When I was visiting my grandmother one summer afternoon, she pulled out a letter I sent her.
“This is good,” she said.
She pointed at the paragraphs and said the ideas were well organized, my writing flowed well, and I included lots of details. “It was interesting to read,” she said.
Then she looked up at me and smiled. “Maybe we have another writer in the family?”
Did I gasp? Her words certainly sent a jolt through me. Did she know how badly I wanted to write? Could she have known how much I yearned to be a writer?
Surely the thought of me as a writer seemed far-fetched to her. After all, my mother was a seasoned editor and columnist, endowed with innate writing talents—Grandma saw her earn accolades in college and as a career journalist.
My father was an editor at a prominent metropolitan newspaper, shaping stories, crafting headlines, and curating front-page content.
Even my brother, a skilled wordsmith, showed promise as a creative writer, eventually becoming an award-winning copywriter for ad campaigns.
And then there was me—Grandma knew her granddaughter was a sprinter on the track team, a clarinetist in the band, and a dedicated student earning good grades. Yet, no one, myself included, saw me as a writer…well, I helped put the school newspaper together, but I was hardly an ace reporter.
Yet here she was, encouraging me to write, cheering me on.
During that brief exchange when pointing out the strengths of my letter, Grandma kindled a spark of hope within me.
External Validation Bolsters Us
While external validation shouldn’t dictate our writing journey, it bolsters us when we face the inevitable resistance that hits us from within and without. Her words reverberated in my head (and my heart) for years, counteracting doubts that crept in, giving me courage to push past obstacles and move toward a future with words.
Around that time, my best friend in high school praised the short story I wrote: “The Medallion of Kilimanjaro.” Her sincere reaction made me believe I could tell a captivating story.
A few years later, my college boyfriend nudged me to enroll in creative writing at our university—his vote of confidence aligned with Grandma’s earlier endorsement, solidifying my self-perception as a writer.
In one of those creative writing classes, a poetry professor urged me to submit my work to the undergraduate journal. Armed with her belief in my potential, I sent in three. The outcome exceeded my expectations—each of the three submissions was accepted for publication, and one poem secured a prize.
I could continue to list even more people who added to that chorus of encouragement, bolstering my confidence. Editors, friends, team leaders, mentors. With their voices cheering me on, I took risks. With their affirmations in my head and heart, I pursued a writing career—I built a writing life.
Who Cheered You on as a Writer?
Who cheered you on throughout your writing journey?
Who pointed out your potential and steered you toward a life of words?
Whose voices gave you confidence?
Was it a mentor, teacher, peer, editor, friend, or coach?
If they never voiced their thoughts, would you have given up?
Make a list of the people who offered you encouragement to pursue this path. If possible, track some of them down and thank them.
Perhaps you could mail them a letter?
After that…cheer on another writer. Encourage them as they face obstacles on the path to achieving their writing goals.
When you do, you’ll be one of the powerful voices adding to the chorus of those who give them confidence to stick with it—to pursue writing and build a writing life.
- My Writing Life Beginnings, Pt 1
- My Writing Life Beginnings, Pt 2
- Writers: Never, Never, Never Give Up
- 5 Writing Strengths
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