I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, not always novels – I started with short stories when I was a still in elementary school which morphed into poetry in middle and high school (and a little in college). It’s was terrible, I’m a terrible poet and yet I still have a binder with all of it in there because I guess subconsciously I can’t bear to destroy the evidence of how far I’ve come.
I stopped writing for a while in college because of something someone said to me in a creative writing class. I don’t curse and so I don’t really see the need in my writing. This guy in my group said my fight was unrealistic because my married couple weren’t swearing at each other (he informed me that he and his wife did when they fought). He then said that if I wasn’t willing to write honestly in that way then maybe I shouldn’t be writing.
I was young and actually believed this guy. So I gave it up. I thought about (and still think about) that often, was he right? Of course the answer is NO. Yes, my writing was young, because I was young. I hadn’t had much experience in life, I hadn’t kissed anyone or slapped someone who deserved it or made a man cry (check, check, check several times now). But I’ve now been in fights and I didn’t swear. Said things I regret, yes, but I never felt I had to swear to get my point across. That’s honesty.
My point is, never tell someone they shouldn’t be doing something because they don’t do it like you.
I went to the James River Writers Conference last year and one of the speakers (I believe it was Hugh Howey) said that as writers we are not in competition with each other. Our goal is to write something people want to read and that doesn’t mean we have to beat out someone else to do it. In fact, each success means that people will want to read more, not less. Something I’ve realized about the writing community at large (or at least in RVA) is that they are so supportive of each other, they know rejection and they know perseverance and they see each other as equals on a long and difficult journey. When I share with my writing group they don’t tell me I don’t have what it takes because I don’t write the way they do, we appreciate each other’s style and voice and we help lift each other up, we help make each other better. Because we don’t write for the profession, the fame, the money (anyone who writes is laughing at that) we write for the love of writing and when you meet others who love the same thing as you, why wouldn’t you encourage them?