Thursday, April 5, 2012

e is for encouragement

I have learned never to underestimate the transformational potential of a word of ENCOURAGEMENT, a chance encounter, a wink and a smile from the right person at the right time, scattered like seeds along the path. For me, the seed was planted early in life though it lay dormant all these years.

My mother shared her love of words with me--their spelling, usage, meaning, and power. Then, at the age of eleven, I discovered the thesaurus and language burst into color for me. In college, a single paper about "Walden" delivered me into an honors English class just when I was being sucked dry by calculus and physics. It wasn't until the day I retired, though, that the sun broke through again and one by one, people brought water...people delivered ENCOURAGEMENT.

The first to arrive was Brenda Ueland with her insistent words of ENCOURAGEMENT in "If You Want to Write":

If all you've accomplished so far is wishful thinking, her words may inspire you to get started, too.

The next one to arrive was Michael Palmer--best-selling master of the medical mystery/thriller--who, should you ever meet him, is a gentle, self-effacing, easy-going fellow despite what appears on the page. Every year, he and the edgy Tess Gerritsen (both of them physicians in their own right) mentor hundreds of doctors who aspire to the writing life at the SEAK Medical Fiction Writing for Physicians Conference ( There were 800 doctors there the year I attended. On the long drive home from Cape Cod that year, my novel, The Bandaged Place, put down its first tender roots.

Success is a great motivator but for those of us who have yet to achieve it, the journey is long and difficult. Frustration, disappointment, rejection and uncertainty follow us around like a gaggle of ugly ducklings.

Self-doubt alone is enough to stop you in your tracks.

That's when Julia Cameron steps in. Her workshop ( is a wake-up call to the creative spirit in each of us--a call to courage, confidence and conviction. If you are afraid to start or you are stuck with your manuscript or poem or painting or out right this minute and pick up a copy of The Artist's Way. Go! Now!

And if Julia Cameron is the voice of the muse, then Michael Neff is the nuts and bolts...the hammer and nails...the brick and mortar that it takes to get published in today's marketplace. Be prepared to start all over again if that's what it takes...from page one...if you attend one of his workshops ( It will be worth the effort!

Marita Golden, Larraine Herring, CJ Lyons, Timons Isaias, Lynda Barry, Peter Murphy...all of them have carried water for me.

In truth, we are all on the same path.

The writers we idolize are perhaps farther along than the rest of us but their journey is no less difficult. If you listen, I swear you will hear them calling out ENCOURAGEMENT to you, "Just put one foot in front of the other. Good! Keep going. Don't turn back. Follow us."

We are all carrying water to share.

Who has shared ENCOURAGEMENT with you?
"When you are ready a teacher will find you."
--an ancient adage--
In my next post I'll dispel the myth of failure.


  1. When things get tough, I adhere to: "Just put one foot in front of the other and march on (except I say mush on, like in dog sledding). It always works. My mother was the person who encouraged me. I just realized that you have the double word verification activated. Would you consider getting rid of it? As a rule, I don't comment on blogs who have it and I would so love to keep commenting here.

  2. What a great list of inspirational people for writers. My friends I've made in writing groups and here online encourage me though mostly I'm a self-motivated person. I hate to quit anything.

  3. My dad was great at encouraging me - buying me books and magazine subscriptions - my mother not so much, until I sold my first short story! Just this week my son has started writing his first novel (aged 12, so a bit of a late starter compared to me lol) and I'm super excited - he's got some good stuff going on.

    Great post. I'm working through the A-Z list. Nice to meet you!

  4. Each and every kind person who has left a message on a post or poem has offered encouragement.

  5. Very encouraging! Found you via A-Z and am your newest follower. I haven't quit the day job yet, but am slated to retire (5 years before official retirement age) in August, after having made a decision similar to yours. I've written 8-9 novels over my lifetime although I consider my earlier efforts "dabbling"; it's now time to get SERIOUS about writing.

  6. Thanks everyone! Your comments are all encouraging to me.

    Cathy--Retirement is the answer to a writer's prayer! Good luck!

    Annalisa--Does your son have his own thesaurus yet??

  7. Great references! I take encouragement where ever and whenever I can.

  8. It would take someone immensely strong to write without encouragement! I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs this month.