Sometimes, People Don’t Trust Me
Sometimes, people don’t trust me. Here’s why:
When someone comes to me with a burning desire to write, or a story that’s wormed its way into their core, I am a cheerleader. Like the craziest, wildest, noisiest fan: ‘Go!’ ‘Keep going!’ ‘You can do this! You’re almost there!’
And this makes some people uncomfortable.
People mistrust enthusiasm. They think it’s insincere.
So sometimes, people think I’m bullshitting when I encourage them. As if perhaps I have some hidden agenda.
I get cornered with these questions a lot:
‘Joanne, do you really believe everyone can write? What happens if you read someone’s writing and you think, “This is shit. This person can’t write. Why would you still encourage that person to write?”‘
And here’s what I think:
Do I believe everyone can write?
Actually, I do. More than that, I believe in everyone’s right to write. If you can talk, you can write.
To decode this a bit more:
- I do not judge whether someone’s writing is shit. I don’t use words like ‘shit’ or ‘crap’ to describe anyone’s writing – including my own clumsy clichéd words.
- I prefer terms like ‘this works’ or ‘this needs work’ or ‘this doesn’t work.’
- What I mean by ‘this doesn’t work’ is that the writing is not ready to be shared with others.
- Writing is ready to be shared with others when the writer has done more than just hack out some words on a page.
- It is ready when a writer has gone back – many times, and shaped, sheared and shorn the writing.
- Writing that is clichéd, sentimental, sloppy and lacks structure or discipline is not ready to be shared.
But guess what? Everyone’s writing is like that – not only beginners, but first drafts of even the most accomplished writers.
Do I believe everyone should write?
No, but if you feel like writing, if you want to write, then why wouldn’t you?
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?
Do I believe everyone can write a book?
Hell, no. That takes a certain kind of discipline. If you are a start-a-new-thing-every-week kinda person, or are born under the star sign of ‘this-is-too-hard-I’m-giving-up,’ or your Myers Briggs profile is ‘I-don’t-care-if-this-is-sloppy-maybe-no-one-will-notice,’ you are not going to write a book. If you struggle to finish anything (reading books, tidying up, getting out of relationships) you will never write a book. A book is for finishers. And if you never invest in getting support, help or input about how to write well, it is highly unlikely that you’ll ever finish.
Do I believe everyone can get published?
That’s a nope. Getting published is a whole new territory of torture – at least in the traditional sense. Because brilliant books are rejected by publishers. Because publishers publish slop. Badly written books. Poorly conceived books. And because a lot of inexperienced writers submit books before they are ready. But, anyone who can finish a book can get it self-published.
I have done 25 years of Buddhist work to curb my tendency to judge other people. And though I fail in many respects (thinking now of Trump supporters and smokers who get a thumbs-down in the quiet chamber of my internal jurisdiction), I have stopped judging other peoples’ writing. I come with a compassionate eye. I hold them to the highest vision I have for them. And I teach others to do the same.
When we judge others, we compare ourselves to them. And this is a plague to one’s own quiet conviction about the value of what we’re doing (we sorta all know this, right?).
What I do believe is that everyone can improve. Everyone can write something worthy of a reader’s attention . . . provided that:
- you do the work,
- you hold yourself to the discipline of self-discovery and mastering the craft.
So I will continue to cheerlead those who are passionate about writing. Even if their grammar is abysmal and their cliché’s a little nauseating. Even in the face of sloppy execution and incoherent structure. Because inexperience can be remedied by tutoring and those willing to work hard.
Not very glamorous in the end, but literally nothing can stop a hard-working writer who has mastered the 6 strengths I teach in my upcoming Author Awakening Adventure from bringing a book into the world.