Alyson Schroll is a homeschool student and published poet. Since she could hold a crayon, she has been writing stories and drawing illustrations. This has developed into a love for blogging and a passion for painting. Alyson is inspired by God’s continual and creative work in the lives of His children. She enjoys book store cafes, warm sunny days, lessons from C. S. Lewis, and books with fascinating imagery. Find out more about her on her blog or on Goodreads.
I live in a family of writers. Who knew? Actually, I didn’t until I prepared to write the second draft of my second novel. Then my mom got creative with her blogging, my brother started a story, my dad wrote a middle grade mystery, and my little sister embarked on a tale of her own.
My family had supported me before they wrote, but once I shared my enthusiasm with them, they joined in and offered encouragement of their own. Before we knew it, we had a strong encouragement group put together. Then, I began to see how important a group like this really was.
A critique group is great because it helps shape your writing, but an encouragement group helps shape you. These people knew you before you wrote, they saw you start, they can see how your life and writing intertwine, they know your personal beliefs and values, and they have the ability to step in when you need it the most, even if your writing shows otherwise.
Too many times, we only look at the professional perspective and forget that a personal friend is just as important. Finding a few people to become your encouragement can help you get past a writing hump when you hit a rough patch.
Look to family first, then to close friends. I realize that everyone’s families are blessed in different ways, and there may be fear involved in sharing your precious story with them. But your family has the most interaction with you. They are the ones who see you up late at night. They see you fall into a daydream while doing the dishes. They see you suddenly perk up with a new idea or story. And while they think you look crazy, they understand. These are the people to go to first.
Encourage them back. Notice, I said “encourage” not “teach.” A little support goes a long way. A passing, “How’s the story going?” could be all it takes. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read more than a chapter of my dad’s story. This keeps me from comparing and critiquing when I should be encouraging his journey.
Remember, they don’t know all about writing. None of us would claim to be an expert, but it’s easy to pretend with those who don’t know as much about the publishing world. Keep things simple, don’t try to explain everything. It’s alright if they don’t understand. How long did it take for you to get to where you are? They can learn on their own if they want. It’s the encouragement they need from you. When you choose to step out your own writers mind, you step into someone else’s world.
Work on a collective challenge. Doing something together without critiquing one another is a blessing I quickly began to love. My family is doing the 100-4-100 challenge together for the second time. At the completion of the last one, those who participated went out for milkshakes. You can choose to work on a different prompt every week, meet a weekly word count goal, or another challenge. Anything you all do together will be rewarding.
Critique groups have their place, but so do encouragement groups. I challenge you to look for the people in your life that can help you personally through your writing journey.