The Privilege of Encouragement

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Do you remember as a child being so excited about something and some well-meaning adult spoke a few less than positive words? Do you remember that feeling of your hope crushed like a balloon releasing all of its air as a pin breaches the rubber?

I do.

I remember several times throughout my childhood where I gave up before I even started.

One was during 8th-grade parent-teacher conferences and when the counselor asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. When I replied either a veterinarian or a lawyer. The response I received was I’d better learn to like chemistry, which I hated, or I would not be able to do that. I am neither a vet or an attorney today. And, I never took a chemistry class.

Another time I expressed that I wanted to be a writer. The response? You have to have a job to pay the bills. I have the job that pays the bills, and I am a writer. Go figure!

Each of these instances (and there were probably more) stands out in my mind as life altering events. Neither of them large when looking from the outside.

The inside is another matter.

I immediately decided that I wouldn’t be able to be a veterinarian because I didn’t like science. The thought that I wouldn’t be able to stand the sight of blood or seeing animals in pain didn’t come into play until years later.

Being a writer was something else. I didn’t know anyone who made their living as a writer although one of my classmates father was a writer. I didn’t make the connection that I could do that.

The belief that writing is a job just like any other at never entered my mind. I just assumed that writing was for a hobby, but the “real” work of life had to be the drudgery of a 40-hour work week. This type of work pays the bills but is soul killing.

My writer’s group sponsors an annual writing competition for young writers. It’s called ‘Write Out of Hibernation’ and is for the local high school kids.

This year I have the privilege of being one of the judges. I even volunteered for this.

Although I haven’t begun the process of reading through the entries, I feel the weight of my task.

These young writers have poured their soul’s onto the page and have opened themselves up. Each hopes to win though only three can. It has to be difficult.

Each of these young people is braver than I am as I struggle with submitting my work.

I have a chance to encourage someone to follow their dream. A chance to live a fuller life. A chance to encourage each of them in ways that I wasn’t.

I hope I am up to the task.

What have you done to encourage someone today?

Writing Contest: How has Writing Positively Influenced My Life.

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I am participating in a writing contest for Positive Writer.

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t enchanted by stories.

I read early, when I was 3, most likely going on 4. Books and stories have been a part of my life since before I can remember.

When I was six I wanted to write books. I had no idea what that meant or how to do it. In first grade, one of our assignments was to make a book. Now, I thought that it meant that I would be able to write one and take it home. Can you imagine my surprise when what my teacher intended was that each of us would make a page in a book that she kept? I was so disappointed.

From that point on, writing was big in my world. I liked diaries but didn’t keep them. I kept starting them and being a child in transition, I didn’t keep up with them. The thought was always there.

Getting my first official journal at age 13 was the best thing. I picked it out myself. Silk and turquoise blue with birds, I had that thing for years. Sadly it has been lost to time now. But it did do one thing: I’ve kept a journal since. I haven’t always written but I’ve had a journal, just in case I wanted to.

Writing has been the theme of my life.

Journals helped me to see what I needed to for my life. I still have most of them.

Writing stories was a different beast all together. I don’t remember ever writing stories as an assignment in school. I wonder if that happens now. Would things be different for me today if creative writing had been a part of my education?

The first time I tried to write a story that I remember was for a special assignment. It was still in school but it was for a story to read to the first graders. I think I was in 5th grade. I believe it was a colossal failure. I had no idea what I was doing.

I still have another that I wrote that same year. I was a superhero. Can you imagine?

I stopped the stories for a few years but not the desire. I have several I wrote in high school. Better but still very rough. My friends enjoyed reading them though. It was a mostly positive experience.

I believe it was during this time that I began to hear what many early writers hear. “Writing is a good hobby, but you still have to support yourself.” It was discouraging to say the least.

Over the next 20 years I wrote journals on and off always struggling to get a story out. I took classes on occasion but never made the leap to writing seriously.

An area where writing has served me is when I was pursuing higher education. I didn’t begin college until I was nearly 30, which is a whole other story. I discovered that I could convey my thoughts well enough to get good grades. For those years, nearly 9 of them, my writing consisted of nonfiction, writing assignments. I never suffered the anxiety of writing that other students reported. I, at times, had difficulty starting but once I did, things went well. As I look back, I didn’t feel like a writer even though I was.

During college, I took one creative writing class. It was my first time experiencing so many things. Reading my work out loud and getting feedback was a nail-biting challenge. I even wrote and submitted a cringeworthy story to the school writing journal and it was accepted. I’m still not sure how that happened.

Writing has been a theme of my life. No matter what else I’ve done, writing has been there. I’ve used journals to deal with my struggles. The dream of writing a novel that ended up on the New York Best Sellers list has been the one constant in my life.

So here I am, writing still. Things are different now, I must say. I’ve achieved so many of my other dreams, this appears to be the oldest and yet, most unachieved dream I have. It is time. I have begun.

It has taken me so long to get here, I still consider myself a beginning writer. However, I recently read a statement that said something like, if you have 50 blog posts then you aren’t a beginning writer any more.

This is number 47.

I guess it is time I changed my thinking. Again.