Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Writers Need Support




This post is my contribution to Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group.  See the list below for about a hundred more posts of encouragement, as well as stories of writers overcoming adversity - or just feeling insecure.


Writers Need Support:

I think there's a difference between support and praise. 

From my immediate family, I need support as a writer.  I often ask them to gift me with sixty consecutive minutes of relative quiet - not easy with three kids.  I need to feel like it's OK if I use up an ink cartridge and a ream of paper every month.  If I'm writing, I don't want to be interrupted unless our toddler has pooped everywhere or someone has poked out an eye.  Sometimes I need to leave the house to get my focus just for an hour or two - preferably without any medical emergencies while I'm gone.  Once in a while, I require eye contact and a pause in the turmoil while I bounce a story idea off of my family.

Except for the occasional eye impalement and many days where there aren't sixty minutes to be given, my immediate family gives me that support and more.   

It would be nice if my extended family, the siblings and parents, would acknowledge that what I do is cool, but I don't need praise.  I was recently the target of some unexpected praise from a family member.  Praise feels false to me, like people are trying to tell me what they think I want to hear.  I don't trust it unless it's from someone that knows me very well or is a writer too. 

Specific constructive feedback, good or bad, from fellow writers - my daughter included - is a blessing.  A simple acknowledgement that someone likes my writing is a gift.

But praise just for attempting to be a writer doesn't make sense to me - it's my job - no one would praise me for going to work at a normal job - they may show interest, but not bubble over with enthusiasm just because I decided to show up for work. 

I acknowledge that we all are amazingly brave to do this thing where we work in advance of getting a paycheck, knowing there's a strong possibility we will never get one.  If we don't get published, it is not failure.  The act of creating is success.  Creating daily, one word at a time, despite the hundreds of things that could pull us away from our work is success.  Believing in ourselves enough to spend days, weeks, months, or years crafting the same story is success - it proves our determination and our love of what we do. 

More than that, writers are the recorders of details in life that would otherwise be missed.  Our job is to pay attention to the little things and hope other people can see them through our words.  It is OK if I never get paid for that. 

I love this community of writers where genuine support is available every day of the week and in abundance on the first Wednesday of the month.

24 comments:

  1. Oh, I think you should accept the praise just for being a writer. I mean at different stages in our process that means different things, but anyone who sits down to write--there is something to that... A person with the stamina to finish a whole book? That is DARNED impressive. I think people often sort of wish THEY could write but haven't found it in themselves to do it--let them praise if that is how they feel. Because we ARE doing something a lot of people admire. We do, though, get to a place where we need to keep raising the bar... from writing, to finishing, to rewriting, to writing something good, to moving people with what we write... I figure if we ENJOY the praise but are not content with it, we can find the balance.

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  2. Hart - Well, when you put it that way, that does sound good. Maybe it was the details of my particular experience recently that seemed very insincere.

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  3. very true we need different kinds of support from different sources. The blogging community has always kept me going! Great to 'meet' you! New follower here:)

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  4. Creepy Query Girl - The blogging community has been great - my local writing friends are always a source of strength too.

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  5. Take praise whenever it comes. :D I agree though, it means more coming from someone who doesn't know you. Some days I feel like I'm insane. Then something comes along to reaffirm I'm not. Thank the universe for those moments. Which they came around more often.

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  6. I can totally relate to this post. I don't trust praise either. I always think people are just being polite. I'm much more comfortable with the familiar "this isn't good enough." Wow, I gotta work on that. :(

    Nice to meet you.

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  7. M Pax - Only after Hart's comment, I realized I am too insecure to take a compliment.

    LG Smith - Maybe being hard on ourselves (to a point) makes us try harder though - to stick with it and do the extra work? Nice to meet you too.

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  8. We really do need a community of writers to support us. Only other writers get how much work is involved with a book, the numerous drafts, the revisions, the layers. Other writers usually, not always, also understand that it is a career, not a hobby or some great feat where we expect praise.

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  9. Isis - I am amazed at how supportive the writing community is. I feel so lucky I've connected with so many awesome people. I was all alone in this about a year ago.

    My nerd friends seem to get it too - I can put the writing process in terms of software development or complex IT processes and they nod their heads and totally get it that the layers are similar - design, development, testing, revisions. It's not like you sit down and magic happens.

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  10. I was chuckling all through your post! The praise part was funny - hey, why aren't there cheerleaders lined up for me when I get to work?
    Really hope the ey poking doesn't happen on a regular basis though.
    Family support is best. I couldn't do this without my wife.

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  11. Alex - We did have one horrific eye impalement accident last Christmas while I was out writing. Fear the plug on the Christmas tree lights. No permanent damage.

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  12. Took the words straight out of my mouth. Praise comes after I do the dishes if I am lucky :)

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  13. I suppose it does depend on where it comes from. Most times I hear I like your writing...but. That just kills me. I can't wait for the 'i love your book' talk just once.
    Thanks for sharing.
    HMG

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  14. @Siv - People notice you do the dishes? :)

    @Heather - Good luck with that. That would kill. Maybe it's easier in some ways before the first one is done. After that point, I will definitely be wanting to hear the love.

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  15. Yes, real support is far more valuable than empty praise.

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  16. My family is very supportive but they don't seem to understand they need to stay out of my office.

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  17. enJOY the support; I don't have much of it in my real world! My husband doesn't read what I wrote. It says he will when I make some serious money. I have to face the fact soon, I will have to go back to school/work and my writing time will shift. Take the support n' the praise, not everyone is this fortunate. My daughter is my biggest fan~

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  18. Michael - You are welcome. I enjoyed it.

    Lynda - You put it better than me - empty praise is exactly what I meant.

    Susan - I moved my desk to my bedroom - that really helped. When I had a separate room, everyone came in to hang out and left stuff on my desk.

    Ella - I am lucky. I'm glad for you that your daughter is your fan. I had a hard time when I asked my husband to read my stories at first - he couldn't fight the impulse to attack it with a red pen, which was very uncool. Now he only gives me the feedback I ask for.

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  19. That was funny, inspiring, and totally relate-able! (Is that a word?)

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  20. I know what you mean, but don't be afraid to take a compliment when someone truly means it. You deserve a little credit for the balancing act you do and still managing to write.

    Thank you for your comment on my blog.

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  21. Well said. Good that your family supports you. Mine is a great support and when I jump up from the dinner table saying, "I got it!" they know to continue on as if nothing ever happened because I just figured something out in my writing. I get to bounce ideas off them as well. Compliments from extended family? Not so much. I'm sure they all think I'm trying to avoid "getting a real job" by claiming to be a writer. But I don't want or need their praise or approval. When they see my book(s), maybe they will finally get it. In any case, good job! Keep up the good work and maybe next month we'll discuss that raise. :D

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  22. Doralynn - Thank you! It a word - no idea on the spelling. They should add spellcheck to comments.

    Murees - You're right. Thanks!

    Caledonia - I think that scene has played out more than once at the dinner table. Good luck to you too! It didn't occur to me the extended family thinks I'm being lazy and making excuses not to work - that's probably a good part of it. None of their business.

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  23. I think writing requires a lot of courage. I wish someone praised me for writing or anything else! Perhaps the person who offered you praise was really trying to be nice, to show support and appreciation, and because she/he isn't used to doing so, it came out wrong. The humble thing to do is say "thanks". Perhaps that simple word would've made that person's day too. Or maybe the person was being a jerk. Either way, there's nothing wrong with praising someone for writing.

    It's clear to me you have support but there are those of us who have nobody at all and find it extremely hard to find the motivation to get going. A little praise here and there might help. Writing isn't like going to work at a normal job, unless of course, you're an editor or something, and that's your normal job.
    At a normal job, unless you own a one-person company, you have people who run the show for you. When you write, there's no one but yourself making the hard decisions and trying to keep motivated. There's no pay either- unless, of course, you're a pro and even then, you may not be earning enough to pay the bills. Some writers, hold full or part time jobs as well.

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