Until about a couple of years ago I pretty much existed in a writing vacuum. I didn’t know hardly any other writers. I hid anything I did write behind a ridiculous pseudonym and refused to put myself ‘out there’ for fear of ridicule and rejection. But I finally realized that if I were going to actually write and get published, then that was going to be part of the game and I could either get in and play, or continue to ride the bench.
So I cautiously edged out of my comfort zone, took a few online classes, actually stopped using that fake name as my email address, and edged my way into the community of writers.
What do you know…no one sent me packing and told me to go back home where I belong!
I learned that the doubt, insecurity, fear and fragile optimism that I felt, nearly every single other writer I met experienced also, even the ones who had attained that Holy Grail of writing: Successful Publication.
I also discovered that writers are some of the most compassionate, helpful, encouraging, wonderful people to be around, and will go out of their way to encourage a newbie, offer advice, a sympathetic ear, or anything a fledgling might need to feel good about what they are doing.
So why can we be so mean to ourselves?
I was having a conversation with a good friend a while back, in which I was apparently bashing myself up one side and down the other for some writing failure I had committed. I thought I was just being honest, but my friend didn’t see it that way.
She told me if I didn’t quit knocking myself, she was going to hit me.
Right on top of my ball cap, right on that little metal button. I saw stars for about a second, but she had my attention. I heard myself for the first time. I heard how much venom I spewed out about myself that I considered, in my own mind, just being honest.
Stuff I would never expect to hear anyone say to me without getting my size 7 ropers in their keister, and stuff I would never ever ever say to anyone else. Not even my worst enemy.
So why in the hell was I saying it to myself?
Those little voices in our minds can be so insidious, and because we get so accustomed to hearing that negative loop we don’t even realize it until someone smacks us on top of the head. They become part of the surroundings we take for granted, the wallpaper, the music in the background, the very air we breathe.
The critics would never get a chance to say anything negative to me.
I was poisoning myself, and defeating my own dream of being a writer before I even gave myself a chance.
Until someone smacked me on top of the head and made me listen to myself for a change.
And I imagine there is one or two of you out there that may be listening to a similar loop in your mind.
I can’t be there to smack you on top of the head, but I can challenge you to stop. Listen. And then say something kind to yourself about your writing, your progress, your goals, your dreams. Talk to yourself like you would someone who needed a friend.
You deserve it.
And yes, that friend that smacked me on top of the head and I are still close. I just watch what I say around her. And myself. I don’t wear my ball cap as much either.