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I've been writing poetry since I was a baffled teen, about forty years. I have published four books of poetry and have just completed my fifth collection, "The Invisible Library". I am also a culture worker, editor, and publisher (Hagios Press).

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cultural Affirmations

This is my final blog as an Artist Animateur for SaskCulture and I want to close by discussing something that might be useful to artists at every level of development.
One of the reasons poets don’t stick with their craft even though they possess considerable skill is damaging self-talk. This can be debilitating in any activity but since writing is such a solitary endeavor all writers are vulnerable to old tapes we play in heads that tell us we can’t do this, is we can’t create. Many damaging self-talk tapes are recorded in childhood. In grade five I had a wonderful teacher who loved poetry and had her students memorize and recite Frost, Wordsworth and Blake. In many ways I was hooked on poetry at a very young age.
 In grade six my teacher had no interest in writing or poetry and I was labeled by her as a “dreamer”, “lazy” and “inattentive”. I hadn’t changed but the tapes in my head had been rewritten. 
As a writer I wasn’t really aware of damaging self-talk, until after my first book was published. A year after the book came out my father became very ill and they found an inoperable brain tumor. In many ways my father was my life compass, I was devastated. In writing and in life all those self-damaging tapes arose and I became fearful, untrusting and unable to write.
 It wasn’t until a year after my father’s death that I recognized that it was me, my mind that was preventing me from doing something I loved. With that awareness I could counteract it. One of the methods I used to write about my relationship with my father, his illness and his death, was to speak/compose into a tape recorder.  I think of it as “voice freefall”. The words I wanted to write were so deep within my body that this seemed to be the only way to access them and counteract the self damaging voices in my mind. The result was a book I am still very proud of “Dreaming my Father’s Body”.
 I still have to be vigilant because these old tapes play quickly, and often below the level of your conscious awareness. One of the things I do daily even when I know I won’t have time to write is to repeat affirmations. This may at first seem uncomfortable but I can assure you from personal experience you will feel more latitude and freedom as a writer or artist if you practice this.  Find one or two affirmations that speak to you and then place them somewhere in your environment that will allow you to see and read them many times every day: above your writing desk, on the mirror in your bathroom, above your telephone. If you feel stuck at the writing desk write out an affirmation several times until your mind begins clicking and you begin writing. Here are affirmations I have used but as you discover about your blocks or damaging self talk you will come up with your own affirmations to counteract them.
Engaging with people in the Artist Animateur program I met many people who felt that they just weren’t creative. As if they missed the day in grade school where all the other children were given their “creativity shots”. The truth is that everyone has creative capacity, but we must make time in our lives to explore our own creative outlets.
I will leave you with four effective affirmations for writers but artists from other disciplines need only substitute words from their discipline.
The Artist Animateur program has been a wonderful journey for me and I’m very grateful to SaskCulture for the opportunity to awaken creativity in others.  

If I listen I will be lead to what I need to write
Writing is now fun and easy for me
Today I will write with full confidence in my skills
I write easily and effortlessly, I'm an excellent writer

Paul Wilson
Artist Animateur, SaskCulture

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