I am participating in a writing contest that wants to know "How writing has positively influenced my life," by Positive Writer. Wow! For me, the biggest influence writing has had on my life is certainly not the money, it is the community of fellow writers.For twenty years after I moved to San Diego I had church friends and one very close friend. Then I joined a read and critique group and my life changed forever. The friends I made in that group are as close to me as my own family. I also joined the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and met even more writers, all of us with the commonality of trying to fit a noun against a verb and write something of interest, one word at a time.
Getting to know my fellow writers has provided a veritable feast of life lessons.
Compassion. Through our writings we got to know one another better. Hearing one person’s memoir or another’s poem, we often found ourselves in tears over what we heard because the writer dared to bare her soul and leave herself vulnerable. Through the written word we came to know that person on a much deeper level than could ever have happened in a casual friendshipConfidence. We learned to trust one another, knowing we would get good feedback on what we’d written and that no one responded out of malice, but rather with the intent to help each of us better our craft. We learned to give and to accept honest criticism.
Joyfulness. When members read chapters of their novels in progress each month, the rest of us made sure to come back to hear what happened next. It may have been Ms. X’s novel, but we all felt we had ownership of a little piece of it. When the novel was finished, we were all midwives at its birth, rejoicing and celebrating its arrival.Self-Assurance. At my first read and critique meeting, I listened to what others read and wondered why on earth I thought I could be a writer. Then, tentatively I read, through tears, the piece I had brought. When I finished, I expected to be told “That’s nice, now sit down and shut up and let the real authors read.” Or something to that effect. Instead, after writing alone at home and not knowing if I should bother to continue, I was hearing people say “That’s really good” or “What you wrote moved me.” That did more for my self-doubts and lack of self-esteem than all the chocolate in the world could ever do. By continuing to grow through the group, I learned to reach out to others who battled their own demons of self-doubt.
Courage. Over the years, I have tried my hand at new skills related to writing such as self-publishing, uploading my book to Kindle, publishing on Smashwords, and writing an effective query letter, Best of all, I learned not to feel the world was ending when I received a rejection letter. I know I’m in good company with my pile of rejection slips when I consider that the first Chicken Soup for the Soul Book was rejected 144 times. I’ve still got a long way to go to top that.
I am now on the opposite coast from San Diego but the friendships I made there continue as strong as ever. We may not be able to hug in person, but we can use today’s technology to get feedback on our stories, keep in touch, commiserate, and rejoice with one another. Through writing, I have made other friends across the country that are very dear to me, yet we’ve never met in person. Our passion for writing has brought us together and formed a strong unbroken bond. I couldn't ask for a more positive influence on my life.