Positive reinforcement for writers: Let’s be kind!
Have you ever received a faceless response to a piece of your writing that you felt at the time flowed from your brain like typed gold dust? I certainly have. In fact, I’ve changed that opening sentence about five times and I still don’t like it. Words that sometimes trickle rather than flow and sentences that we sometimes can’t finish for weeks. It’s hard work, so let’s be kind. I want to talk about positive reinforcement in our reading and writing community, and how it is something that we should all be commonly practising.
I, like most writers I know, am my own biggest critic. Although, there are some days where I’m my biggest fan too. When push comes to shove and when my writing becomes anything more than a thoughtless doodle, I feel hesitant, restrained, somewhat controlled by an overwhelming unease at the frightening prospect of others reading my words. It’s not easy for any writer, having to face the cold-hearted reality of rejection, and the abhorrent competitiveness of the scary, faceless ghouls who cause this rejection. In reality, these ‘ghouls’ are just people. Most of the time they are the loveliest people that an overly anxious heart could desire, probably wishing that they could make everybody’s individual dreams a reality. But they have a job to do, and as much as it hurts us sometimes, they do it beautifully.
In such a competitive field, it is no surprise that most of us will be rejected too many times than we care to mention. But I think it is important to remember that this isn’t a bad thing, it’s a process, it’s a new skill, and you don’t swim with the sharks the second you earn your Kellogg’s 100M distance badge.
I have never been accepted for my many novel attempts, neither have I won any awards for my countless short stories, but I’m in love with writing and that love only strengthens over time. Why? People are kind, that’s why.
Positive feedback from bloggers, storytellers, sharers and everybody in-between is important! Trust me when I say this, it really is. A simple smile or heartfelt comment can make a writer’s week. We, as people who live in the pocket of relentless rejection, need to know that our stories matter. Constructive criticism and positive reinforcement are my favourite tools. A simple like, a discussion about a character, a suggestion about a wider reaching story or any words of encouragement help us to grow. It reminds us that we share one thing, that all of us do this imaginative hobby for two overlapping reasons, love and passion!
It’s striking to see just how much writers care about people they have made up. You’re telling me that two days ago you didn’t know this character’s name, and today you care about them too much to kill them off (as such was the savage plan). You’re telling me that you haven’t smiled all day, apart from when User 778 replied, ‘loved the ending to your short story?’ 100%. You’re telling me that you thought about quitting before you found a safe space to discuss your passion for writing? Too. Bloody. Right. All of this, and so much more is what keeps a writer going.
In an age where the keyboard has become weaponised, facts have become politicised and stories of hatred make the front pages far more often than those of love, it has never been so important to be kind. To positively reinforce our community and to share our passion in a safe space is an avenue that I feel incredibly lucky to have found. Let’s keep the door wide open, take it off its hinges, in fact. Say yes to weird and wacky stories, say yes to passion and the magic of words. We have a duty as members of our community to protect it; to shield it from the times when we do paraphernalia that doesn’t fill our heart with joy, to be constructive and compassionate in our reviews of stuff we hate. There are things we won’t like that sell a million copies worldwide. I hate peanut butter, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a fresh jar in our cupboard every week.
Words are powerful. More powerful than we could possibly believe. They are timeless to societies, communities and individuals. And we, as individuals, remember most those comments that make us feel inferior, subdued and unworthy of our passions. They can bring a strong goliath to their knees and keep them there, but kind words can raise a shy individual above the clouds. Mean words can prevent people from sharing, but compassionate responses can bring out the most booming of smiles upon our faces. Be kind, because everybody is fighting their own battle. They may be winning, they may be losing, or they may be taking a day off from the havoc we all feel rattling around in our brains at times. But one thing we can do is help people with our words.
In a world that many are not too proud of at times, be proud of yourself, and be proud of our beautiful community! Happy writing!