Habit 7.2: Sharpening the Social/Emotional Saw

First, an anecdote:

Back in July, I visited family out of state. My folks and a jelly bean assortment of other relatives live in or around a small college town. It’s a lovely little town, open to artistic types and therefore a certain amount of expected quirkiness. However, if you don’t have a car you’re pretty much stuck in the house all day.  The public transport system is so limited as to be nil, and the community is slow to let outsiders in. My mom, who was born and raised nearby and moved there to be close to family, doesn’t drive, and, despite being a writer, is finding it difficult to connect with other writers.

However. The women in our family are stubborn. We insist on doing things our own way, despite vociferous advice from all sides. In fact, the more vociferous the advice is, the more inclined we are to blow it off. In all fairness, I’m the same way. I absolutely refused to go to college. Nope. No way. Uh-uh. Can’t make me. *razberry* I was the same way about my wedding. There is no way under the sun, moon, or stars you can make me do something I don’t want to do. The more people told me I had to do something, the more I dug in my heels.

However, however. Mom also lives in fear. It’s a product of depression and the side order of disorders that go with it. Anxiety. Panic. A mild dose of paranoia. Feelings of lack of control. You’ve seen the commercials. I don’t know if she realizes that’s what she’s doing, or if she’s holding so tight onto her dream of making a living writing her way that she’s simply missing out on opportunities. She has this picture in her mind she refuses to deviate from. Every effort to help is prefaced by “I can’t” and “I don’t want to.” The subtext of fear, of trying something new, is pretty clear.

She wants a writing group, the ones in her area are too far away, aren’t serious enough, or are full of goobers. She refuses to find one online, because she wants to meet with people outside the house. She wants to make a living writing the traditional way, and refuses to consider any online  venues or even the less-mortifying-these-days option of self-publishing while she continues to shop around for agents and publishers. Does she fear success on terms other than her own? Maybe. I do know she’s restricting herself immeasurably. I want so much for her to succeed, she’s working very hard to get there–but I also think she’s her own worst enemy.

The point of all this being, even in today’s era of being ruled by the Dire Interwebz, writing at its core can be a terribly isolated gig. I think that’s why so many writers have cats. But it doesn’t have to be. Writing is what we’re passionate about, the number one thing we have in common. We’re a close-knit community, but an open one, as well. We speak our own language. Add mandatory fezzes and we’re a cult. Yes, there’s always going to be a few Debbie Downers and Negative Nancies out there, but the same holds true for any group. But trying so hard and getting rejected is so much worse–even if we tell ourselves it’s part of the gig, it can still be devastating. I’m not going to go to my family to lament, or even my husband–I’m going to go to other writers. They’ve been there. They’re encouraging when I fall, elated when I succeed.

Know what? We all feel the fear. It whispers doubt at us, every time we sit down to write. It’s insidious, pervasive. The Infernal Editor is especially good at this. Know what helps? Sharing that fear with other writers. Because we recognize it. We know how to fight it. We are the chanting mob with the burning torches and pitch forks. Because nothing and no one has the right to hold such control over us.

Here’s how to be an awesome fellow writer:

  • Keep your relationship in constant repair through continual deposits into the Emotional Bank Account (translation: give more than you take)
  • Value the differences in others (this makes us better writers, as well as better writer-friends)
  • Practice Emphatic Listening regularly with the people who are important to you (translation: shut yer yap and truly listen.)
  •  Widen your circle of friends (find other writers and get all writerly together–word sprints, check-ins on the state of emotional well-being)
  • Forgive yourself and others who may have hurt you. (Negative Nanciness is the product of underlying issues–have sympathy for these people rather than give in to it)
  • Build writerly relationships by being open, fun, and encouraging.
  • Let go of damaging competitive feelings you may have toward others. (Yes, so-and-so got published and made eleventy billion dollars–good for them. No, really. Be      happy for every writerly success, because you want people to be happy for      you).

Next Time: 7.3–Sharpening the Mental Saw


One thought on “Habit 7.2: Sharpening the Social/Emotional Saw

  1. Brittany H Martin says:

    I can not thank you adequately for the posts on your web site. I know you’d put a lot of time and effort into them and hope you know how much I appreciate it. I hope I’ll do exactly the same for someone else at some point.

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