Reframe Like a Dane

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(Book available here

I promise, this post about a parenting book actually has something to do with my ruminations on writing goals. Stick with me… or just scroll down to the bold sentence. 🙂

In The Danish Way of Parenting, authors Jessica Joelle Alexander and Iben Sandahl explore “what the happiest people in the world know about raising confident, capable kids.” Not surprisingly, a subtitle like that was simply irresistible to a navel-gazing, research-loving mama like me. And when I got the book from the library, I was even more thrilled. Basic principles organized around a handy-dandy mnemonic device? Hurray! Shout-outs to nonfiction books I’ve already gobbled up? Woo-hoo! And lists of practical implementation steps at the end of each chapter? Lists, people! Lists! Utter euphoria.

Now, for obsessive readers of parenting literature (cough, cough, ahem) this book didn’t necessarily cover new territory. But it was a lovely synthesis of diverse research, repackaged from an interesting perspective. I especially enjoyed the introduction about recognizing our culture’s default settings. I also liked the final chapter on the Danish concept of hygge (basically, it means “coziness”).

So what does any of this have to do with writing? (See, I promised I’d circle back!) Authors Alexander and Sandahl had some great things to say about the practice of reframing. While I certainly plan to use this skill in my personal life, I’m even more eager to try it out on my writer brain.

Alexander and Sandahl see reframing as an essential tool for realistic optimists, people who are in touch with reality but focus on the more positive angles. It’s not about being fake, naive, or willfully blind. Instead, reframing helps us to “filter out unnecessary negative information.” It’s a life skill that can positively alter our brain chemistry and influence how we experience pain, fear, and anxiety. As the authors state, “Our language is a choice, you see, and it’s crucial because it forms the frame through which we see the world” (53-56).

So as I ponder my past writing history and my future writing goals, I’m trying to revise my limiting language. In doing so, I hope to also revise the negative storyline that currently defines my creative life. I won’t lie. It’s hard to be both honest and hopeful. Somehow, I’ve come to equate negativity with truth. How sad is that?

Some baby steps toward reframing my writerly self-talk:

  • I like to stoke the shame with this repeated message: “I’m a terrible, lazy, and unmotivated writer.” Now I’m trying to replace it with: “I’m a busy working mom and I still make time to write.”
  • Then there’s the dreaded fear that “I’ll never finish a novel.” I hear that one all the time. I should remind myself, “Look at all the freelance articles I’ve finished on deadline… and been paid to publish!”
  • The flip side of “I can’t focus” is that “I’m lucky to have so many ideas.”
  • I reject the guilt of “I should only be working on my novel right now.” I embrace the idea that “It’s wonderful to pursue all of my writing interests.”

Do you use any limiting language? If so, how might you reframe it using realistic optimism? 

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