Listen. Think. Speak. Write.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Building Support

Everything built requires support. Beams, posts, trusses, footings.  I probably should just quit with this analogy now because I don't actually know anything about construction, but the general principle applies. Without the appropriate support, structures fail.  It can take years.  It might lead to a minor crack or total devastation.  

As I get deeper into the novel querying process again and as the end of the semester nears, causing my students to scramble or to go numb, I'm struck by the important lessons regarding support we can learn from home improvement shows.  A solid foundation is hard work, but the lesson of the day is: plenty of help is available, but you probably won't find it unless you seek it out.

When I think about it, I bet in most situations where I feel most alone and afraid it only takes a few clicks, a phone call or even a smile to start building a support network.  The most challenging part is that when we are most vulnerable is when we have to make the effort to reach out.  I know my insanely busy students probably feel like the world is about to cave in on them, but there are tutors and friends and family would be happy to help hold up the walls if only they were asked. 

We writers are a particularly insecure lot.  And with the odds of getting published so low, it's not surprising. I can't tell you often I feel like Writer Cat on this one.  Every time I write a novel, I am sure it's complete and utter crap, and I usually have to put it away for months before I can find any value in it.  The amazing thing about a contest experience like PitchWars (I wrote about it last time) is that even thought I didn't "win" anything, I am reminded that I am not alone. In fact, there is a wonderful, supportive community of writers out there, all just itching to be insecure together. 

Lesson number two is equally important and relevant to to #1.  People want you to succeed.  Even in competitive situations, the overwhelming majority of people don't want success at your expense. I don't find great joy when students get F's in my class. Other writers have been amazingly generous in their time and feedback along the way.  Students in public speaking hate having all eyes on them, but I remind them that those eyes are generally supportive ones.  It's painful to watch others struggle, and we would much rather cheer you on in success.

When doubt cracks the foundation, I need these lessons to keep me from assuming the structure is irreparable and abandoning it altogether.  

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