writing together in the same room.
After writing, we read our new work, and we listen to each other with kindness and awe. We say what we like about the work – and that’s all we say. This is the gift: to hear the strength of our words echoed back. So, when Suzanne sent out an invitation for an all day Salon-Style Retreat, combining writing prompts, praise and body work, I signed up.
In the spirit of full disclosure, it wasn’t really that easy. My monkey mind chattered away why I couldn’t/shouldn’t/wouldn’t spend a Sunday sixty miles from home writing with strangers while having energy-attuning body work to help overcome resistance. It took too much time, it was too expensive, and I was writing well on my own, thank you very much.
I’ve been writing long enough to recognize this kind of resistance as a sure sign that this was something I needed to do.
So it was no surprise that the day after signing up for the workshop, I saw a whole new way to tell the story I’ve been working on forever. Part of me wanted to resist starting over yet again, and another part of me knew that I had to. By the time I arrived at the lovely workshop venue, I was eager to write. I knew that in such a supportive atmosphere I could willingly take the necessary risks to start over.
As promised, the workshop allowed me to tap into the intuitive center of my brain – that mysterious place where fiction is born – and to shut down that part of my brain where resistance and criticism abide, allowing me to give voice to my story in a riff of surprising improvisation.
It may be true that we are programmed to pay more attention to criticism as a means of survival. But what if we want to go beyond mere survival? What if we want to soar? If my recent experience is any indication, negative self-talk hampers creativity, while writing with praise allows for braver attempts at more creative storytelling. Hallelujah!
Deborah Lee Luskin is the author of Into the Wilderness, an award-winning novel set in Vermont in 1964.