It’s not an original story, but for the majority of my youth, I was told I wasn’t “enough”: not smart enough, not pretty enough, not assertive enough, not edgy enough, not outgoing enough, not articulate enough, all around not enough to move mountains or accomplish anything out of the ordinary. I’m certainly not the first to have been brought down by criticism from all sorts of people. But all the negativity of the past has made me the person I am today, and when the folks who doubted me can’t even bother to admit I’m actually doing something right, it proves no amount of accolades would ever change their views on me. They made up their mind years ago, long before I was in a position to shine.
My parents never led me to believe I couldn’t do anything. They just made sure I was aware of the hardships of becoming a writer and moving to another state to pursue my dreams. Going to college in Arizona meant higher tuition, but it also meant attending a university with an incredible student newspaper, which truly shaped the rest of my writing career. By sophomore year, I had my own column, and while I suffered creative dry spells and often published content I didn’t love, I refused to stop writing. I understood the value of pushing through even when the results aren’t all that magical, because you cannot produce something amazing without the patience to churn out passionless stories on deadline. You also have to practice, and you’re not going to walk out of every session feeling like a million bucks. You might leave some of them believing you’ve lost your skill and might never write anything good again. Not everything is going to be a winner, but that doesn’t mean you only write when inspired. You must get to work. There’s a reason Anne Lamott praises “shitty first drafts.”
I have a lot of good days and bad days as a writer, but when I’m feeling strong and everything seems to be going my way, it’s nice to know that people who care about me are proud of what I’m doing. It wouldn’t kill them to just say “good job” every once in a while, or at least swap one of the judgmental, “so you have no job?” digs with a “nice work on that column/interview/blog post.” No, I’m not asking for kisses on the cheek or to exchange warm fuzzies in a circle at the end of every week. I’m asking people who are supposedly on my side to halt the naysaying, hate-reading from afar, and jokes just once a month to voice some encouragement.
How am I supposed to grow as a writer or a person if the only time I hear from people is to tell me I’m screwing up my life? What am I supposed to think when instead of encouragement, all I get are trite lectures about my lack of maturity or understanding about the big bad evil world? I know it’s so easy to look at me and say, “oh, she’s the youngest, no wonder she’s a naive little idiot,” but come on, guys. Give me some credit. Don’t reduce me to birth order, but if you’re not thoughtful enough to consider anything else, at least admit when I’m doing something good.
I can take constructive criticism, but when I only hear from people when they want to shoot me down and dress it up as “character building,” I realize it doesn’t matter what I do. Nothing is ever going to be good enough for those who never rooted for me to begin with. I could eventually win an Academy Award for screenwriting or an Emmy for TV writing and still be called a weirdo who could never do anything practical. I’m done caring, because I am not here to please anyone. I just want to do the work and hopefully create something awesome in the future.