Stop Listening To Naysayers & Just Write
by Writing Workshops Org Admin
A year ago
A few weeks before graduating from Millsaps College, everyone wanted to know my plans after graduation. I didn't have the right answer. "I'm going to pursue my writing career," I said to a friend over lunch.
"Oh." She wrinkled her nose like she smelled something bad. "You need some rest."
After graduation, I encountered friends and family who didn't understand my desire to be a writer. No matter how I explained, my words were ignored. "I've written stories," I said to a family member who wanted to know where I worked.
"You could tutor kids after school," she said.
What could I say or do to make people understand writing was my career choice? Unpublished and with no formal training in creative writing, doubt settled in. Maybe I couldn't make it as a writer. But six months later, I received an Artist Minigrant from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Feeling confident, I called each naysayer. Every conversation followed the same pattern.
"I received a grant for my writing," I'd say. "I submitted my short story Justice is Blind."
"How much is it for?" the caller would ask.
"Five hundred dollars."
"Five hundred dollars?" A dismissive laugh. "Girl, please."
Disappointed, I knew something had to change…but what? I worked harder. I cooked, cleaned, and I was more attentive to my friends' and family's needs. I helped with school projects, volunteered at church, and helped others apply for grants. I wrote speeches, edited papers, and listened when friends needed to vent.
"You wouldn't understand what I go through at this job," said Mary, a friend in the throes of more workplace drama.
"Excuse me?" I said. "Why wouldn't I understand?"
"You don't work!" Her voice rose an octave.
"I do work," I shot back.
"I work a real job." She laughed sarcastically then said, "You don't even get out of bed until four o'clock in the evening."
Angry and frustrated, I ended the call. As hard as I worked each day, I couldn't believe anybody thought I slept all day.
At eight o'clock the next morning, the phone rang. I looked at the caller ID. It was Mary, probably calling to apologize. I reached for the phone, then hesitated. I let the call go to voicemail.
"Pick up the phone, Trina," Mary said. "I think my boyfriend is cheating."
My jaw dropped. I couldn't believe they were breaking up. I reached for the phone when it rang again, then hesitated and let it go to voicemail again. Mary's messages became angrier with every ignored call.
"You're just sitting there," Mary screamed over the answering machine. "Pick up the damned phone!"
Mary was upset and hurt. I felt sorry for her, but wasn't it time for me to feel sorry for myself? As I listened to Mary's fifteen voicemails, I realized writing hadn't been my main priority. My chores only resulted in a cleaner house and a well-fed family. Volunteering and being an unpaid counselor only resulted in being a doormat, not a writer. I allowed everyone and everything to interfere with my desires.
The phone continued to ring. Mary kept screaming into the machine. I finally unplugged the phone.
By the time I received my third Artist Minigrant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, I had made some big changes. In addition to honing my writing, I stopped listening to those who doubted my career and surrounded myself with people who did. I started an email newsletter, created a Facebook fan page, and even sent a press release to the local news when I received my latest Minigrant.
Lady Gaga says it best, "Ignore all hatred and criticism. Live for what you create and die protecting it." Emerging writers must be vigilant in continuing to write their stories despite the opinions of others. Knowing the value of your craft is the key to a successful career. Writing is a business, and your stories are the inventory. If you don't write them, you have nothing to sell.
As I grew as a writer, I learned no one cared as much about my writing as I did. Telling your stories is valuable. Convincing people of your worth, responding to insults, and running away from your dream will not help you achieve anything. My advice? Stop listening to others and simply sit down to write.