Writing is a solitary life. Our ideas typically stem from our minds alone. Our words are born in our hearts alone. Writing is also a sedentary life. We sit and crank out words at a computer day after bloody day, alone. Writing is often a lonely life. So, what keeps us going? Discipline? Inspiration? Ambition? Yes, and something else; encouragement.
A wise man once said, “Words of encouragement, skillfully administered, is the oldest therapy known to man.” Why? Encouragement breeds hope. Hope generates inspiration. Inspiration triggers discipline. And discipline achieves artistic expression.
The question then is where do you, as a writer, find encouragement?
May I suggest you look behind you? Who is standing behind you—and your writing?
Mac Lucado, in his book, A Love Worth Giving, recounts a story of Nathaniel Hawthorne coming home from work after being fired. He was despondent. Yet, his wife surprised him by responding in joy, “Now you can write your book.”
Hawthorne was more concerned about feeding his family. His wife unveiled a wad of money she was saving and encouraged him saying, “I always knew you were a man of genius. I always knew you’d write a masterpiece.”
Today, the fruit of her encouragement is still found in every library in America. There you will find a copy of The Scarlet Letter. Nathaniel Hawthorne didn’t have to go far to find encouragement. She was standing right behind him.
For me, family and several friends are also standing squarely behind me—and my writing. Today, I’ll mention just two.
I would have never dreamed of writing a novel if my wife, Karen, didn’t gently alter my direction. I am a non-fiction writer. Or so I thought, until she transformed my preconceived notions of fiction and my ability to write it. Karen helped me redefine the rigid image I had of myself, my writing and my skill set.
“But I don’t know how to write dialogue,” I complained.
“Just try,” she insisted. “Have you ever noticed how people react when you tell a story? You are a storyteller!”
And every week she gives me the greatest gift you can give a writer—time. Time to write, blog, and ponder the next writing project. I have a very demanding work schedule so extra time to write is a precious gift.
Like every fiction writer, I also struggle with periods of self-doubt. Is this character compelling? Is the plot intriguing? Is the premise plausible? Is the setting intriguing? Is the dialogue authentic? Is this concept marketable? Karen quietly peeled away my self-doubt and gently nudged me toward becoming a novelist. My confidence was fueled by hers and I not only started writing a novel, I finished it.
And then there is Dave. You might say, Dave is a writer’s accountability partner. He not only believes in me and my writing, he helps me write it. What do I mean? Dave often helps me birth a story idea, flesh out a character, develop a plot, consider subplots, or identify the market. He pushes back on me when I attempt to write a chapter without an outline, insisting I need a road map before I start the journey. He unselfishly provides practical writing advice and steady diet of encouragement.
In one of my darkest days, when my novel was not going well I turned to Dave.
“How do you know when you should give up writing?” I asked in frustration.
Dave smiled, leaned toward me, and said, “When you no longer have ideas inside you screaming to get out! And your ideas are screaming to get out.”
He has demonstrated that one of the greatest privileges in life is to have a friend who believes in you and your writing more than you do. My list of supportive family and friends goes on and on.
Do you need encouragement?
Look around you. Who is standing behind you—and your writing? Identify them. Thank them. And never forget that words of encouragement, skillfully administered, is indeed the oldest therapy known to man.
Now, are you ready to get behind your computer?
The Writer’s Refuge blog is a place for writers, like you, to break away from your daily routine and for just a few minutes find insight, inspiration or simply a word of encouragement.
Blog entries are posted on Thursday.
You may contact Jim Magruder at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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