On Writing,  publishing

Encouraging… Really?

People Say I Am Encouraging…

I have gotten that comment a few times this past week and a couple questions about why I spend the time and energy to help others. There is an answer, but not exactly what you might expect.

Let me back into this for a second.

I suppose if a person is really working to chase their dreams, I try to tell them the truth about fiction and writing if they ask. And if I think they want the truth.

If a person is really working to become a better storyteller, I am willing to answer questions and give my opinion when asked. If they really want my opinion and not just some pat on the back.

And I talk to myself in these blogs to try to get things straight in my own head about certain elements of writing and publishing.

But I sure don’t think of myself as being encouraging in the slightest. In fact, as my friends would tell you, I don’t suffer fools and am very disdainful of stupidity, to the point of being rude when pushed.

I have learned over the years that when faced with stupidity, I just nod and turn away, letting the stupidity continue on like a bad cold.

And unless pushed, I tend to ignore stupidity in comments and emails. So I’m not supportive there at all.

Let Me Be Clear…

I am not talking about someone just not knowing something because they are new to writing and publishing. That’s not stupidity in any fashion. That is just being at a certain place in the road of learning.

I have no issue with that. None.

I try to help writers along the road of learning as best I can. That’s why Kris and I do all the workshop and why I am heading off to Superstars next year to help there.

I enjoy helping someone move along the road. I enjoy helping someone learn. And I encourage a new writer to take in all the information they can and then decide for themselves what works for them and what doesn’t work. I find that very smart and have had the wonderful pleasure of knowing a lot of writers doing just that.

I consider myself still on the road of learning about storytelling and the business of writing.

But I got a hunch if that was all, I wouldn’t do much teaching, if any. And I sure wouldn’t be seen as encouraging. So let me see if I can explain my real reason.

Here is What I Love…

I love good questions that bring on discussion. Why? So I can learn, that’s why.

I love learning and I love being around people who love to keep learning. That means if you spent the money and the time to take a workshop, you have a desire to learn and I want to help if I can.

I love answering questions that are questions from a person trying to learn, because by the very act of trying to come up with an answer, I have forced myself to think about the question.

And thus learn.

So the truth is that I don’t consider myself encouraging to others. I consider myself selfish to the extreme, because if I surround myself with people hungry to learn, it keeps me learning.

It is why I say in almost every email that questions are welcome. If they weren’t welcome, I would never type that.

That fact that others get some encouragement and learning from my hunt for knowledge is great. A win-win situation in my mind.

So thanks for the kind comments about me helping or being encouraging.

But the truth is that you all are helping me stay active and learning and growing as a writer.

And for me learning is great fun. The best.

So thanks to all of you.



  • Harvey

    Yep, encouraging. I often refer readers of my own blog to your site, and almost as often I tell them there are gems to be mined there, sometimes even in your “placeholder” posts. You share far too much, sometimes inadvertently, not to be thought of as encouraging. Live with it. (grin)

  • Carradee

    You calling yourself selfish is reminding me of someone I know who sincerely believes he’s an asshole b/c he doesn’t play along with the social games of manipulative types and actually shows it when he gets mad at such things. What you describe sounds far more self-aware than selfish, to me—you know what helps you grow, and there are some types of people you just don’t want to deal with. So what? You’re not obligated to help all types of writers at all stages.

    You have a niche for who you talk to and chatter with, and you stick to it. Isn’t that what healthy boundaries are?

    So you primarily write your informational posts for your own sake—that fits your attitude of writing for only yourself in the writing room. You then publish these publicly—in part because you enjoy questions and learning, but also because you enjoy others learning.

    Maybe this is my own background coloring things, but I don’t think that having self-centered reasons you do things makes those actions selfish. If it did, everything would be selfish, because even “I want to do this more than I don’t want to” or “I want to help or cheerlead that person” = self-centered. The main difference, I think, is that a lot of folks aren’t self-aware enough to notice or admit that.

    The cheerleading with figurative pompoms is only one type of encouragement, not the breadth of it. Encouragement can happen by example or knowledge that gives someone confidence or hope—and you do do that.

    So you still deserve the thank-you. ^_^

  • Dale T. Phillips

    And you are encouraging, and some of us do want to hear the truth, because we’re doing a lot of what you recommend. Thank you for providing useful information and opinion, as a pro who’s seen it all.

  • Anthony St. Clair

    I would say affirming. As writers gain experience and confidence, they evolve. Seeing where you are can affirm a writer’s changing understanding, and that is a big help as a writer evolves professionally.

  • Teri Babcock

    Reading this post, I see how important it is to make a distinction between teaching and encouragement. The two often go together, but they aren’t same.
    There are people whose entire business model is based on giving encouragement. They go around giving high-energy talks to large groups about how you really can make your dreams come true. People leave feeling jazzed up, like they really can be a millionaire after all. These courses are long on encouragement, short on practical advice, and there’s not much actual teaching in them.

    I don’t doubt that you (and Kris, too) get people who only want this kind of encouragement. They want someone to tell them that their art is worthwhile, that they shouldn’t give up, that they aren’t wasting their time, that the world needs their unique expression. These would-be writers want to be able to complain and despair of their future, and have someone put their arm around them and comfort them, tell them to not to quit, that their work is important. Some of them have some entitlement about that, thinking it is the long-term professional’s moral duty to support the younger generation in that way.

    It’s always been clear to me that this blog is not for those people. It is not here to encourage and support people who would not otherwise write.
    And I get why periodically you need to wave your arms and remind everyone that that isn’t what you’re here for.

    Now, if you’ve been banging your head trying to learn, or trapped in a false belief system, and someone comes along and helps you so that the scales fall from your eyes – well, hell yes. You feel encouraged. And inspired. You may feel like you now have a rocket-launcher of energy and determination. But that is a product of having already made the choice to commit to writing, and having someone show you where the door is, instead of making a new one in the drywall with your head.

    It’s the difference between telling people, ‘Yes you can build a rocket launcher. Yes you should try! The world needs more rocket launchers, Don’t give up, I’m rooting for you.’
    ‘Here’s the plans to upgrade your rocket launcher. Here’s how to clean the gunk out of the tank and the fuel line so it keeps running. Here’s three things that are good maintenance and will prevent problems. Here’s where to buy parts. Here’s where to take mechanics courses.’

    The first makes people feel better temporarily, but it doesn’t really do anything. The person must self-ignite with their purpose and drive. No one can do that for them.
    But the second is life and trajectory-changing.
    Color me grateful. And stay cranky 😉

  • Maree

    Anyone who claims to be blogging or doing any other social media type stuff, is inherently self interested. Whether they’re doing it for the perceived popularity, or they’re selling a product, it’s all for gain. You direct the conversation here (and it does feel like conversation) toward things that interest and benefit you, well this is your blog. You write it, you should get what you want out of it. Most people are blogging to sell product, that you consider the actual conversations part of the return makes you more generous than most, not less. That’s like telling my friends I’m selfish for wanting their company because it makes me feel good. It’s only selfish if they aren’t getting similar feeling from our interactions. The fact that you have lots of followers shows that we are getting something out of it. So it’s a good exchange, not selfishness.

    As for being encouraging, I think the above commenter said it well. I wasn’t looking for back pats when I found this blog, I was looking for actionable instructions. Which, despite the plethora of advice around, is pretty difficult to find. Being told exactly how to go about getting short stories published, and you sharing your numbers, made it all seem quite reasonable and logical. The same for publishing novels. Real numbers, real math made it all so much clearer.

    My writing friends tell me stuff like ‘no one works harder than you,’ and ‘you have so much hustle, it’s so inspiring,” (which lol, there it is again, self interest is encouraging to others). I try to tell them that I’m not working any harder than they are, I’m just skipping the dull bits, the endless edits and the self flagellation, and just writing and sending out or publishing. You and a few other sources gave me the confidence to be this way.

    So yes, thank you, you encourage me!.

  • Cynthia Lee

    This is what I have taken from your blog, Dean, after these past few years:

    1) Get out of your own way
    2) You are capable of more than you know
    3) Get busy doing what you love
    4) Have fun.

    This is not only good writing advice – it is good life advice.

    So thanks again!

    • Marion

      “This is what I have taken from your blog, Dean, after these past few years:

      1) Get out of your own way
      2) You are capable of more than you know
      3) Get busy doing what you love
      4) Have fun.

      This is not only good writing advice – it is good life advice.”

      Indeed Cynthia. I love this comment.

      And, yes Dean I’m grateful too and stay cranky as well. We need both crankiness and encouragement in the indie writing world. And I believe both them can be really helpful.