I just had an experience that I want to share as it seems to be quite typical of the writer’s journey. I wrote a post that I thought was really good, got all excited about it, expected some lovely feedback and…. Nothing. I fell flat on my face. Well, my ego did. In comedies, when the main character falls flat in his or her face it’s funny. In real life, it hurts.
Writing can be a lonely business sometimes. People don’t realise. It’s not like those office jobs where you have colleagues, a coffee machine, a boss, a structure, a plan, an annual review and a pay check. For a writer none of this exists. You have to self motivate yourself. You have to build your own plan. And very often it’s wiser to have a day job or at least a part time job so that you don’t find yourself in a state of desperately needing money as it usually repels opportunities when you approach them in that emotional state. Believe me, I learnt the lesson first hand.
So how do you keep that motivation? How do you build self belief? Very often, friends and family, as well meaning as they are, have no clue what it is like to fend for yourself. They have jobs. They don’t take risk. And writing is a very risky business. You risk making a fool of yourself. You risk spending years “trying” with no obvious result. Writers circles can be good, as long as you come across one that is supportive. I admit not having ever been to one myself so I can’t comment. I would love for you to share your experience I’m your circle if you go to one.
I have however, shared my work with friends and family and although I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, I don’t recommend it. For me, what has worked best, is make friends with like minded writers. I learnt over the years that just because you do the same thing does not mean you will be on the same page. We all have our insecurities, especially us creatives. In fact, I would hazard a guess that most of us walk through life feeling like frauds and hoping no one is going to expose us. I do. Our inner critics are vicious. We struggle to gather enough self belief to get started. The last thing we want is to share a piece of work with someone who has ulterior motives. Someone who has unresolved issues and who is going to trash our piece because it’s good and they are jealous. Someone who is going to only pretend to help us but does nothing to really improve our work because they believe in competition and it’s them or us. And believe me there are a LOT of those birds flying around.
If you are put in the position of Irving feedback on a fellow writer’s work, remember the compliment sandwich. Praise-feedback-praise. No one should ever give feedback in any other way.
Be extremely picky who you share work and make friends with. I know this does not sound very nice but at the first sign of a lash out, take your leave. Don’t put up with nasty behaviour. You want to be around people who genuinely want you to do well. They are rare, I know, but well worth the wait. And let’s be honest, it is hard for us too. If your best friend got a book deal before you, it would be hard to celebrate it, especially if you believed that your work is better than his or hers. This is human nature. But we can all rise above the fear, envy, jealousy, anger, resentment and all those dark feelings that we all experiment when we forget there is space for everyone. The best way to do this is to be honest. It is better to say to this friend “I find it really hard to be happy for you when I feel left behind, so please accept my apologies, let me sleep on it and hopefully I will be able to be genuinely happy for you tomorrow morning.” Rather than pretend you are happy but give her a fake smile.
We all have our insecurities, but if we are not willing to stick out for others and support each other, then there is no point. No one else can do it for us, because no one else understands the loneliness of the writer’s life. So in a way, I see this as a necessity.
I don’t believe in competition. I don’t believe competition is doing any of us any good. I much prefer collaboration. So what! the world as we know is competitive? Maybe we can invent a new world for writers where encouragement, support and space for everyone could be created.
At “I can make you write” I want to create such a space.
To your creativity
Ange de Lumiere