Secrets Messages

the ad my mother made years ago
the ad my mother made years ago


My mother had to design an advertisement layout for Albertson’s. The ad would be running on my 11th birthday, and my mother snuck in a birthday message for me on the horse. I knew it was a sign that she loved me.

I’m still looking for signs. Signs that other people think I can write. Signs that my family likes what I do. Signs that the publishing industry will accept me. But shouldn’t I know better?

Do you look for signs that your writing is good? Will being published prove it? A good review from a particular writer? A pat on the back from…?

8 thoughts on “Secrets Messages

  1. Oh man, that’s too precious.

    I look for signs. It causes me nothing but anguish, because I don’t get what I think I need. I don’t actively look as much as I used to, because I’m trying to be happy with my work without any outside confirmation.

  2. Usually I trust my writer friends — Sherri in particular — to mark my progress, let me know if I’m good. I’ve tried to get beyond external affirmation but let’s face it — I write for others to read, not to entertain myself, so it’s important to me other writers who I think are accomplished find my work good.

    I have my own standards, to be sure, but I’ve moved that bar many times and I look for markers along the way that I’m meeting it.

    Sad, but true.

    1. Unless those markers are misleading you, sending you down the wrong path, I don’t think it has to be sad. Now I’ve got to think a topic that doesn’t make you leave a sad comment.

  3. LOVE the ad, and the little sort of chuck-under-the-chin/tousle-the-hair hidden bit.

    External validation is a difficult subject for me — whether to seek it in the first place, what to think if it doesn’t come…

    I always used to think of myself as (for lack of a kinder term) a hot-sh!t writer. No one I knew when I was growing up wanted to be a writer, let alone wrote (as far as I know) for the sheer pleasure of it. (I loved essay questions on tests.) I won’t repeat the details, but when I started to get published this seemed at first like confirmation from the outside of what I always “knew.” But then — despite some kind words from some readers and editors and such — then the professional reviews and various Amazon comments set a torch to all that. Turns out I wasn’t writing what people wanted to read, after all — or at least, not writing it in a way they wanted to read it.

    Cannot begin to express for you the shock and embarrassment which resulted. And aside from the sheer frustration of tech writing — trying to keep ahead of the curve, etc. — that’s the main reason I folded my tent and decided to hell with it. I’d write funny poems for birthday parties and such, good emails, like that, but I was done with writing. It just wasn’t worth going through the mill of humiliation again.

    I couldn’t be more surprised to have suddenly, a few years later, written one novel in a year, and made good headway on a second. But that’s the real reason I haven’t made much effort at marketing, you see: I’ll write, because I like it, but getting the wrong kind of external feedback would just do me in for good.

    So I just stay satisfied for now with a very small audience of discerning readers. (By which I do not mean they always like what I’ve done — I mean really, honestly discerning.) Good fairies don’t really sprinkle stardust on people just for wanting something badly enough. I don’t know how it happens, for that matter. But I’m not sure I’d welcome a good fairy if one were suddenly banging on the window next to my desk.

    (Ha ha, between me an Darc you seem to have uncorked a Pandora’s bottle of misery in the last 12+ hours. :))

    1. I shall try to put the cork back in Pandora’s bottle. Reading about your publishing experience puts a quake in my step–like do I really want to go down this path? Crushing boulders ahead? Sigh.

      I’m going to go find that cork now.

  4. Your mom rocked. I can see now that this is a genetic trait. 🙂

    I recently revealed my blog to a friend of mine, one with whom I have been friends for over 2 decades. She is the mother of a boy I with whom I went to high school. He and I didn’t date, we were friends b/c we were both drama/choir nerds. His mom and I became very very close. I had run away from home the summer b4 and was spending my senior year at a new school that was (literally) five times bigger than my old school. I didn’t know anyone, I was depressed and often suicidal, and had spent the last summer of summer vacation in a children’s psychiatric ward. Her son was her only child and I became the daughter she never had, yet it was more than a mother-daughter relationship; we became the truest of friends.

    She accepted me for who I was. Nay, she was utterly intrigued and smitten with me in a totally appropriate mentorish sort of way. I looked up to her. I still look up to her. I can’t explain everything about her, but she is smart as a whip, devoted to doing the right thing and has had a series of jobs that research and promote universal healthcare; she’s an accomplished technical writer and is eccentric, spontaneous, and has a ridiculously infectious giggle. She is herself and she taught me it was okay to be myself. I worshipped her.

    After she read through my blog, she wrote me a letter of such praise for my writing (“I always knew you were talented, Sophie, but I had no idea HOW talented.”) that I burst into tears. This woman’s support, admiration, and appreciation for my work means more to me than any letter of acceptance by a literary agent ever would. The sincerity of her glowing review from is the icing on the cake of my life and has renewed my commitment to write something everyday no matter how small.

    It is for her that I’m doing NaNoWriMo, that I’m challenging myself to approach the scary world of fiction and see what happens. If she has taught me nothing else in life it is that one needs to expect more from herself than her past successes. She often asks, “What are you doing now?” ‘Tis a good question to ask of oneself on a very frequent basis.

    There. My comment to your post is three times longer than your post. Mission accomplished. 😉

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