“Every writer has an editor who tries to strangle the writer before he ever gets started.” Craig Johnson, the author of the Longmire series and a Wyoming resident, said this at a talk I attended. I scribbled it down in my notebook, because it resonated with me. I find it’s nice to have another author confirm what you’ve experienced, so you know you’re not alone.
I have this tendency of setting high standards for myself. As soon as I achieve something, I readjust the bar, setting it even higher, and then undermine the accomplishment I just achieved. It’s a flaw of my self-motivation and work ethic, which normally are good attributes. But sometimes ambition leaves little room for acknowledging and celebrating your successes.
My writing group is amazing at acknowledging the achievements of each member. The right writing group can be life-changing. A while ago, one of our members brought in something that helped give a visual representation of our groups’ collective successes. Nellie brought in a quart-size mason jar filled with red wooden beads and a wicker basket. Every time we wanted to acknowledge something beautiful someone wrote, or each time someone had exciting news to share with the group, we’d take a bead from the jar and place it in the basket. Sometimes more than one to acknowledge the importance of the achievement.
Christy shared news that she’d submitted five poems to two different contests, and we were proud of her. Kate submitted her book to over twenty literary agents, and we were thrilled. All six of us in the group have had beads thrown in for things we’ve done. Each week, beads go in the basket and we not only take time to acknowledge and encourage each other, but we also have the basket of beads to remind us that we’re having success on a weekly basis.
Last week, we placed the last bead from the jar into the basket, and as a reward, we’re going out to lunch to celebrate. It’s something significant that counteracts all of our personal attempts at undermining our achievements. I don’t undermine any of the achievements the other writers in my group make, because I see them as these huge successes that they are, and that doesn’t shift with my self-doubt, because they’re removed from me so I can see them as wonderful things. And in this way, we help keep each other afloat by preventing our new expectations from pulling us under and ignoring what we’ve accomplished.
Share your recent achievement with us, no matter how small it may seem. Whether you’ve submitted your work somewhere, finished a project, attempted something new, wrote for the first time in a while, I’d like to hear about it. My recent success is that I’ve made significant progress on this round of editing my novel.