What do Derek Hough, Steven Pressfield and Eminem have in common?

They inspired three of the five 2015 mantras I’m keeping on hand this year.

Mantras, not affirmations. I’m not a fan of traditional affirmations. Why?

Looking in the mirror and saying, “I am a gift to the world” or  “I love facing challenges – they allow me to grow” have not helped me play hooky from writer’s block.

No, I’m not a glass half empty kinda gal. I believe in messages like “I am breaking old habits and creating new successful ones.” But for me, repeating them doesn’t inspire action.

At one time I drove myself bonkers pondering why. That is until I discovered that to-do statements and some phrases with “-n’t” words – a no-no in the affirmation world – resonate with me over the passive, first person, positive-word-only affirmation.

Semantics! Why do you mess with my head? Anyway…

If reciting traditional affirmations hasn’t helped you ditch your blocks, check out my mantra formula and 5 examples. They just might work for you, too.

This is the perfect topic for a game I call, Yes, No Way, Kind of

How to play:

  1. Read each example.
  2. Answer the question, “Does this resonate?” with “yes,” “no way” or “kind of.”
  3.  Skip a no way. Steal a yes. Either skip a kind of, or make it your own.

Sound good?  Here we go.

My mantra formula for melting down writer’s block

When a movie line, song lyric or soundbite from an interview strikes a chord I…

  1. Write it down.
  2. Reframe it to make it my own.
  3. (Optional) Post it somewhere prominent like my bathroom mirror, fridge or front door.

Example 1: Smile at the challenge

During last fall’s season of Dancing With The Stars, pro-dancer Derek Hough mentioned that his star-partner, Bindi Irwin, always “smiles at the challenge.” No wonder she won.

My head instantly spun that into the note-to-self I posted to my front door. The last thing I see as I leave my place is…

Smile at the challenge.

Example 2: “I’m enthusiastic”

What do you say when someone asks, “Are you a good writer?”

This question used to make me cringe. Why?

Because I didn’t know the answer and hated my “I don’t know” response.

Bear Grylls showed me how to survive this question, during his show, Running Wild with Bear Grylls. In his episode with Kate Winslet, he said, “Whenever anyone asks, are you a good climber, a good skier? I always go I’m enthusiastic.”

I don’t know if I’m a good writer – not my place to say. But I’m passionate about it. So…

Ask me, “Are you a good writer?” I’ll say…

“I’m enthusiastic.”

Example 3: Go for it, kid

Every week Steven Pressfield delivers his Writing Wednesdays essay to my inbox. A recent one inspired the mantra that helps me face my “I can’t do this” days.

In the essay, “Giving Ourselves Some Props” Pressfield discusses self-validation. And ironically suggests we stand in front of the mirror and tell ourselves we’re doing great.

It features a photo of Serena Williams hoisting her 2015 Wimbledon trophy, with the caption, “Good job, kid. You did it.” And Pressfield ponders whether or not Williams said this to herself after her win.

I happened to scan this during a short, distraction-filled lunch break on a looonng day of teaching.

At the end of that day, I was about to bail on a plan to stick around to work on a Write 50 game when a voice in my head said, “Go for it, kid. You can’t win if you don’t.” This motivated me to unpack my laptop and commit to a one-hour writing session.

Pressfield’s caption had been marinating in my head all day!

When I got home, I posted my version to the bathroom mirror. On the days I wake up with a case of “I can’t do this” I self-medicate with a dose of…

“Go for it, kid. You can’t win if you don’t.”

Example 4: Even legends question their talent

On May 14, 2015 we lost blues icon, B.B. King.

I learned of his passing while writing, with the Today Show playing in the background. Their tribute included a soundbite that cued me to say, “Holy cow! Even legends question their talent.”

Can you believe the great B.B. King said, “It seems like I always had to work harder than other people. Those nights when everybody else is asleep, and you sit in your room trying to play scales. I just wonder where I was when the talent was being given out, like George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Eric Clapton…oh, there’s so many more! I wouldn’t want to be like them, you understand, but I’d like to be equal, if you will.”

B.B. King wasn’t the first iconic artist to question his talent. He won’t be the last. And…

Since that day in May, I can almost stomach my inability to churn out a gazillion words an hour or more than one blog post a week. How? I remind myself that peeps like B.B. King practice late into the night. Me, too! And…

Even legends question their talent.

Example 5: ”Lose Yourself”

Dwayne Wade has one. So does Missy Franklin and the Pittsburgh Steelers. What is it?

A song or playlist that pumps them up for their game or race. I have one to get me psyched to face a seemingly impossible rock climb.

Last year I decided I needed an anthem to help me not quit on the days I worried Write 50 was a crap idea that would never work.

Enter “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Check this out…

“Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity

To seize everything you ever wanted, one moment

Would you capture it?

Or just let it slip, yo.” ~Eminem, Lose Yourself

On tough days, these lyrics remind me that Write 50 is the one opportunity I wanted to seize in 2015 and run with in 2016. When doubt threatens to derail my writing session, I tell myself to…

Play your fight song.

There it is. A formula and 5 mantras.

How did your round of Yes, No Way, Kind of go? Did you answer “yes” or reframe a “kind of” at least once? If not, got an idea of how to look out for potential mantras?

Here’s the formula one more time…

When a movie line, song lyric or soundbite strikes a chord…

  1. Write it down.
  2. Reframe it to make it your own.
  3. (Optional) Post your version somewhere prominent like the bathroom mirror, fridge or front door.

Have a mantra in mind? I double-dog dare you to share it with the Write 50 crew in the comments section below.

Block-ditching Resources:

Steven Pressfield’s Writing Wednesdays

playbook and game that challenges you to self-coach yourself through your writing blocks

Write 50’s Clear The Chatter: The Silence Your Inner Critic 7-Day Writing Challenge


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