Beth Hautala

Children's Author

 

EnCourage

Illustration used with permission. (c) Howard Lyon, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the difference between discouragement and encouragement this week.  Stress and anxiety do this to me. I get a tad introspective.

No fear, I’ll not wax on too long here.

It’s pretty natural to become discouraged every once and a while, especially as an artist—writer, painter, or otherwise. The very work of a creative profession demands that we bare certain elements of ourselves for the world to alternately love or hate. Of course, that’s part of the thrill—causing a new train of though or spurring a new perspective with our own creativity.

But change never happens without struggle, and creatives—I among them—are some of the most struggling and “rejected” people on earth. We continually run up against the wall of commercialism, and often our best ideas are sacrificed on that alter so that we can continue living with luxuries. —Like, ya-know, heat, plumbing, and electricity. I write commercial copy on the side, so believe me, I know. My purist-creative bent often berates me for what feels like a sell-out, because truly, my heart’s love is fiction writing.

The protagonists in my stories tend to wrestle with discouragement on various levels as well. And yet, I’ve never written a story where the bravery of said protagonists is not tested, tried, and then revealed. Which makes me wonder if perhaps I don’t think about encouragement in a confused light. Perhaps, I confuse encouragement with support or approval.

To encourage is to impart courage—to illuminate the bravery that already exists within someone.

Writing well and writing for approval are often two different things entirely. Not always, but most of the time. When I’m writing for a paycheck alone, I need to ensure I say certain things, and avoid saying others—restaurant reviews are a classic example, especially, say, when the restaurant owner is also an advertiser in the publication you happen to be writing for. —Hate to step on advertising dollars.

When I am writing to the best of my ability, without agenda—other than to do the craft well and tell a "real” story—then I can erase the voices of my audience and listen to my protagonist—the heroine.

“Enough of this,” she says to me. “I’ve got something to do. Let me do it!”

And I will. I’ll get out of the way and let her show me how brave she is—despite rejection or any other form of discouragement she will undoubtedly face before she reaches those final two words. The End.

So, don’t be afraid. Allow the bravery you already posses, to have the upper hand in whatever battlefield of self-doubt and discouragement you might be facing. Let your own protagonists speak however loudly they may. They are surprisingly insightful. And be encouraged—as a creative, you are among friends, and I for one, believe in your victory.