Encouragement for Aspiring Writers

Recently, my youngest daughter (who just turned six) watched the new Veggie Tale DVD, Princess & the Pop Star. This particular story is about two “girls” who switch places. One is a poor farmer lass who wishes to be famous and the other is a rock star who longs for a simpler life.

After watching the DVD several times, my daughter came up to me and motioned for me to bend down as she usually does when she has something secret she wants to tell me. (As the baby of the family, she rarely has the opportunity for privacy!).

With a shy smile, she whispered, “Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up.”

I took her sweet little face in my hands and gave her my fullest attention. “What do you want to be, honey?”

She glanced around to make sure none of her siblings were within hearing range. Then she leaned closer. “I’m going to be a rock star.”

I drew her into a hug, pressed a kiss against her silky head, and said, “That’s wonderful. I’m sure you’ll make a fantastic rock star.”

My eight-year old son also had a recent what-I-wanna-be-when-I-grow-up moment. For some reason, he’s really into Batman. He reads Batman comics, plays with Batman action figures, and fights Batman style at every opportunity (you know, the-kicking-the legs and swinging-the-arms thing).

One day he declared, “I’m going to be Batman when I grow up.” But, he didn’t whisper it to me. He said it at dinner where all his siblings heard him. And of course, my three teenage children who are in the let’s-be-very-realistic stage were quick to inform him that there was absolutely NO way he could be Batman when he grew up.

Fortunately, my little man doesn’t get discouraged easily. And their nay-saying didn’t sway away him from his desire to be Batman someday.

If there’s one thing about parenting I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I don’t need to be the voice of realism to my children. Instead, I need to let them have wild dreams. I need to let them believe they can accomplish whatever they set their hearts on. And I need to encourage them to go for it.

Because, the fact is, there are going to be plenty of other people and situations that will eventually be that realistic voice. My kids are going to get slapped around, battered down, and told that they can’t do it.

Why should I be the one to do that dirty work?

I want to be the one to uplift them, believe in them, and encourage them (along with teaching them to work hard!). Because who am I to say that my daughter won’t be a rock star when she grows up? And who am I to say that my son won’t be a super hero someday in his own special way?

As a published author, I don’t need to be the discouraging voice to beginning writers. If I meet someone with slightly unrealistic expectations about publishing process, I don’t need to make sure they know how hard it is. If I read someone’s work, I don’t need to give a full critique and point out every mistake. And if a writer tells me they’re going to self publish their first book, I don’t need to remind them of all the pitfalls.

Instead, I can be an encouragement. We all can. Because let’s face it, we’ll all have to swallow our fair share of realism eventually. In today’s tough market, the industry is brutal enough without all of us nay-saying each other.

So, I say to each aspiring writer: You can do it. I believe in you.

What about you? Have you gotten discouraged lately because of well-meaning but negative advice or conversations? Are you surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and encourage you?


  1. Aw, this is touching, Jody. As much as I love when your posts are about the writing process, it sure is sweet to read a little slice of life about the Hedlund family on your blog. :)

    To answer your question, the way I surround myself with people who encourage me is by going online and connecting with other writers. Unfortunately, most of my family just doesn't get the whole writing thing. In fact, no one even reads fiction. So whenever I get excited about anything to do with storytelling (my own WIP, a movie, a novel I'm reading, etc.), I have to exercise restraint b/c if I bubble over with childlike enthusiasm, I will be reminded that "It's *just* a story." I love my family dearly, and the need for them to bear down on me with this realism is part of who they are, so that's why I'm thankful for the online community. I also have a few friends who get it & are encouraging, so that's a blessing, too.

  2. Wow, Jody! What a great post!

    It is easy to fall into the trap of not believing we can fulfill your dreams. But of course, chasing them is half the fun!

    Thanks for the note of encouragement! Have a great weekend! :D

  3. I try and be the voice to my children, not the negative voice. They need to dream. And sometimes dreams are what hold the newbie afloat while they learn. And there's been way too much negative in the blogosphere lately.

  4. I agree with Laura. There has been a lot of doom and gloom around blogosphere lately concerning publishing. I think all writers, aspiring and published, have to step back at times and truly soul search, or the negativity will seep in and affect their work.

  5. This is a great post, Jody. I'm currently in the camp of discouragement, though it's due to my own thoughts and fears as opposed to outside "help". Nonetheless, this post is inspiring and rings true. Thanks for the words of encouragement for all of us slogging through the trenches.

  6. Very well said! Everyone, children and adults alike, has so much in life telling them they can't do something. Naysaying just breeds negativity and defeatism, which lead to an acceptance of an unsatisfactory life. If you want something, go for it. Make it happen. Your son may not grow up to be Batman, but he could find a career in law enforcement. Particularly at an inexperienced stage in any venture, people need encouragement and guidance. Not to show them the obstacles, but to help them reveal their strengths.

  7. Jody, You are the ultimate encourager. Thank you!

  8. My husband, though he won't read what I write, is very supportive though he doesn't get the realities of being a writer sometimes. That's fine - at least he doesn't sulk (too much) when I hole up to write.

    Unfortunately, I keep trying to get crit partners so I can get feedback, but every single one of the five thus far on my current WIP has flaked out. Hard to keep positive when no one will respond. Is it so bad, they just don't want to talk to me any more? Some have had it almost 2 months now. So that's my problem. I can't find good crit partners at the moment. It'll get better.

    Love your use of the little ones to talk about encouragement!

  9. Great post, Jody. This is a particular struggle for me, as my job often requires me to be the voice of realism. *sigh* I try to do it in the most encouraging way possible, but I don't always succeed.

  10. Sigh. I needed to hear that. Being the first trimester, working full time, and seeing my house fall to pieces (i.e. piles of laundry etc.), is discouraging enough. Especially with a plotted book, a semi-finished synopsis, and no imagination to write when I get home from work. I keep feeling I'm being unrealistic ... but then someone says "you can do it". Thanks :) ((hug))

  11. Hey! Good morning everyone!! Happy Friday! Glad the post is resonating for many of you!

    Hang in there, Jaime. You'll get your energy and your mind back eventually! After 5 such brain-dead experiences, I can testify that the writing juices will return! In the meantime, enjoy the baby moments! :-)

  12. Absolutely, Jody! I agree about encouragement.

    The more difficult moment is when like Rachelle, you're in a position in which you are SUPPOSED to give objective feedback, for example, a critique partnership. Then, you sometimes have to make the decision "do I give the entire critique, to help this person, or do I withhold some of it because it's not the right time?" Recently, I gave one friend the highest-level critique, because she has become so proficient at the craft that I felt she was ready to take her novel to the professional level. This would mean making some of the very same types of rewrites that I had to do on my own recent novel. Editorial suggestions like that can be hard to take, as you and I both know! :-) But there's a difference between a critique like that one, designed to help, and one intended to discourage.

  13. This post is like a breath of fresh air. Thank you for always being there with such helpful posts and with your kind words. It means the world to this aspiring author. :)

  14. Well said, Jody. And not to make it All About Us (though isn't it, really?) but being that voice of doom and gloom can be exhausting, as well. Especially when dealing with grown-ups who have their own stubbornness and determination and issues and STILL think they can be Batman!

    Not a week ago, someone on a message board I frequent - which is not writing related, but attracts a lot of amateur writers - was proudly declaring that he'd finished editing his 200,000-word novel.

    I didn't have the heart to tell him with a word count like that, he wasn't anywhere near finished.

    There's so much information out there, that I've realized I don't have to be The Voice of Reason. People will learn when they're ready to learn.

  15. Truth be told, Jody, I discourage myself all on my own. Which is exactly why I don't hang out by myself all that much! LOL.
    I mean, me, myself, and I can really do a number on my ego when it comes to my writing ... and I need my writing buddies to slap me upside my head, er, I mean give me some perspective about this writing gig.
    When it comes to giving new writers feedback, I believe there's always someway you can encourage them. And you don't have to hit them with an overwhelming reality check -- the whole "here's the truth about your writing ability and the state of the publishing industry" avalanche. I mean, I was allowed my daydream days as a writer ... why should I deprive someone else of their dreams, their hopes?

  16. This is so wonderful :) Thank you so much for the happy thoughts and encouragement. Very much needed. I'm such an incurable optimist, and its nice to occasionally hear that that's okay.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  17. Hi Jody. Thanks for your encouraging words.

    There seems to be a blurred line between dreaming and reality for me, because I'm not exactly sure where one spills over into the other. I have this dream to become a published author. But I don't really know where I stand in comparison to others. I have studied writing in school, so I think I'm a decent writer. But then I'll get a rejection from a magazine I've submitted to. Obviously, we'll all get rejections, but it just reminded me again that, maybe I'm not as good as I thought. That thought process can then lead to a number of doubts: Is my story any good at all? Can I handle it if I write several novels and none ever see publication? What's wrong with me?

    It's at these moments that I have to give myself a proverbial slap in the face and tell myself to keep going, that I'll never get anywhere with that attitude! And it's at these moments when I need to pray that God will give me the strength and encouragement I need to keep moving forward. I have indeed been very blessed with supportive family and friends who are excited for me and praying I find success!

  18. Thank you so much, Jody. I appreciate these words of encouragement more than I can say.

  19. So what you're saying is that wanting to be a published writer is about as feasible as wanting to be Batman. Hmmm.

  20. I'm all about encouraging, but the most encouraging thing I got early, early in my career was someone willing to tell me that I did it "all wrong and needed to rewrite it entirely" but that I could fix it--plenty of people encouraged me with "you can do it", but no one pointed me in a direction for me to improve, that's not something your mom or friend can do, it's the writers ahead of you.

    There's a difference between someone writing a story and just talking about it, and one that enters contests and crit groups and asks for opinions. I am thankful that I had one voice tell me the doom and gloom about my story, otherwise I'd most likely be as poor a writer as I was back then. When do you decide to go from "you can do it" to "Here's something that will help?"

    I'm glad a "simon cowell" told me that I needed serious singing lessons BEFORE I showed up on national television thinking I knew how to sing.

    But maybe that's just me.

  21. A wonderful, wonderful post!! This applies to all of life. In work situation whenever I was the one in authority, I never just pointed out the negative. I reinforced the positive aspects and then "gently" suggested ways the person could achieve even more. I have written my autobiography for my family and it will probably never get published though it has the makings of another Glass Castle in style and interest. But there is always that little humble hope in my heart that it will and is a fun thing for me to dream about. Thank goodness there are people like you who have not forgotten to put heart into critiquing! Hugs, Kerrie

  22. I just love it when my sons want to tell me a secret. They'll pull me in the other room, and kind of smile when they're sharing with me. My 11 year old twins definitely want to keep things from their opinionated 14 year old brother!

    Yes, we should encourage our children AND each other. We're hard enough on ourselves already :D

  23. When I was four, I wanted to be a dinosaur when I grew up. You have given me hope. ;)

    Awesome post!

  24. Great wisdom.

    You say:
    "I want to be the one to uplift them, believe in them, and encourage them (along with teaching them to work hard!). Because who am I to say that my daughter won’t be a rock star when she grows up? And who am I to say that my son won’t be a super hero someday in his own special way?

    Now that I have stopped being amused by your children, its a serious moment to say, I think its wonderful how supportive you feel.

    I never had that growing up, and I rebelled at my mother for telling me to hang up my writing and art. She told me it wasn't the real world. I had to survive first. But if she said with tack,

    and say Thats wonderful,if you can study and go to work too while supporting your art and writing, I'm sure my own life would have been lived differently.

    Being there for your kids dreams without spoiling them is great!

  25. Love how you come at this from a parenting perspective!

  26. This is 100% beautiful and encouraging. Love it, Jody.

  27. Thanks for the encouragement Jody. No one else but myself has been a discouraging voice. I have been my own worst enemy, and I need to squelch all the negative self-talk about never 'amounting to anything, so why waste my time' has just got to stop. :)

  28. Thank you for being encouraging. I've been wondering after reading the writing blogs lately if I should even try to write at all anymore.

  29. What a beautiful post! It took me a long time to realize that I needed to be selective in who I shared my writing dreams with. Now I have a handful of wonderful writer friends who uplift and inspire one another. It can make all the difference.

  30. I agree, especially with regards to the kids! I know better than anyone that what they can do is LIMITLESS. :)

  31. Your children are blessed that you understand the need to support their dreams.

    Encouragement (at any stage and any age) is invaluable! We may not always reach our specific goals, but stretching towards them gets us closer than not trying at all. And if reality says those goals remain out of reach, the support of people who care about us lessens the disappointment and helps redirect us to more attainable ones.

  32. YES!!! We're mothers, friends, fellow writers, critique partners (and any number of other things), but that doesn't mean we need to be the ones to crush people's dreams or frighten them off pursuing their goals (even if we think it's for their own good). I've noticed that often people (myself included) discourage others for the wrong reasons, i.e., not wanting to cheapen our own efforts which may not have been successful by telling people that they have a great chance of doing it.

    I am always encouraging to my son's dreams (right now, he wants to be a dinosaur when he grows up, and I am totally on-board as long as he is a plant eater and not a carnivore) but I can't say I am as encouraging with other, newer writers. I've learned something from this. Thank you :)

  33. Jody, I think your blog has always held a positive tone. You're right though . . . it's been kind of ugly out there lately!

  34. I love this post, Jody. I just wrote my Monday post and it was about one of my kids' dreams of what she'll be someday. And how I don't want to discourage her even though it's not the most realistic dream in the world. We are on a similar wavelength, as we have been many times. It doesn't hurt that we have five kids and similar ages. Wishing the dreams stay big in your family. With an author mother, I'm sure they will. :)

  35. Thanks for the encouragement, Jody. I'm with the other posters who discourage themselves. Maybe we all need to find a part of ourselves that is as encouraging as you are to your kids:)

  36. And...I loved it when you described your youngest telling her secret aspiration. It was a wonderful description that showed your writing abilities. I could so relate to her. My writing is still sometimes to precious to say out loud like your son and his Batman dreams.

  37. I'm going to read this post whenever I'm feeling down about my writing future!

    Thanks Jody!

  38. "If there’s one thing about parenting I’ve learned over the years, it’s that I don’t need to be the voice of realism to my children. Instead, I need to let them have wild dreams. I need to let them believe they can accomplish whatever they set their hearts on. And I need to encourage them to go for it."

    I loved reading this. I'm a mom, and a writer, and I try hard to encourage my children. I'm always struggling with those "realistic" discouraging words from my parents. I don't want to inflict that on them.

    Thanks for your post.

  39. While I think encouragement is great and goes a really long way I think that voice of realism can be encouragement in its own way.

    If I want to be a published writer another writer further along than me taking the time to point out where I need help actually helps me reach that goal. Criticism doesn't stop me in my tracks but rather it can push me further and validate what I've done. Someone thinks my writing is worth the effort to make it better.

    I think the best encouragement stems from truth. If someone tells me my book is perfect from the first draft, it needs no editing, and will be on the NYT Bestseller list immediately even though most people have no idea who I am I'm not going to go very far on that encouragement. You probably wouldn't want to let a child believe they can fly, literally, and leave them alone on the roof of a ten-story building... Even if being a voice of realism stings at the time it can be the best thing for them in that situation. I do believe, though, when we do take that role love and gentleness go a very long way.

  40. Thank you for taking the time to encourage new writers. Out of the authors I follow or have heard speak, there are either encourages or realists. Writers doubt ourselves enough; thanks for being in the encouraging camp!


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