Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Once in a while, a person speaks some words which stay with us. Maybe it was praise, or maybe it was tough love. I'd like share some of the quintessential moments in writing when a person cared enough to point me the right way.

Think about some of your own moments when someone reached out to you and inspired you. It doesn't have to be about writing. It can be about life in general. Feel free to share in the comments.

Whatever you do in life, I hope you make a place for writing.
--9th Grade English Teacher, 1984

The first person who seriously encouraged me to write. His enthusiasm was strong and infectious. I owe a great deal to him.

The writing feels like it came out of a meat grinder. It's all the same.
--College English Professor, 1988

The first direct, blunt, and undeniably correct criticism I received. He taught me that stories are more than mere communication. Magic happens when the language itself has wings, when you strive to say things in new ways.

Do you want me to do this?
--A friend uncomfortable with my reaction to a critique of my first novel, 2001

I learned that there are two people responsible for a critique. The one giving it should be firm and honest, yet positive. The one receiving it should fight the urge to be defensive, hurt, or depressed.

You should read Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing by David Morrell.
--Agent rejecting my first novel, 2004

Another moment when I learned I had wandered astray. This time, it was about losing touch with the action, being self-indulgent, and allowing the reader to yawn.

I already don't want to read any more.
--My wife reacting to over-description in an opening paragraph, 2006.

Over-description is the opposite side of the "meat grinder" issue above. Vivid description is like adding spoonfuls of sugar to your coffee. Too much is disgusting.

You're a master of description.
--Internet friend and author, 2006

After all the care and hard work, its nice to see some things finally working. However, the process of growth never ends.


Hats off to those who inspire us. Their nudges become the path of our lives.


strugglingwriter said...

Great post. It says something that you were able to remember all this advice, which it seems has influenced your writing.

I don't remember exact quotes from my creative writing course in College, but I shudder just thinking about what I wrote back then.

Vixen said...

It's great that you take the feedback your given and learn to use it to grow in your writing!

Jaye Wells said...

What a great topic, Jason. Thanks for the inspiration to sit down and really think about all the people who have encouraged me.

Scott said...

I think I remember everyone who ever inspired me. There are so many to thank. Hmmm. Could be a good post topic.

Kelly Parra said...

Jason, it's so true you'll hear many different reactions to your work on your writing journey. You'll choose the ones to embrace, the ones to ignore, and the ones to push yourself forward. :)

anne frasier said...


loved the meat grinder line. that's fantastic, and something everybody should keep in mind.

Anonymous said...

Strugglingwriter, I've really tried to soak in everything said to me. I trust the reader more than myself.

Vixen, thanks. :) I think that being open to change is important.

Jaye, my pleasure. :) I'd be interested to see some of your inspirations.

Scott, I'd definitely like to see some of your inspirations too.

Kelly, I suppose the only ones I discount are the ones which feel like the person would never like what I'm trying to do and, therefore, are simply trying to change it. For example, I'm probably never going to please a hard core fan of spy fiction.

Anne, here's winking back. ;) Thanks for that inspiration.

Terri said...

I think my greatest inspiration was winning £50 for a short story, hehe!

Actually, no - it was something I wrote about a holiday in Cyprus. It turned out to be about 20 pages (which I SO hadn't intended) and I sent it to my mom to read. The next day she emailed me to say she was so very tired because she started reading it when she got into bed and then couldn't stop until she'd finished, so ended up only getting to sleep around midnight. I was truly surprised that someone enjoyed reading something I wrote.

laurie said...

have you read anne lamott's "bird by bird"? one of the best (and funniest) books i've read about the perseverance required for writing.

i started my blog just to force me to write every day.

aminah said...

perhaps winning diary competition about a holiday I had never taken,age 10, inspired the writer in me.

beadinggalinMS said...

Hi Jason! It's been awhile since I was here. It always a pleasure returning to read your blog. Then to see a beautiful lilac picture too. :) Have a great day!

billie said...

Love the reminder to remember the words from friends and critics alike.

I like the idea of gentle (and perhaps not so gentle) nudges shaping our paths.

Shameless said...

So much truth in all of this, Jason. Feedback is such a tricky thing, for the giver and the receiver. I don't think it ever gets easier. I'm also very impressed you are able to cite the lines here. :)

Anonymous said...

Terri, the can't-put-it-down effect.... Bravo, indeed!

Laurie, great to see you here! No, I'm afraid I haven't read that. I completely agree about blogging. I find it incredibly helpful to use blogging as a way to experiment and branch out without the risk and commitment of a larger work.

Aminah, early success is important. That becomes the fuel.

Linda, so great to see you and hear that things are going well!! You'll always be welcome here. :)

Billie, that interraction of positive and negative responses are essential for me. Having one without the other makes it easy to veer off the road. **I wonder if the best paths are discovered rather than made.

Shameless, it's much easier for me now. I can embrace the value without stumbling on all the fears.

wolfbaby said...

my mom said shortly before she died

You can do anything you can dream of if you believe in yourself and work hard enough, you can accomplish any goal.

It is hard sometimes to get good feed back. I don't mean oh it's nice or yeah i like it I do mean critical anylisis feed back. (sorry for the horrible spelling)

bekbek said...

I think one of the reasons I'm not writing is that I tend not to remember events like those you describe - hard to tell a story when you don't recall any of your own. I know I've had encouragement and criticism along the way, but actually remember it? Wow. You're awesome, Jason!

I do remember one thing that was said to me recently. A friend of mine, what's his name... starts with a J... wrote, "you ARE writing seriously, aren't you?"

I responded that of course I wasn't. But I've been thinking about it ever since.