Encouragement

Writers Are Mean…

All writers are mean. We are abusive, bullying, nasty, horrible people. We are overly critical, judgy, and our standards are too high. We cause crying, anger, yelling, sadness, depression, anxiety, and sleeping problems. Writers do and are all these things, to ourselves, often.

Therefore, why on earth should we allow other writers to do the same to us? Too many times I’ve seen a writer trying to bring another one down. In most cases the perpetrator is doing so to make themselves feel better – superior. You know what makes me feel good when reading another writer’s work? Telling them the good things I see.

I’m more than happy to critique something when requested but generally most writers when they put themselves out for the world to see, i.e. a short story on their blog, or a Facebook post, etc, need encouragement.

Personally, I know sometimes I need the motivational push or someone to tell me it’s not terrible, or something else positive. So I have to assume other writers need the same.

Why can’t we hold each other up and be supportive instead of mean and judgemental? There are a few people I know who like to tear others down and it is clearly based on a lack of confidence on their part. Maybe no one helped them or encouraged them early in their career. I know that even when I or other writers in my community try now, these people don’t notice.

What if they were told the good stuff when they first started out? Would they feel the need to be crappy to other writers today? Maybe so, but also, maybe not.

Think about this. If you’re only surrounded by harsh comments, negativity, unwarranted criticism, and unfavorable comparisons for years, you’re probably going to be a pretty miserable human right? Since, as a writer, you’re going to do this to yourself and be unable to escape it, wouldn’t it be great if someone, preferably many someones, was there telling you what you did right? Saying how you are great with dialog or description, or how your writing voice is so clear. Maybe just telling you they love your stories.

Now what if it were other writers telling you the good stuff? As writers we can’t help it, we value what other writers say over everyone else. I mean, sure, your mom, or spouse, or best friend can say every word you write is perfection but you know they love you and that makes their credibility a little shaky (even if they are correct). When someone else who practices your craft gives you positive feedback, WHAM, it hits you in the ego in the best sort of way. Little tendrils of goodness invade your subconscious…maybe I’m not the worst writer on the planet…yeah, that is a damn good sentence…perhaps I can do this, etc.

I believe, as a writer, I have several jobs to do.

1: Write, as often as I can.

1.5: Finish what I start writing.

2: Always try to improve my craft.

3. Help other writers as much as possible.

The third one is very important to me. When I first started writing I was alone in it. One person encouraged me but only as a hobby. I was a stay at home mom with a husband who thought I should never do anything for me. My job was to be a mom and nothing else. Throughout the years I was actively discouraged and ignored when it came to writing. Everything from being told my writing sucked to being accused of being irresponsible for even trying. Once I was divorced and then married again I was the victim of subtle undermining. My confidence was shot and my desire to write was nil.

Then one day I realized something. My exes were A-holes who played on my real issue with writing: fear. I always worried I wasn’t good enough at it, that I was wasting time only to fail. I feared succeeding as much as failing. I was afraid of what others though or might think.

So I took the first steps toward writing regularly. Eventually I married a man who actually wants me to write. I found other writers in my community, most of which were encouraging and welcoming. The ones who aren’t, well, they can’t touch me after the stuff I heard from the exes.

Being around others like me changed everything. Now I write all the time. I have more confidence in what I do and I’m constantly improving.

When I meet new writers, or people trying to get back into it, with fear in their eyes, everything I went through comes back to me. So I step up and try to make them feel welcome. I share my story when needed and always have something positive to say about their work. I do the same for people who are actively writing. All I want is to be as supportive as I can. No one should have to feel bad about writing.

There will always be the negative writers around so I hope my attitude and others who think the same help to balance out the bad things we all have to hear. It takes so little effort to do these little things to help others and everyone benefits.

I’ll save my mean writer side for myself. Speaking of, after rereading this I spotted tons of complicated or shaky sentences and am fighting the urge to fix them. See? I don’t need anyone else to tell me I suck. Maybe someday I’ll even stop listening to myself.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to encourage at least one writer this week. I hope this message doesn’t self destruct!


Photo by Ryan McGuire

Beware The Enthusiastic Writer!

I’m learning writing is contagious to other writers. I suppose I have always been aware of this phenomenon since I tend to get inspired by being around other writers. This time I’m on the other side of the equation.

It’s probably more accurate to say enthusiasm is the infectious factor. I’ve seen my excitement about stories affect others before but those were people who were already writers. Each simply needed a nudge, a little encouragement and perhaps a bit of happy writerly vibes.

Today I had a different experience. There is a man I previously worked with who now works at my regular writing spot.

I see this guy almost every time I go out to write and we always say hi in passing. A few weeks ago he stopped me and asked what it was I did all the times he saw me. I told him I was writing a book and it was often too distracting to write at home.

His eyes lit up. He told me he wanted to write, but complained he didn’t have much time. I later learned he also didn’t have much discipline. He wasn’t writing at all but really wanted to. From that day on I gave him little tips and subtle encouragement. Maybe it was guilt because in the three years I worked with him I never knew he wanted to write. More likely it was just me being me and wanting to reach out to someone who needed help.

It’s hard when you have no faith in your ability to do something you dream about. Passion is destructive if not channeled. I could hardly bear seeing someone ripping himself apart the same way I had.

I started with telling him to carry a little notebook with him at all times and if he couldn’t or forgot to pick up a napkin and write anything that came to him. He was startled at this and told me he always carried one with him years ago but got out of the habit. A couple of days later he had one in his pocket.

I really concentrated on throwing on tips on sneaking in writing. If you read this blog regularly, you know I’m all about writing in short bursts if it’s the only time you have!

As the weeks went on he would occasionally wave me over and tell me about something he wrote. Today he showed me a note on a napkin. I was so proud of him! It was in this moment I realized talking to me about writing was really helping him. It’s a slow process because in my opinion he’s still assailed by fear (we’ve talked about what fear did to me too). The important thing is he’s writing!

I didn’t do anything but tell him what I went through, encourage him, and throw out a few tips. He took it from there and I hope he flies with it.

It’s so sad when frightened writers aren’t able to be around other writers. This man is twenty years older than me and he’s only now getting to the point where the fear isn’t stopping him. Our conversations are never more than five minutes, most of them have been maybe half that but it was the push he needed.

If you are a writer and know someone who wants to be the same, help them. Even a few quick words of reassurance or pointing them to a great website with tips can make a huge difference in their life.


WR