I Met A Guy…

You know how they say, “Don’t meet your heroes?”

Well, in some cases, I absolutely must disagree!

I met one of my all-time favorite authors last week and it was a delight! He has informed so much of what I do and why I do it!

And he is hilarious! He’s as down to earth and friendly as he appears online.

But I digress! I’ll get back to him in a moment.

Now that you know you’re multi-passionate, and have a semi-solid routine of writing and discovery…

You do, don’t you???

OK, …thought so. You’ve been good about making a date with your creative self and you’ve been writing consistently! Good Job!!

And if you haven’t, that’s OK. Hop back up there and start again. No problem! Everyone hits a roadblock now and then, and it’s perfectly normal.

Just Don’t Quit.

Don’t give up because you didn’t do it perfectly!

Which brings me back to my meeting with New York Times Bestselling author, Jon Acuff. (And, yes, he is related to Roy Acuff, the King of Country Music.)

I’ve been following Jon for a number of years and have read almost all of his books. He has a delightful sense of humor and makes even the driest goal achievement strategies fun!

Which, by the way, is where we’re headed today – a solid tip to keep your creative brain from getting stuck!

Many of you have expressed the fact that the whole artist’s date thing has you reeling with ideas, and you couldn’t possibly get to all of them. But you’re also wrestling with a few “I’m not enough. I’ll never be able to do this!” scenarios.

And many of you have also expressed how much you hate that writing thing, and it’s bringing up some negative thoughts and a lot of negative chatter on the page!

Noted, and Excellent! (no joke!)

So, what we’ll be addressing today is how we talk to ourselves when all this “stuff” comes bubbling up!

Enter the Writings of Jon Acuff.

I love all of his books but the two I’m referring to today are “Soundtracks” and “Your New Playlist.” The first was written with adults in mind. The second he wrote with his teenage daughters, and it is aimed at that age group. BUT – and it’s a Big BUT…I have read it cover to cover and it is applicable to all ages! It is a simplified look at the concepts in the “Soundtracks” book, and is equally useful!

I highly recommend both and you can grab them at your local book retailer or online by clicking the titles above.

Both books are about how we talk to ourselves and end up overthinking our ability to accomplish anything. That repeated “self-talk” is our “soundtrack”, and what that soundtrack says can make us “DO” or “NOT DO.” By learning to turn down our negative soundtracks and replace them with positive ones, we can turn our thinking into something helpful.

I’ll bet there’s a song that you know every word to. It doesn’t matter how long ago you heard it or how old you were. That’s because it’s a soundtrack that you’ve “played” on repeat. That song is a perfect metaphor for our thoughts.

Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

If I asked you to write down something you hear yourself say all-the-time, what would that be?

These are what Jon Acuff would call your mental “soundtracks.” You’ve been listening to them your whole life, and they determine how your life goes, good or bad.

Just like you can change the song on Spotify when you don’t like the next one, you can do the same with your thoughts. And that is what these two books are all about!

Here are 3 of my favorite takeaways from these two books:

  1. Ask yourself 3 questions regarding each negative thought: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it helpful?
  2. To change those nasty, worn-out soundtracks to something worth listening to, upend the old, or borrow from someone else.
  3. Use a “thingy” as a symbol to remind you of your new soundtracks and make them stick.

Remember the little train that could?

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can! Let’s dive in!

The Takeaways

# 1: Ask yourself if your thoughts are true, kind, or helpful.

Remember that saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” from childhood?  Well, as adults we know that’s not entirely true. Words can and do hurt. And it’s worse when you’re saying them to yourself.

The first step is to recognize and toss out the ones that are hurting you. There are three questions to ask yourself when you catch yourself in the act:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it helpful?
  3. Is it kind?

Pro Tip: If you are finding some of these things in your morning pages, that is a perfect place to jot down the answers to those questions!

The first question, “is it true?” is all about questioning your thoughts. Pretend you’ve got a little “pocket jury,” as Jon puts it, and present all the evidence. 

Often, we focus way too much on the negative stuff and hardly ever think of the positive. So, let’s give equal time to the good stuff. If you discover that you’ve been lying to yourself, get rid of that thought!

But what if you discover that something you’re thinking is true? Like, “I really AM bad at video editing!” One of my favorite Acuff quotes is “Be brave enough to be bad at something new.”  Here’s where you pull in the other two questions.

When deciding if it’s helpful, ask yourself how it’s affecting you. Does it build you up, make you feel strong, or help you in any way? If the answer is NO, out it goes!

And what about kind? Ask yourself if it’s something you’d say to a friend. Again, if you wouldn’t dare say that to a friend, why are you saying it to yourself?

Once you know the soundtracks that need to get the boot, it’s time to replace them. And that brings us to our next takeaway.

# 2:  Flip old thoughts to something better and borrow soundtracks from people who inspire you.

The good news about identifying a negative thought is that you can use it against itself by turning it upside down. One of the best places is where you hear things like “everything,” “nothing,” “always,” and “never,” to name a few. It’s that “all-or-nothing” type thing.

Once you find these unwelcome soundtracks, simply repeat the opposite to form something a bit more positive.

Believe it or not, Jon does this with writing – and he’s a big-time author! His initial soundtrack was “I have to finish the whole book in one sitting.” He flipped it and began telling himself that he just needed to finish a few pages at a time, and it helped him finish the book!

Another great source for new soundtracks is other people. There are several examples in the books, but if you hear something that resonates with you, there are no copyrights on mental soundtracks!

If you wonder where to find interesting soundtracks and how many to borrow, the answer is everywhere and all of them. Anything that makes you feel good, that’s helpful, kind, and true, is worth putting on your new playlist.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  • “Done is better than perfect.”
  • “Focus on the step that’s right in front of you.”
  • “I don’t have to get it right. I just have to get it going!”
  • “Fear gets a voice, not a vote!” (Which came from Jon himself!)

Now that you know how to flip them, it’s time to figure out how to make them stick!

# 3: Attach your new soundtracks to an item or a mantra to make them stick.

This is like tying a string around your finger and can get a bit intimidating. WHY? Because, as a creative, I have several items that “speak” to me! (a professional hazard for a collage artist!) So let me say right off- you don’t have to choose just one. You can have different reminders for different soundtracks.

In his book, Jon talks about several things he used over the course of his life to help new thought “habits” stick! Some are practical and some are hilarious! Whatever you come up with, make sure your symbol or mantra is simple, personal, and visible!

Many years ago, I got the “Om” symbol tattooed on my wrist. It was a tough time in life back then, and I wanted a quick reminder to calm the heck down, shut up, and listen! As the years passed, I didn’t really think about it as a “symbol” but after I read Jon’s book, I realized I had been practicing this little tip for years! Any time my soundtracks get loud and intrusive, I glance down at my own wrist, and remind myself to quiet down. Quiet is peace. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life.

I had to chuckle as I read chapter 3 in “Soundtracks” because it is all about “turning down the dial on your soundtrack!” Without really knowing what I was doing, I was turning down the dial with my symbol.

Now you don’t have to go that far! Just find something that works for you. Maybe it’s a rock in your pocket, a key on your desk, or a picture on the wall. Maybe it’s all of the above! I have several more.  Just keep it handy and pull it out whenever you’re stuck by overthinking.

So How Are Your Soundtracks?

Jon Acuff is hilarious, and his books are really fun to read. It was such a pleasure to listen to him speak and to meet him in person. He really is so relatable! I have read several of his books and Soundtracks has got to be one of my favorites. The funny thing is, it’s the one that I didn’t take to the signing with me. I forgot it because it was on my nightstand for a second read through!

Identify some of your soundtracks and get them into your pages. Then work out your preferred solution and build a new playlist! Share them with us! Afterall, we can help each other build new and helpful playlists! We’ll even help you find a “thingy” if necessary! Then…

Join me LIVE on my Facebook page, Virginia Leigh Studio, at 3:00 pm Central every Wednesday and we’ll chat about this. I’ll share my tips and tricks on this whole soundtrack thing and talk about a few more of my favorites.

If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with your friends and family. Click your favorite social platform below. And join my email list for weekly creative inspiration and get support and encouragement inside my private Facebook group, Virginia’s Studio Cats.

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