by Jane Bird
In 2012 I learned the meaning of “pressure.” My finances reached the breaking point, I was looking for full-time work while teaching part-time, and my father’s medical condition made him depend on me for daily emotional support. Sometime, during the turmoil, I had stopped writing. When I tried to remember when I had last written, my projectile crying began. My friends gently suggested I might seek help to get back to being myself.
My doctor prescribed medication and I focused on my health and recommitted to my writer habits: Keep regular hours, have regular contact with friends and family and write regularly, especially perspective-gaining exercises. My new favorite is “gratitudes.” Each morning and night, I list ten things for which I am grateful; for example, I have a pair of Spanx that aren’t stretched out, lots of black tights, and plenty of electricity, heat and water.
When I returned to my doctor a month later, she doubled the medication and I doubled down with a seasonal affective disorder light, a new fiscal plan, and a requirement to go out several times each week. My projectile crying has stopped. I’m writing again. I feel better.
If you are a non-writing writer, you may be depressed; see a doctor. If you’re not projectile crying, but are pissed that your work isn’t being published; if you hate what you’ve spent two years writing; if you can’t imagine attempting to write a pantoum, sonnet, villanelle or any received form ever again, I prescribe a giant bolus of support. Stand up and say, “I need you to support my writing,” to friends who haven’t. If they don’t, they’re not friends. Find new ones.
Ditto for your writing group. Your writing group should ask, “What do you want from us on this piece?” They should not rewrite your story or re-sculpt your poem. They can point out confusing areas of the text, describe evidence that your protagonist never “pushes the action,” or explain that your essay’s conclusion slithers off like a snake in the grass. If your writing group doesn’t deliver what you need, walk away and find a new one. Without my friends’ and my writing group’s support, I would not be on a positive path right now.
The point is that support is about you and not about your supporting those around you. It’s not their turn. It’s yours. So what do you do if you’re short on support?
Here are five “to do’s” that have helped me feel like a successful writer again:
1. Celebrate with family or friends when you have a victory: victories as small as meeting your word count for the day or completing your writing exercises each day for a week. Let them know that their support keeps you moving forward.
2. Stay in touch with writer friends, a local chapter of a genre group, or an alumni association. Writing is a craft in which one can do everything right, yet no reward
comes. We all watch writer-friends succeed and move to a higher orbit. We congratulate them, but at some point, we writers who don’t achieve our publication goals need to feel validated to continue to work. When publishers or critics do not provide this vital function, ask colleagues to help you feel you are accomplishing something important.
3. Beef up your “literary citizenship” credentials. Work as a reader, a copywriter, fundraiser, etc. You’ll meet new people who are glad for mutual support and you’ll find appreciation – which we all need.
4. Take a writing class. Make it clear to the other students and instructor that you need support and ask them to provide positive feedback. You will see your work and your pride progress.
5. Give a party for your writer friends featuring wine, cheese and a prize for the “harshest rejection story” or the “worst writer gaffe” or – well, you get the idea. Find a way to laugh at what isn’t working and celebrate what is working.
By giving support to my writing group, I have earned their support in return and they have helped me along my slippery slog towards rejuvenation. These women know that every writer eventually tumbles down her hill. Writers you’ve supported will help you up and encourage you. Sometimes they’ll carry you. If you’re not hanging with those sorts of writers, move on and get the support you deserve.
Concerned that potential employers and medical insurers will link her nom de job application with depression, the author prefers to use her nom de plume, Jane Bird. Often published in commercial and literary venues including VoiceCatcher6 – and with rave reviews from her freelance clients – her goal is to recover enough equanimity to revise and send out the three novels that she has written over the last ten years.