Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Lesson in Discouragement

In reading Edo Van Belkom's Writing Horror, I have come across a very interesting, though completely logical, idea.  The author of the writing guide talks about how he always tries to discourage amateur writers from continuing seriously in the craft.  His thought process if that if one man can discourage an ambitious writer to abandon their dreams then those weren't really their dreams, were they?  His point in all of this is that, as writers, we will be subjected to massive amounts of criticism, rejection, ridicule, and other forms of discouraging verbal abuse.  A real writer deals with this in whatever way works best (maybe they have a few minutes for a pity party), then they push forward and continue on writing, revising, rewriting, editing, submitting, and preparing themselves for a brand new round of rejection.  

The lesson in all of this, is to persevere.  If you are a writer - a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a poet, or even an aspiring columnist - then you can't let anyone or any group discourage you from what you really want.  Thicken up your skin if you have to, and keep your rejection letters in a folder that can be easily thrown away when it becomes too overwhelming.  And also remember that rejection doesn't necessarily mean they don't like it - it just means your story is not what they are looking for right now, so either wait until your story is what they are looking for, or send it somewhere else where it will be better received and get your butt going on a new project.  So next time you're in a class, a writing group, an open mic night, or chatting in a forum and someone says that you should throw in the towel, just shrug it off because the only person who can make that decision is you and, if you call yourself a writer, then you've already made your choice.

Amanda LaFantasie (Skoora) © 2012


  1. I have been considering this idea, and I'm conflicted by the author's approach. For some, certainly I can see the affect of telling them they can't. That makes many people - but not all - strive for more, to prove themselves. However, good writer or bad, self-esteem and self-worth play a crucial role in how we accept criticism. Just because someone is thin-skinned I do not believe this is a worthwhile excuse to say, "Well they are not worthy of being a writer." I worry about this individuals frame of mind. We are all different, thus the way we learn, the way we grow, that too is all different. Yes it is important to be able to accept constructive criticism, but there is a big difference between constructive criticism, and saying "No, you can't."

    1. No I agree that you have to approach this 'devil's advocate' role very, very carefully. I would never discourage someone in this way. I might tell them, warn them, that they are going to be rejected at some point, but I would follow that up with an explanation like what I put in the blog about how it doesn't mean you aren't good, just not what they are looking for.

  2. I think letting a prospective writer know that the road ahead is going to be difficult is good. I am a big supporter of letting people know what they are getting into, of not hiding things, and most certainly not painting a glorious picture for them only for things to fall out for them and them be even more depressed. But I don't think a person has to be an ass about it. You can be kind and sensible, logical and forthcoming while showing compassion and encouragement.