Sometimes artists feel alone.
It’s the plain and simple truth. If you don’t know other artists you can begin to feel lonely, like no one else is like you. Even when you know better.
I’ve already blogged about why writers need writers, and why they need a flow of critiques.
But what about encouragement?
Sure, some critiques can be encouraging. Other times, however, an honest critique can create as much doubt and worry as it creates a feeling of worth.
If you never doubted your writing, you would never improve.
However, doubt and worry can only take you so far. You need encouragement. And here’s why:
1. Honest encouragement is just as worthwhile as an honest critique. When someone is willing to tell you “hey, this part of your novel is really, really good and here’s why:”, you get this feeling of elation. You feel like your face is going to break because you can’t stop smiling.
Someone has given you hope.
2. When encouragement is meaningful, it can strengthen your writing. If someone takes the time to not only encourage but to explain it, your writing will benefit. I’ve talked before about excessive positive feedback is little more than “fluff”. If someone just goes around screaming “AHHHHH I LUV THIS SO MUUUUUCHHHHH”, you haven’t benefited at all. You probably blushed and went “pff you’re too kind” and moved on.
However, when someone says “you did a really good job here” and then explains why they think you did well, you will grow as a writer.
When you know what you’re doing write, you know what to keep doing. Learning what you do write is just as important as learning what you do wrong. You need both.
3. Encouragement keeps you from judging yourself. It’s never a good idea to hate your own work. It’s okay to be critical, but it’s NOT okay to be your worst critic.
If someone encourages you, they open your eyes to the good things about your writing.
I recently had someone comment on a chapter of Agram Awakens in which they said (and I paraphrase) “I really like how you can convey so much emotion with these two simple words”.
And I realized… I do that a lot. I take two words and use them (sometimes as a repeated enforcer) to create a much larger emotion, something that usually takes more than two words.
This simple comment (I think it was two sentences) made me realize “oh… I’m not that bad at this writing thing”. Just prior to reading that comment, I’d been re-reading a passage of that book and wondering to myself “wow how bad is this, I’m not in this character’s head at all”.
Sure, there are a few rough spots. There always are, especially in rough drafts.
But you know what?
There are also good spots, even when I (or you) can’t see them at first glance.
4. Starving artists don’t deserve to starve.
I don’t mean starving in the literal sense, but in the sense that they’re alone. No artist deserves to be alone.
Actually, no one deserves to be alone, but that’s a post for another time.
Being an artist is hard. You create something that you feel deep down in your soul and then you reveal it to others. It’s setting out a piece of yourself for the world to see. Sometimes people will dislike it and it hurts because it feels like that piece of art is part of you.
How do you keep it from hurting? Well, you could just never show the world what you’ve created. That works. No one will ever be able to judge your creation and choose to dislike it. That’s an option, right?
Yes, but… what is the point of that creation?
You should write for yourself, true. Don’t write for others, write for you. Write what you want to read.
At the same time however, don’t just write for yourself. If all you do is create things and then stuff them deep inside your closet… what have you accomplished?
Scary thing is… you’ve really done nothing.
But when you put your art out there – even just for one person – there is a chance for encouragement. For every person who will dislike what you’ve created, there is a person who will love it. Quite often, more people will love it than not.
When you are encouraged, you’re no longer starving. Your soul has been nurtured. The only way to be encouraged is to put your art – your writing – on display. Take the chance. Let others see that little piece of your soul.
Someone will find it beautiful.
Show & Tell - When it's Appropriate (Vera Aisling)