The Small Things That Help a Writer Grow

A few kind words can go a long way.

Growth, as a writer, takes time.

You can’t just write your first story or blog post or poem and suddenly know all there is to know.

This is why we practice, why we write for exposure in the early days. Why we write hundreds of thousands of words that no one else will ever see, just for the sake of improvement.

All this is so important. You have to learn to write; to not only give your words meaning, but make them understandable and relatable enough for anyone who reads them.

But if I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that as much as you think you can do this all by yourself, you can’t.

I’ve always been the quiet type, the kind of writer who prefers to work alone. I love writing in complete silence without interruption. A lot of the time, I prefer judging my own work over letting someone else critique it on my behalf.

Of course, the further I get into my career as a writer (I write full-time for a media company, so I think calling myself a professional is appropriate at this point) the more I realize that there’s a time to isolate yourself. But there’s a time for community, too.

In fact, this time is essential, if you really want to become a better writer.

I’m very fortunate to work in an environment in which I am evaluated on my performance and coached through both my triumphs and shortcomings. A lot of up-and-comings get the impression that being a staff writer is lonely and you’re pretty much on your own, which is the case for many companies. Working remotely, yeah, sometimes it gets lonely.

But there’s never a week where I’m not given a suggestion on how I can do better, or a pat on the back for doing something well. It’s part of our culture there, to encourage people to grow and develop and continue setting the bar higher and higher for everyone involved.

I hear things like “you might want to work on this, but you do this really well,” and I’m reminded of how far I’ve come in just a year.

Because a year ago, I was miserable. I’d just gathered up the courage to ask a major client to pay me a better rate for my work, and lost that contract (and the substantial, consistent income that came with it).

I’d all but given up on the prospect of getting hired by a company to write full-time. I’d started to believe I just wasn’t good enough to ever earn that privilege.

It wasn’t that I needed feedback on my writing. I just needed the occasional reassurance that I wasn’t wasting my time.

Back when I was still freelancing — back when that was the only way I could make a living — I didn’t have the kind of support I do now. There wasn’t anyone there reminding me that I was hitting the mark, that I was doing okay, that my dedication and effort were worth the long hours and frustration and tears.

Sometimes “good job” means the world.

Sometimes “thank you” means everything.

Some will chalk this up to my “millennialism” — we apparently like to be told we’re heading in the right direction. I see nothing wrong with that. I don’t need someone standing over my shoulder critiquing my every move. But I think writers deserve the occasional push to improve. That’s what I wanted out of freelancing, even though I knew I wasn’t going to get it that way.

“You are doing fine” isn’t a lie or an exaggeration. And sometimes, it’s what eases my anxieties and gets me through my next assignment. What’s the harm in that?

Thank you to my editors, and to all of you for keeping up with me even when I get discouraged and don’t do a great job of hiding it.

Whatever you’re working on, trying to achieve, praying you’ll finish soon — you’re doing a good job. Your work isn’t a waste. Your effort will pay off. Just keep going. I believe in you.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.

4 thoughts on “The Small Things That Help a Writer Grow

  1. Thanks, Meg. It’s a daunting task writing a novel and my first has delivered its lessons for the next. I appreciate the encouragement. I do tell myself it is good, daily. But then…

    I like our community of writers. I appreciate us. Only those who write know the power, the pain, the angst and all too often, the self-doubt that goes along with it. It is a bi-polar existence as some days I’m not quite sure who will be working at the keyboard.

    Nevertheless, I hear your message loud and clear. Good job, yourself. That was a good piece of writing.

  2. I love the wisdom you share in this blog post about writing. I think so many people think of writing as a dreamy, romantic craft that only occurs when writers feel inspired. But when I read the work of real writers, I learn that the best work is created in the drudgery. It somehow makes it seem more exciting to me- writing well is a skill, rather than simply a talent bestowed on the luckiest of people.

    1. This is so true. You kind of learn to turn tragedy into something that can be shared with the world, as dark as that sounds, it’s a small piece of good for all sides.

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