I began teaching another Beginner Creative Writing course through our local library this week, and it's so good to be back talking about writing with people who are looking to be inspired. It struck me again during the first class how hard we tend to work to get permission from others for the things that we do.
Even the simple act of preferring to write with a pen on looseleaf paper was liberating to some of the students, as they felt pressure to type on the computer instead of handwrite their thoughts, and I told them I generally handwrite everything on paper first. This was such a small thing, but they wanted to hear that it was acceptable to write in this manner, and knowing that someone else uses a pen on paper solidified their own preference, and gave them a measure of freedom they didn't have before. The students were pumped up by the end of the class to go home and write, believing in themselves a little more because I told them they could do it, and somehow they found permission inherent in that praise.
This type of validation is common to the human experience. We all want to be seen and encouraged to continue what we are doing, or to feel it's okay to stop and do things another way. We are all looking to each other for guidance and direction, which is why it's so important to surround ourselves with people who build us up instead of making us feel insecure.
The best kind of friends are actually cheerleaders, helping you find your motivation when it has deserted you, and your courage when your fear threatens to overtake you completely. This morning we are launching a small program through our mother's group with this kind of encouragement at its heart.
The point is for moms to notice each other and offer permission and praise when someone needs to hear it most. To say, "You are doing a good job. It's okay to be frustrated with your kids. You are a good mom and you have terrific and funny children. You are on the right path." Those words are so simple and cost nothing, but have the potential to be life changing to the recipient, who might drink them up like a dry plant absorbs water, and be the lifeline that keeps a mom going when she wants to throw in the towel.
Encouragement is critical in the kind of disconnected, technology-driven world we live in. We need each other - to validate, encourage, support and to lean on when our own strength is giving out. If we don't have those kinds of people in our lives, we must seek them out, and be vulnerable enough to ask for help when we need it.
When things are good, I tend to forget how desperately I need people around who notice me, and care about me, and give to me when I don't even have the words to ask. Those who say, "How are you really doing?" when I've already said I'm fine, and they know that I'm not fine. I need those friends, and I need to be that friend to someone else, and also to the writers in my class, who have the potential to soar and offer others permission with their words, if they can hear someone like me cheering from the sidelines, and telling them, "You can do it."