A Special Place for an Encouraging Word or Two (By Dominique T. Chlup, Ph.D., P.O.W.E.R. Associate Director)


A Special Place for an Encouraging Word or Two

By Dominique T. Chlup, Ph.D., P.O.W.E.R. Associate Director

Photographs and artwork credits belong to Dominique T. Chlup



For years, I have been collecting quotes and affirmations related to living a creative academic’s life.  Almost as important to me as my daily writing practice is the power of reading other people’s encouraging words to nourish and inspire my own.  I find repeating affirmations and reading others’ quotes before I sit down to write provides a loving and expansive presence that taps into the calm center of my heart. 



For the most part, my collection has resided in a crystal bowl gifted to me years ago by my grandfather’s sister.  I love that the Czech crystal sings when I tap it gently each morning to lift out an affirmation.  Until recently, I had been content with using my crystal bowl, changing the affirmations and adding or deleting quotes as the mood struck me.  Then, while reading an issue of the magazine Somerset Life, I saw Italian artist Monica Sabolla Gruppo’s beautiful “Book of Grace,” a special cardholder she made out of a vintage vocabulary book.  Her gorgeous book showcases her own collection of inspirational statements and affirmations, and upon seeing it, I knew I wanted to try and re-create a similar holder for my collection.



While Gruppo designed her book to highlight a single word—the word grace—and as a way to cultivate inspiration for the coming year, I felt July—the middle of the year—would be an equally fitting time to try my hand at this project as this is the time of year when I re-group, re-think, and re-organize my yearly goals.  As I see the progress I’m making or not making (as the case may be) toward my writing goals, positive affirmations can go a long way in helping me to move forward.  Gruppo (2013) poignantly reminds us, “Positive affirmations help us to focus on what is important and what matters.  They can direct our energies into what we would like to be expressed in our lives, and help us reach our goals” (p. 53).  She beautifully echoes the significance of using positive affirmations at any time of year when she concludes, “They reinforce our positive thinking and can even counteract the negative thoughts that may stream subconsciously through our minds” (p. 53).   



So I drew my inspiration from Gruppo and created my own book to display my collection of writerly advice.  Containing some of my favorite quotes about writing, positive affirmations, and inspirational words of guidance I’ve collected over the years, my book is a reminder to live my academic life deeply and creatively each day.  For instance, when I read A. L. Kennedy’s quote:  “Remember you love writing.  It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t.  If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back,” I knew it would be one that I added to the book.  




For those of you interested in creating your own special place to display an encouraging word or two, the instructions are straightforward.  Following Gruppo’s lead, I carefully folded each page of a vintage book in half.  Mine is a 1943 novel I picked up for $4 from a used books store, but old dictionaries or textbooks would be equally as lovely.  Antique doorknobs—one glass and one silver—protrude from the center of the book and create visual interest.  I purchased them inexpensively from a local antique shop.  When making choices for what to include on my inspirational cards, I referred to my own list of favorite quotes and affirmations.  These were then typed out in intriguing fonts and placed on cardstock, vellum, and old notebook paper.  Many of the quotes were then pasted onto paper purchased for under a dollar from my local craft store.  For instance, I used a sheet of hand stamped paper with French newspaper text on it because it resembled the pages of an old book.  I embellished the various cards I created with ribbon, crafter’s twine, decorative paper, glassine envelopes, fabric tape, and any bits and scraps of paper that inspired me. 



The resulting book lifts my spirits each time I see it and makes me grateful that I’ve shown up for my writing session.  Each day, as I begin my writing practice, I take out a card and let it inspire me as I move forward in living a creative academic life.  And having a special place for these encouraging words sharpens my desire to reach my writing goals.