Updated: Mar 2, 2020
About the author: Sarah Perchikoff is working on a BA in Writing at Grand Valley State University and interning at The Writer's Workout. You can follow her on Twitter: @sperchikoff.
Every writer has that one person who made them want to write; it could be a school teacher, a parent, a close friend, or a mentor. Any kind of work requires motivation, but writing requires so much of the writer that an outside motivator is crucial. When there are already hundreds, if not thousands, of great writers out there to read, it is hard to know by yourself whether what you’re creating is any good.
Also — and I don’t think this will come as a newsflash to any writer— writing is hard. Writing takes a lot of time and emotion. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a personal story or about the lifespan of polar bears. With all that emotion comes insecurity and insecurity brings doubt and… let’s not go down that rabbit hole. Everyone wants to be good at something and when your something is writing, your words become very personal. Whether it be fiction, creating a whole new world, or nonfiction, writing passionately about something true, emotion and feeling come into play. Those emotions can be fragile at times. A critique, even a constructive one, can be hard to stomach when it feels like you poured your soul into a story. That is where the need for a trusted family member, friend, or mentor can come in handy.
Having someone there to back you up, to tell you that you are good and talented and to have someone to critique your writing without making it personal is vital to continuing as a writer (career or hobby). I am terrible at taking constructive criticism. The first time I went through a group workshop, I left feeling completely defeated (there may have been tears). As a fairly new writer, it felt like I was being personally attacked. Luckily, once some time passed, I was able to gain some perspective and remember the people who started me writing in the first place and the ones who support me now.
We write for many reasons: to process feelings, to make a difference in the world, to stop our brains from nagging us with that story we just have to tell, etc. But whatever the reason, we first start writing because someone encouraged us, because someone said, "you are good at this!"
The first person that encouraged me to write was my freshman English teacher Ms. Kooy. She was definitely one of the cool teachers. We watched the old and new versions of Romeo and Juliet and we reenacted the play, but in our own ways (I played Juliet’s nurse). She explained Shakespeare in a way we teenagers could understand. She encouraged weirdness and spontaneity and creativity in the classroom. When I brought her my application for the school newspaper so she could write me a recommendation, she said, “I wondered when you would be coming, what took you so long?”
She knew I was shy and hated being in front of a whole class but she always made things comfortable and never made me feel like an outsider. She kept me going throughout high school (I had her again for junior English where we acted out Macbeth) and I still think of her today as the person who first kick-started my creativity and encouraged me to be a writer.
So, who is that person for you? Who was the first person who made you feel like writing was something you were good at? Who was the first person who made you feel like you were talented or had potential? How old were you? Maybe it was an author versus someone you knew? Let me know. I can’t wait to hear your stories.