I'm feeling particularly special today.
Part of it has to do with the fact that it's my 35th birthday, and seventy-nine people just wished me happy birthday on Facebook alone, not to mention the people I saw when I went to church for the evening activities.
I could feel a cheesy grin cross my face at every single wish, so now, by the end of the day, my mouth feels like I wedged a banana in it, sideways.
It's nice to have encouragement, even from people I haven't seen in years and/or have lost contact with nearly altogether.
I was thinking about that today--how far encouragement can go.
A long time ago, about seventeen years now, someone I liked and respected very much, who I felt should know quality writing when they saw it, told me that they didn't think I could write very well. I doubt this person would know how much that one comment stuck in my brain, how it has festered there for years and years.
With every rejection letter I've ever received from any agent or publisher, that comment echoes across the years, the barb still fresh, the point still sharp. He/she's right, you know. You can't write. Everything you turn out is dull, pointless, cliched, too full of adverbs, boring, stale, overly dramatic, underly dramatic . . . and the list goes on (yes, I know "underly" is not a word).
As many of you know, I've taken to writing flash fiction to try to hone my skills and perhaps widen my fanbase a little. At one site in particular, I've written consistently, week after week, slowly making a name for myself, inconsequential though it may be.
This past week, I won third place in the contest. It was exciting to go read the leaderboard to see all the other stories that had placed. The overall winner of the contest gets the dubious privilege of being interviewed during the following week, and their interview is posted on the same site.
The writer who was interviewed was asked what writers she would recommend others should follow, and why. Her answer?:
"Flash! Friday writers, especially Karl Russell and Tamara Shoemaker – their stories makes you want to up your game every week."
Talk about encouragement! That echo from years ago, the one that whispered: You can't write. Why do you even bother? lost a lot of its oomph compared to this line that jumped off my page. And now it's been treading through my mind ever since.
For years, I've believed I was a pretender. I was a girl who wanted to write, and I tried without ever really believing that I could. Today, I finally realized that I'm a writer who may sometimes turn out something not so great, and other times, things that may have a sheen of brilliance.
The important thing is that I'm a writer. I. am. a. writer.
And today, a complete stranger who does not know me and is not influenced at all by her relationship with me, just announced that she likes what I write.
So that voice that echoed in my ears all these years, that didn't believe in who I was inside?
It can take a hike.