I often wonder when I decided to be a writer because I keep thinking that there has to be one defining moment that set this all in motion. Writing was an escape and for comfort when I was a child and teenager. As I grew older, it was a way to deal with emotions and thoughts that I didn’t feel comfortable expressing in other ways. So, if someone stumbled upon a poem or story, I could just tell them that it’s fictional and deflect their insinuation that it was more personal than that. I had a few teachers and professors that told me that I had talent and to keep writing but no one specifically said that I could ever be anything more than someone who wrote just for the hell of it in their spare time. I didn’t receive that kind of encouragement until I was in my mid-forties. And even then, I was skeptical but I still had a tiny thread of hope that I could more than a closeted writer. But since then, through the encouragement of others and, more recently, the support of other writers in the groups that I’m in, I have more than just a thread of hope. It’s maybe ribbon sized now. I know that still seems relatively small but it’s actually pretty huge. So I am determined to be published in some way within the next year. In my ROW Retreat Saturday, I read a poem that everyone loved and I was even encouraged to submit it to the New Yorker. I’m going to do just that and if it’s rejected, then I’ll submit it somewhere else. They said that it was a perfect expression of womanhood in the #MeToo movement times. Arnold said that the world needs more angry women. So, unlike in the past, I am listening and accepting, not deflecting, this praise and encouragement. I guess the question that I’m pondering is why do we need the outside encouragement to make it possible for us to even begin to consider the fact that we might be a talented writer. I know that not all writers are this way but a lot of us are. Why are we so insecure about and critical of our writing? I know that we need to be able to turn a critical eye on writing but we also need to be able to look at it from a more neutral perspective. Some people think that everything they write is gold while others of us think that what we write is mud. We’re unable to see the gold that the mud hides and to realize that the mud is actually our inability to see our own worth and ability. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting outside opinions and praise, we have to also be willing to praise ourselves and to value the writing that we do. For most of us, we didn’t start out writing with the intent to be published. We began writing for ourselves and no one else. And, being children, we didn’t turn an overly critical eye upon what we had created. We were proud of it. Of course, no one had told us the cold hard truth about the odds of our work being published or rejected time after time or how critical others can be or any of the other things that we found out later in life. Those things made us think twice about our ability and whether it was even worth our time to continue to write. But still, we wrote. Or maybe we did have 1 piece of writing that was complete mud or just a diamond in the rough that someone gave an extremely negative critique on and made us feel like the worst writer in the entire world and we definitely considered giving up our passion. But, we didn’t. We kept on writing but began to turn an even more negative eye upon it. Or we read or heard someone else’s writing and we compared ours to theirs…which we all know never works out in our favor. At that point, the best thing probably is to get outside praise and positive critiques because something is needed to turn our thinking around. But, the thing is, there isn’t always going to be a cheerleader beside our desk while we write. It’s just going to be us…alone. So we have to be a better judge of our own writing. We have to stop looking at our first draft and comparing it to an edited, finished masterpiece. And we have to be our own cheerleaders. And I know as well as anyone just how difficult that is to do. After already being exhausted from work, home duties, relationships, and life in general when we sit down to write how can we possibly be more positive? Well, first, after all of that, we sat down and we’re writing. Second, the more we write, the better we’ll get. Third, we have to write because it’s our passion so we have to be positive. I know that’s a bit of a tautology but it is what it is, tautologically speaking. We are amazing. We are creative. We are passionate. We are committed. We are unstoppable. We have to stop doubting ourselves and being negative about our ability and what we create. Accept and believe it. And even if others doubt us, we are still going to write because it’s what we do. So, we’re going to get out of our own way and write. And it’s going to be amazing!
“It is impossible to discourage the real writers – they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” ~ Sinclair Lewis