We're All In This Together
Cast your mind back, way back, to your first day of school. Remember those little fears you had, the ones that seem so insubstantial now, but at the time were overwhelming and maybe even paralysing. That feeling of wanting to fit in, wanting to find something, ANYTHING in common with the other kids. That innate need for approval from your teachers and peers. Remember how that felt? I certainly do! I have experienced that feeling many times over the course of my life, when starting a new job (I’ve had a few), attending a social event where I have only known one or two people, or even becoming part of a creative community. Yes, you guessed it, my venture into a real life writing community felt daunting and intimidating right from the get go.
In my experience a lot of people feel this way about joining a writing group. For people who are creative in any fashion it can feel like we are putting ourselves out there even more than usual. We are used to, as humans, feeling vulnerable on occasion. But exposing yourself creatively takes those feelings of vulnerability to a whole new level. Its like baring the innermost parts of your soul and the intricate workings of your mind. Insensitive criticism in these early stages can be extremely destructive to new or inexperienced writers. Art is to be nurtured, not squashed, and if criticism is to be given at all it should be expressed kindly and with encouragement. I have, myself, been on the end of some extremely harsh words in relation to my writing. Sure, it bruised my ego, but it also gave me the sense that perhaps I was not good enough to be doing what I loved, despite having already published twice. This can be a huge problem for young writers in particular. I have seen people torn to shreds by the people who should be supporting them and helping them grow. These harsh words, delivered without tact or consideration have forced many a writer to give up completely. To quit before they’ve even had the chance to find out the extent of their abilities and find their own creative voice. I find these instances heart breaking. Nobody should have the right or the power to make anyone feel lesser than themselves. Which brings me to my next point, and I can’t believe I have to say it but…
IT’S NOT A COMPETITION!
Occasionally I see other writers bragging about their successes (which they have every right to, and I am pleased they are doing well) but when it’s done in such a way that it is condescending to another writer it makes my blood boil. We aren’t all at the same level when it comes to ‘success’ and truth be told not everyone wants to be. Some writers are extremely happy to be creating and sharing with their writing community, ever improving, ever learning and growing in their craft. Others have commercial success, which is fantastic too, and some of us are somewhere in the middle. And that’s okay too. Being derisive to another writer because your measure of success, in your opinion, makes you better or more accomplished than them is not okay. We are supposed to be a community, we help each other out, encourage one another and offer our opinions (and they are just that, opinions) based on our own experiences. We don’t tear each other down or make someone feel lesser because they haven’t reached what one person might deem as success. It’s not a competition and we should be celebrating our diversity and unique perspectives on this incredible human experience we are all having. It is unacceptable for someone to make reaching out a horrible experience for novices who only want to express themselves and find out if what they are doing is okay, if they are on the right path. In actual truth there is no 'right path', all writing is different and should be celebrated. If it were all the same, reading would be extremely boring and nobody would read at all.
I guess the takeaway from this blog, is to remember to always be kind. We might never know the strength it took for a writer to find the courage to start writing. We don’t know what their personal history is, whether their writing is intrinsically personal, or how incredibly vulnerable they may feel when they make that decision to share those first words with us. The same attitude can be applied to life in general as well. If we always judge others based on our own idea of what is good and what is not our communities will always be fractured. Acceptance and understanding are key to assuring effective communication, the blossoming of friendships and the building of trust. We can’t always know the paths the people around us have taken to bring them to where they are.
So just remember that first day of school, when you felt unsure, when you were worried the other kids wouldn’t accept you. When you felt afraid. Fear doesn’t go away just because we grow up. But it is lessened by a smiling face, kind words and a positive attitude. Let’s help those around us to grow and learn, to increase in confidence and feel empowered every time they pick up a pen or open their laptop. Let’s become a community of writers that prop each other up. Let’s be amazing!