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Daily Affirmations

I was talking with another writer yesterday about the use of a daily affirmation to help one get started writing. The idea behind an affirmation is that you write the same sentence five times or so, stating something that you want to be true or that you consider true.

After a little bit of discussion, we came up with the phrase

A writer is who I am.

That sounded all good and writer-y. But then it occurred to us that if you really consider yourself a writer, it might make more sense to use a more compact form of the affirmation:

I am a writer.

After all, Strunk and White did advise us in The Elements of Style to omit needless words.

And yet...there seems to be something more definitive about the first sentence, something that makes it better as an affirmation. But I can't put my finger on it. So, here's a poll and a spark for discussion. Even if you don't use affirmations, please feel free to participate. And help me figure out why I prefer option 1, even though option 2 is better English.

Poll #816493 Daily Affirmation for Writers

Do you use daily affirmations?

Yes
1(2.1%)
No
35(74.5%)
Sometimes
11(23.4%)

Of the two daily affirmations given above, I prefer

A writer is who I am.
10(21.3%)
I am a writer.
37(78.7%)

If my wife gnomi were writing the poll, right here you'd have the option to check a ticky-box containing the interjection

Narf!
36(100.0%)


Copyright © Michael Burstein

Comments

I've started using a "mantra" I heard, of all places, while channel surfing and stumbling across Queer Eye a few weeks back. I think I was checking AMC on my way down to Discovery and Mythbusters.

The episode I saw, however, was about an Italian family where the men were being made over so they could show more appreciation to the women in their family. Rather then treating them as servants or, worse, chattel, the men attempted to show some sensitivity. The patriarch, at the episode's end, would shout: "The mind controls the body." Apparently, he'd made the statement several times throughout. I only caught the last 10 minutes of the show, but the statement seemed like one of those you can hear and it just resonates.

I am a writer. The mind controls the body. Fingers, type.
I am many things. I am a male, an adult, a father, a husband, a composer, a programmer, a Jew, a safe driver, a resident of Newton....

"A ____ is who I am" is a statement of primary identity.
I think you hit the nail on the head.
I prefer "I am a writer" for a couple of reasons.

First, as you said, omitting extra words is usually good. Sometimes they are called for, on the basis of lyrical prose and the like. However, for affirmations, I believe simpler is better.

Second, I believe that the first sentence is vastly broader than the second, and at least for me, inappropriately so. I am a writer. Yes. I am also a mother, a woman, a wife, a brunette (at least at the moment), a Sagittarius, a liberal, a kitchen witch, a Bay Stater, a middle aged human being, etc. However none of those things, including being a writer, is "who I am". I am all of them, and much much more, and to state that any one of them is "who I am" seems to carry the intent of defining me by that one label.

Thus, I prefer the second option.
Actually, though, I think that's what makes #1 a more powerful affirmation for trying to focus or enhance your writer-identity. It doesn't have to be strictly true -- "writer" is my primary identity first and foremost at all times -- but by phrasing it that way, you're trying to get some buy-in from your subconscious.
As noted by others, I think what makes the first one more appealing to me is that it does attempt to define a primary identity.
i agree...but then that's exactly why i'd pick the second one for myself. i am a bunch of things at once, and "writer" isn't so vastly in the majority for it to win out as primary just yet. i'm not sure anything wins out as primary at the moment.

also, more subtle: the two sentences have different subjects. dunno about you, but i like keeping "me" as the subject when talking about myself. ;)
I think "A writer is who I am" sounds more thoughtful, and it contains implicitly, the question "Who am I?" whereas "I am a writer" could be something you say when you are shaking hands with someone you've just met.
Interesting. My thought was that the distinction was between "who I am" and "what I do".
I go for the first one because I think the "is" is a stronger anchor to the sentence than the "I am" by itself.
When i sound the sentence "A writer is who I am" in my head, why is it I can only hear it in the voice of Yoda?
Exactly! I was thinking it sounded like either Yoda or Popeye. Or their illicit love child. (Ewwww.)

I'm also a bit put off by the choice of who rather than what. It shifts the definition from an attribute to an identity, I think. I'm sure that's actually the point, but still, it makes me second-guess the phrasing.

Affirmations always make me think of Stuart Smalley, too, so even though I know they can be valuable, I tend to flinch at the thought of them.
No, Yoda would say "A writer, I am" or maybe "A writer, am I". Of course, he wouldn't say either, since he was a jedi, not a writer.

In any case don't many affirmations (or at least spoofs of affirmations) start with "I am" such as "I am special", "I am my own best friend", "I am in control of my emotions". Wait, that last one was by Mr. Spock...did he start this fad?

Finally, thanks to REM for "I am I am Superman and I can do anything..."
"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
- Neil Diamond 1971

I prefer "A ____ is who I am."

I am engaged. :)
I am sleepy.
I am caffeinated.
I am anxious to get out of work and into the sun.
I am anxious about having 5 boys at my place this weekend.
I am in great need to go shopping and start cooking for Shabbos.
I am flabby.
I am scrunchy.
#1 is clunky and has a stronger implication of exclusivity. Unless I mean to convey that the one thing in life that that really gets me going is writing -- not my spouse, not my religion, not my chosen communities, etc -- I'd use #2.
When I was working on affirmations with my therapist, she kept paring them down until I had a simple, direct statement. The simpler it is, the more impact it will have on your subconscious mind.

That's why I prefer "I am a writer."
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