-a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
I have a file in my email called “Words of Encouragement.” It isn’t composed of awesome, but generic, quotes from amazing people like Albert Einstein or Gordon B. Hinckley. It is composed of very specific notes and comments, written or spoken just to me, from amazing people like my husband, my best friends, and other authors who have read and loved something I wrote.
I have it so that when there is a day I feel like crap in every way, there are these words that remind me that I’m not. If a particularly difficult review comes back, pointing out every single one of my flaws, I can see that I have strengths too.
Honestly, I don’t turn to it very often. I have a pretty wonderful life, even when I feel like I’m not doing enough, and I have wonderful people in my life who remind me on a regular basis that they love me. And most of the time, that’s enough. (It may also help that I’m not currently actively sending submissions out to agents. I think I’d probably need it more then.) But every once in a while, don’t we all need reminders that we’re shiny and neato and great? And sometimes we need that when everyone else is asleep or elsewhere. (My husband is fantastic, but his positive feedback isn’t going to be nearly as positive if I wake him up at 3 a.m. to say, “Do you think I’m wonderful?”)
Maybe this is just me, but maybe you need this too! If you do, start one now. You don’t have to go back and dig up positive things people have said to you in the past. Just start with them now. And for me, I only include comments that really hit me powerfully. So there aren’t a ton, but what is there is sincere and meaningful to me still, even if it was written years ago.
A couple of suggestions:
If you are reading this and saying, “No one ever says nice things to me,” I challenge you to discover that you’re wrong. Look for and listen for the positive. I bet that there are at least a few people who remind you that you are loved and special. But if you only listen to the people who don’t (or if you only listen when no one is saying anything—like at 3 a.m. on Facebook), then of course you’ll feel like you never get words of encouragement. But they are there somewhere; hunt them down.
And also, I challenge you all to use your own words to create and send such positive statements out into the world to people who need them and to people who have influenced or changed you for good. We are writers! We know the power of sincere, from-the-heart words. Even if you’re not a writer, telling someone the best truth about him/herself is a powerful thing, even if it’s not elegant and polished. Words don’t cost you anything, but they can make a profound impact.
Judging from Facebook (my social media of choice), Twitter, Tumblr, whatever, there are plenty of words of discouragement in the world. There is also plenty of bland cheerleading. But I think we could all use the profound, individualized words of encouragement that come from those who truly know us.
(Now I’m off to go write that note I’ve been meaning to write to a friend, because she is awesome, and she deserves to be told.)