I’m very lucky indeed to have not one, but two writing mentors. Writing can be a solitary occupation where you take yourself to your writing ‘place’ and get down to the task of creating worlds, real or imaginary, depending upon the type and genre. My mentors scrutinise my work, offering suggestions and encouragement in equal measure. They are not averse to point out errors or offer ideas for improvements, but always positively. Similarly I belong to an excellent writers’ group. This collective of mentors are a mix of experienced and inexperienced writers, some published many times over, in print, broadcast and on stage, others yet holding aspirations. We can read from our latest work and ask for views, particularly where we have an issue or are not certain why something isn’t working. Most writers have such people to offer helpful support and encourage their work.
I suspect however that like me, many writers have their tormentors. Who are these people? Why do they manage to worm their way into a writer’s vulnerability? I’m sure if you’re a writer you’ll recognise the worst of them, the unsupportive, the negative. Especially the ‘you’re-not-a-proper-writer-unless’ brigade. They write smug letters to writing magazines and post on online forums, and the list of reasons is long. These include: having a contract / agent / publisher; write absolutely every single day; must have undertaken a creative writing course; won the Man Booker – I made that one up, but you know the type.
The worst ‘torment’ for me is the ‘writing every day’, you’ll have seen them: ‘I get up at 5am and write at least (insert random number) of words before the rest of the family appear – or after they’ve gone to bed, or waiting for vegetables to cook, or standing on one leg ironing and feeding the dog. What do they mean by this? Working every day on the single project? Do letters, emails, and diary entries count? I’m busy. I have a job, a family and life sometimes gets in the way. Why should these tormentors make me feel guilty or inadequate – or both and tell me I’m not a proper writer?
This kind of negativity can eat into a writer’s psyche and make them feel they’re not up to the job, when in fact they simply write in a different way. I am learning to cast aside the odd ideas of the tormentors, after all, I have my wonderful and positive mentors to keep me on track.